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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Historical Atlas of the Jewish People edited by Yohanan Aharoni, Shmuel Ahituv (Continuum Publishing Group) Anson F. Rainey is professor of Ancient Near Eastern cultures and Semitic linguistics at Tel Aviv University. He has participated in more than 25 seasons of field excavations and has a Masters of Theology in Old Testament and a Ph.D. with specialization in Ancient Near Eastern languages. Among his works is the monumental, 4-volume work, Canaanite in the Amarna Tablets.

This is the first atlas of its kind to document in such great detail the turbulent history of the Jewish people. A work of prodigious and meticulous scholarship by some of Israel's most brilliant scholars, this atlas portrays every aspect of Jewish history that lends itself to cartographic interpretation—from biblical times to the present day. This is the unique and fascinating story of how an ancient people, separated from their roots and dispersed throughout the world, survived in exile for two thousand years and eventually returned and recreated itself within the framework of a modern state.

Now, in one easy volume, the reader is presented with an in-depth coverage of major themes in biblical, mishnaic, talmudic, medieval, and modem Jewish history by the foremost authorities in their field.

  • Yohanan Aharoni (1919–76) was professor of archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and chairman of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University. He wrote six books, including The Land of the Bible and The Jews in Their Land. While excavating in the Dead Sea region in 1953, he participated in the discovery of the Bar Kokhba caves.
  • Michael Avi-Yonah (1904-74), a graduate of London University, was professor of archaeology and history of art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His numerous books include The Holy Land: A Historical Geography, Map of Roman Palestine, and Oriental Art in Roman Palestine.
  • Shmuel Safrai is professor of history of the period of the Mishnah and Talmud at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and one of the world's foremost authorities on this little known period (c. 200 to c. 500 CE). His books include Pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the outstanding Haggadah of the Sages (Hebrew).
  • Ze'ev Safrai is professor of Land of Israel Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. He has written and edited more than ten books, among them The Economy of Roman Palestine: The Missing Century, as well as dozens of articles.
  • Haim Beinart is professor of Jewish history in the Middle Ages at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and one of the world's foremost authorities on this period and the Inquisition. His many books include Records of the Trials of the Spanish Inquisition in Ciudad Real and Trujillo, A Jewish Community on the Eve of Expulsion from Spain.
  • Evyatar Friesel is professor of modern Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He specializes in Zionist history and the renascence of the Jewish people. He wrote several books and edited the Weizmann Papers. Since 1992 he has served as State Archivist of Israel.
  • Sergio DellaPergola is professor of demography and chairman of the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is a regular contributor to the American Jewish Year Book.

Excerpt: Describing the history of the Jewish people is not an easy task. Their history goes back almost four millennia and it spans five continents.

A people whose emergence is shrouded in the mists of myth and legends, some of which extend to even later periods, Jews through the ages have lived and adapted themselves to different regimes. Mostly independent or at least autonomous during the first and second common­wealths, they were then subjugated by pagan empires, who treated them much as they did other populations with their different religions. They suffered exile but also return.

Before and during the Middle Ages and depending on the political-economic framework and social fabric of the period, Jews were sometimes tolerated by Christian and Muslim rulers but restricted and persecuted at other times.

The advent of the modern era wit­nessed the Jews' struggle for emancipation and their desire to participate in the modern state as equal citizens on the same footing as their Christian compat­riots. However, in most countries the Jews encountered prejudice, enmity and exclusion from professions and society at large, despite, or maybe because of, their attempts at integration and assimilation and their success in many fields of endeavor.

In time, antisemitism, both open and concealed, led to recurring persecution and eventually paved the way for the Holocaust. This same period of distress and pain also witnessed—some will say miraculously—the revival of Jewish con­sciousness and aspirations for indepen­dence. Seven decades of Zionist effort found ever more resonance among the Jewish people and culminated in the establishment in May 1948 of the State of Israel, which then had a population of just 600,000 souls.

No single scholar can encompass such a vast and varied history and this unique atlas is the result of the combined efforts of its authors. It grew out of decades of research and teaching by the participants. Each author deals with a distinctive period and his individual style has been retained here. Among the foremost authorities in their fields, they went to great pains to document the historical events against their geographical back-ground so that texts could be enhanced by visual means, showing migrations, movements of ideas, formations of in­stitutions, and more.

The framework for this atlas was provided in somewhat different form by the historical-atlas series published earlier in separate volumes by Carta in English, Hebrew and other languages. This volume has been updated and revised with maps adapted to fit the present format and style. The final section with the latest figures on world Jewish populations and forecasts to the year 2050 make it that much more valuable to scholars and students alike.

The New Encyclopedia of Judaism edited by Geoffrey Wigoder, Fred Skolnick, Shmuel Himelstein, Fred Skolnik (University of New York Press) s a comprehensive one-volume encyclopedia that accessibly presents every aspect of the Jewish religion and represents current thinking among scholars in the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox movements. A solid well balanced reference that pretty much gives answers to most common inquiries into Judaism. A mist for the home library.

The original version of the encyclopedia was selected by the American Library Association as an Outstanding Reference Book. This revised and expanded edition updates the original thousand entries and adds nearly 250 new ones. Magnificently illustrated, it also contains a new introduction, a guide for usage, new illustrations, as well as a new annotated bibliography. Its compilation was overseen by the late Geoffrey Wigoder, best known as the Editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Judaica.

The articles cover a vast spectrum of topics. There are biographical entries on biblical figures, rabbis, and others whose thoughts and actions have influenced the development of Judaism. Also included are dozens of insightful commentaries on specific prayers. Issues of particular contemporary interest are given special attention, as are women's roles, with a separate entry on the feminist movement and new biographical entries on figures ranging from Miriam and Deborah to Blu Greenberg and Suzannah Heschel. Particularly emphasized are the customs and folk traditions of Jewish outposts the world over.

Authoritative and accessible, The New Encyclopedia of Judaism fulfills the promise of the first edition and serves as a standard one-volume Jewish reference work for the new millennium. It is an ideal reference for every Jewish household and synagogue library.  

Studies in the Meaning of Judaism by Eugene B. Borowitz (JPS Scholars of Distinction Series: Jewish Publication Society) Noted educator, author, and speaker Eugene Borowitz delivers the fruits of his scholarship with grace in this new volume. Gathered in a single volume are 33 essays covering the themes of Modern Jewish Theology, Education, the History of Reform Judaism in America, Jewish Law, Ethics, and Religious Dialogue. Among the articles in this collection are "Existentialism's Meaning for Judaism," "Jewish Education as an Act of Faith," "Please, God, Please Heal her," and other intriguing essays.  Borowitz has written introductory paragraphs to each selection, providing thematic links between the articles.  Borowitz’s thought has strong philosophical predilections and theological leanings that gives a universal appeal to his considerations of Jewish spiritual and intellectual life.  His consideration of the necessity of belief for normative ethics and as foundational for a Jewish identity and continuing links to Jewish halakhah and tradition.

This collection will appeal to a wide audience, including rabbis; scholars; and readers of religion, modern Jewish thought, and liturgy. Anyone interested in the intellectual integrity of Judaism will find Borowitz’s essays full of perennial wisdom and insight.
Eugene B. Borowitz is Sigmund L. Falk Distinguished Professor of Education and Jewish Religious Thought at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, where he has taught since 1962. For 25 years, he was the editor of Sh'ma, a Journal of Jewish Responsibility, which brought together writers and readers from across the entire spectrum of the Jewish community. He is the award-winning author of numerous books, including Renewing the Covenant and The Jewish Moral Virtues, coauthored with Frances Weinman Schwartz.


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