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Edited by James A. Diamond and Aaron W. Hughes

The term “medieval” performs a great deal more intellectual work in modern Jewish Thought than simply acting as a referent to a particular historical era. During the nineteenth century, often for Jews who were increasingly alienated from their own tradition, the “medieval” functioned primarily as a bearer of identity in a rapidly changing and secular world. Each chapter in Encountering the Medieval in Modern Jewish Thought addresses a different return to the medieval, ranging from the Enlightenment to the contemporary period, that clothed itself in the language of renewal and of retrieval. The volume engages the full complexity and range of meaning the term “medieval” carries for modern Jewish Thought.

"The Former Jews of this Kingdom"

Sicilian Converts after the Expulsion, 1492-1516

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Nadia Zeldes

This book examines the presence of the converted Jews in Sicily following the 1492 expulsion, discussing their legal status, economic activities and integration into Sicilian society, and the phenomenon of conversion and return of many exiles. The research is based on the account of books of the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily and other contemporary sources. Detailed inventories of confiscated property offer insights into the converts' cultural world, and can also be of interest to the scholar of social and material history in Early Modern Europe.
By focussing on royal policies towards the converted Jews, and on the process of establishing the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily, the study sheds new light on Ferdinand the Catholic's politics in Sicily and southern Italy.

Hungarian Jews in the Age of Genocide

An Intellectual History, 1929–1948

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Ferenc Laczó

Hungarian Jews, the last major Jewish community in the Nazi sphere of influence by 1944, constituted the single largest group of victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In Hungarian Jews in the Age of Genocide Ferenc Laczó draws on hundreds of scholarly articles, historical monographs, witness accounts as well as published memoirs to offer a pioneering exploration of how this prolific Jewish community responded to its exceptional drama and unprecedented tragedy. Analysing identity options, political discourses, historical narratives and cultural agendas during the local age of persecution as well as the varied interpretations of persecution and annihilation in their immediate aftermath, the monograph places the devastating story of Hungarian Jews at the dark heart of the European Jewish experience in the 20th century.

Illuminating in Micrography

The Catalan Micrography Mahzor−MS Heb 8°6527 in the National Library of Israel

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Dalia-Ruth Halperin

In Illuminating in Micrography, Dalia-Ruth Halperin analyzes the Catalan Micrography Maḥzor, a fourteenth-century Barcelonan manuscript in Israel’s National Library. Decorated with micrography, the Jewish scribal art typical of Bible manuscripts, this maḥzor, which includes a rich full-page panel micrography cycle, is unique.
Along with the codicological and paleographical analysis, essential for understanding the scribe’s thought and working processes, the author’s meticulous reading of the micrography text reveals the scribe’s textual editing and manipulations. Decoding his writing flow and sequences revealed a close association between the penned text and the images formed, which reflect a Jewish theosophical-theurgical cycle. Evidence of the scribe’s association with the renowned Bassa atelier enhances our knowledge of the cultural, economic, and ethnic realities of the time.

Arabic Instruction in Israel

Lessons in Conflict, Cognition and Failure

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Allon Uhlmann

In Arabic Instruction in Israel Allon J. Uhlmann confronts two conundrums, namely the persistently poor level of Arabic proficiency among Jewish Arabic students and teachers, and the traumatic alienation of Arab students by university Arabic grammar instruction.

These are not aberrations but rather direct, albeit unintended, systemic consequences of the field of Arabic instruction, where Jewish students encounter Arabic as a dead, hostile language; Jewish hegemony devalues native Arabic proficiency; and Arab students are locked into a fractured educational trajectory – encountering two alienating and mutually unintelligible grammars of Arabic at school and at university.

By tracing systemic variabilities in cognition and learning Uhlmann exposes hitherto misrecognised dynamics that hinder Arabic instruction in Israel, thereby offering new avenues for possible change.

The Book of Conviviality in Exile (Kitāb al-īnās bi-ʾl-jalwa)

The Judaeo-Arabic Translation and Commentary of Saadia Gaon on the Book of Esther

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Michael G. Wechsler

This volume presents a critical edition of the Judaeo-Arabic translation and commentary on the book of Esther by Saadia Gaon (882–942). This edition, accompanied by an introduction and extensively annotated English translation, affords access to the first-known personalized, rationalistic Jewish commentary on this biblical book. Saadia innovatively organizes the biblical narrative—and his commentary thereon—according to seven “guidelines” that provide a practical blueprint by which Israel can live as an abased people under Gentile dominion. Saadia’s prodigious acumen and sense of communal solicitude find vivid expression throughout his commentary in his carefully-defined structural and linguistic analyses, his elucidative references to a broad range of contemporary socio-religious and vocational realia, his anti-Karaite polemics, and his attention to various issues, both psychological and practical, attending Jewish-Gentile conviviality in a 10th-century Islamicate milieu.

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Edited by Mladen Popović, Myles Schoonover and Marijn Vandenberghe

The essays in this volume originate from the Third Qumran Institute Symposium held at the University of Groningen, December 2013. Taking the flexible concept of “cultural encounter” as a starting point, the essays in this volume bring together a panoply of approaches to the study of various cultural interactions between the people of ancient Israel, Judea, and Palestine and people from other parts of the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern world.

In order to study how cultural encounters shaped historical development, literary traditions, religious practice and political systems, the contributors employ a broad spectrum of theoretical positions (e.g., hybridity, métissage, frontier studies, postcolonialism, entangled histories and multilingualism), to interpret a diverse set of literary, documentary, archaeological, epigraphic, numismatic, and iconographic sources.

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Walter Homolka

Historical Jesus research, Jewish or Christian, is marked by the search for origins and authenticity. The various Quests for the Historical Jesus contributed to a crisis of identity within Western Christianity. The result was a move “back to the Jewish roots!”
For Jewish scholars it was a means to position Jewry within a dominantly Christian culture. As a consequence, Jews now feel more at ease to relate to Jesus as a Jew.
For Walter Homolka the Christian challenge now is to formulate a new Christology: between a Christian exclusivism that denies the universality of God, and a pluralism that endangers the specificity of the Christian understanding of God and the uniqueness of religious traditions, including that of Christianity.

The Origins of the Canon of the Hebrew Bible

An Analysis of Josephus and 4 Ezra

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Juan Carlos Ossandón Widow

In The Origins of the Canon of the Hebrew Bible: An Analysis of Josephus and 4 Ezra, Juan Carlos Ossandón Widow examines the thorny question of when, how, and why the collection of twenty-four books that today is known as the Hebrew Bible was formed. He carefully studies the two earliest testimonies in this regard—Josephus’ Against Apion and 4 Ezra—and proposes that, along with the tendency to idealize the past, which leads to consider that divine revelation to Israel has ceased, an important reason to specify a collection of Scriptures at the end of the first century CE consisted in the need to defend the received tradition to counter those that accepted more books.

Abraham Ibn Daud's Dorot 'Olam (Generations of the Ages)

A Critical Edition and Translation of Zikhron Divrey Romi, Divrey Malkhey Yisraʾel, and the Midrash on Zechariah

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Katja Vehlow

Written by Abraham ibn Daud of Toledo (c. 1110-1180), Dorot ‘Olam (Generations of the Ages) is one of the most influential and innovative historical works of medieval Hebrew literature. In four sections, three of which are edited and translated in this volume for the first time, Dorot ‘Olam asserts the superiority of rabbinic Judaism and stresses the central role of Iberia for the Jewish past, present, and future. Combining Jewish and Christian sources in new ways, Ibn Daud presents a compelling vision of the past and formulates political ideas that stress the importance of consensus-driven leadership under rabbinic guidance. This edition demonstrates how Dorot ‘Olam was received by Jewish and Christian readers who embraced the book in Hebrew, Latin, and two English and German translations.