Religion

Imagining the Kibbutz | ,

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In Imagining the Kibbutz, Ranen Omer-Sherman explores the literary and cinematic representations of the socialist experiment that became history’s most successfully sustained communal enterprise. Inspired in part by the kibbutz movement’s recent commemoration of its centennial, this study responds to a significant gap in scholarship. Numerous sociological and economic studies have appeared, but no book-length study has ever addressed the tremendous range of critically imaginative portrayals of the kibbutz. This diachronic study addresses novels, short fiction, memoirs, and cinematic portrayals of the kibbutz by both kibbutz “insiders” (including those born and raised there, as well as those who joined the kibbutz as immigrants or migrants from the city) and “outsiders.” For these artists, the kibbutz is a crucial microcosm for understanding Israeli values and identity. The central drama explored in their works is the monumental tension between the individual and the collective, between individual aspiration and ideological rigor, between self-sacrifice and self-fulfillment. Portraying kibbutz life honestly demands retaining at least two oppositional things in mind at once—the absolute necessity of euphoric dreaming and the mellowing inevitability of disillusionment. As such, these artists’ imaginative witnessing of the fraught relation between the collective and the citizen-soldier is the story of Israel itself..

Political Science

Chasing Utopia | Leach, David

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A fascinating, non-partisan exploration of an incendiary region Say the word ñIsraelî today and it sparks images of walls and rockets and a bloody conflict without end. Yet for decades, the symbol of the Jewish State was the noble pioneer draining the swamps and making the deserts bloom: the legendary kibbutznik. So what ever happened to the pioneersÍ dream of founding a socialist utopia in the land called Palestine? Chasing Utopia: The Future of the Kibbutz in a Divided Israel draws readers into the quest for answers to the defining political conflict of our era. Acclaimed author David Leach revisits his raucous memories of life as a kibbutz volunteer and returns to meet a new generation of Jewish and Arab citizens struggling to forge a better future together. Crisscrossing the nation, Leach chronicles the controversial decline of IsraelÍs kibbutz movement and witnesses a renaissance of the original vision for a peaceable utopia in unexpected corners of the Promised Land. Chasing Utopia is an entertaining and enlightening portrait of a divided nation where hope persists against the odds..

History

Imagining Zion | S. Ilan Troen

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divdivThis timely book tells the fascinating story of how Zionists colonizers planned and established nearly 700 agricultural settlements, towns, and cities from the 1880s to the present. This extraordinary activity of planners, architects, social scientists, military personnel, politicians, and settlers is inextricably linked to multiple contexts: Jewish and Zionist history, the Arab/Jewish conflict, and the diffusion of European ideas to non-European worlds. S. Ilan Troen demonstrates how professionals and settlers continually innovated plans for both rural and urban frontiers in response to the competing demands of social and political ideologies and the need to achieve productivity, economic independence, and security in a hostile environment. In the 1930s, security became the primary challenge, shaping and even distorting patterns of growth. Not until the 1993 Oslo Accords, with prospects of compromise and accommodation, did planners again imagine Israel as a normal state, developing like other modern societies. Troen concludes that if Palestinian Arabs become reconciled to a Jewish state, Israel will reassign priority to the social and economic development of the country and region. /DIV/DIV.

Literary Criticism

The Retrospective Imagination of A. B. Yehoshua | Yael Halevi-Wise

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Once referred to by the New York Times as the “Israeli Faulkner,” A. B. Yehoshua’s fiction invites an assessment of Israel’s Jewish inheritance and the moral and political options that the country currently faces in the Middle East. The Retrospective Imagination of A. B. Yehoshua is an insightful overview of the fiction, nonfiction, and hundreds of critical responses to the work of Israel’s leading novelist. Instead of an exhaustive chronological-biographical account of Yehoshua’s artistic growth, Yael Halevi-Wise calls for a systematic appreciation of the author’s major themes and compositional patterns. Specifically, she argues for reading Yehoshua’s novels as reflections on the “condition of Israel,” constructed multifocally to engage four intersecting levels of signification: psychological, sociological, historical, and historiosophic. Each of the book’s seven chapters employs a different interpretive method to showcase how Yehoshua’s constructions of character psychology, social relations, national history, and historiosophic allusions to traditional Jewish symbols manifest themselves across his novels. The book ends with a playful dialogue in the style of Yehoshua’s masterpiece, Mr. Mani, that interrogates his definition of Jewish identity. Masterfully written, with full control of all the relevant materials, Halevi-Wise’s assessment of Yehoshua will appeal to students and scholars of modern Jewish literature and Jewish studies..

Literary Criticism

Francophone Jewish Writers | Lucille Cairns

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This book considers the differing emotional investments in Israel of, on the one hand, Jews physically domiciled in Israel and, on the other hand, diasporic Jews living outside Israel for whom the country nonetheless forms a central point of affect. The book's purpose is to trace how these two types of investment are represented by francophone Jewish writers. Israel is at once a problematic geopolitical reality in international politics and a salient topos within Jewish cultural imaginaries that transcend national boundaries. However, it has often been claimed that Israel has a"special" relationship with France, which until 1967 was its greatest ally. Israel has a large francophone community (some 800,000), while France has the largest Jewish community in Europe (some 600,000). But Franco-Israeli relations have undergone radical, largely negative transformations under the Fifth Republic (1958- ). The scope of the book is wide, addressing the following questions. How do francophone Jewish writers represent Israel in their literary works? What responses to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict do they express both in these works and in non-literary discourse (interviews and journalistic articles)? What is the role in those responses of emotion, affect, cognition, and ethics? To answer these questions, the book examines 44 different autobiographies, memoirs and novels published between 1965 and 2012 by 27 different authors, both male and female, covering the full cultural spectrum of Jews: Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Mizrahi. The approach of the book is interdisciplinary, combining literary analysis with insights from the domains of history, journalism, philosophy, politics, psychoanalysis, and sociology..

Fiction

The Worlds We Think We Know | Dalia Rosenfeld

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Stories that follow the lives of Jewish characters from the Midwest to the Middle East and beyond: “A profound debut from a writer of great talent.” —Adam Johnson, New York Times–bestselling author of The Orphan Master’s Son The characters of The Worlds We Think We Know are swept up by forces beyond their control: war, adulthood, family—and their own emotions, as powerful as the sandstorm that gusts through these stories. In Ohio, a college student cruelly enlists the help of the boy who loves her to attract the attention of her own crush. In Israel, a young American woman visits an uncommunicative Holocaust survivor and falls in love with a soldier. And from an unnamed Eastern European country, a woman haunts the husband who left her behind for a new life in New York City. The Worlds We Think We Know is a dazzling fiction debut—fiercely funny and entirely original. “Outstanding . . . Set in locales including present-day Jerusalem, the permafrost region of Russia and the streets of Manhattan, Rosenfeld’s best stories focus not only on loss, but on its aftermath: living in the presence of absence.” —Haaretz “Funny and poignant . . . The lush melancholy of this collection is bolstered by the characters’ deep intelligence and wit . . . Jewish history is shredded through with displacement, and many of Rosenfeld’s characters are caught in the position of a having a long cultural history and no sense of home.” —Electric Literature.

Fiction

The Last Interview | Eshkol Nevo

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Named a Notable Translated Book of the Year by World Literature Today From the internationally best-selling author of Three Floors Up, a literary page-turner that delves into the deepening cracks in a carefully constructed public persona. A writer tries to answer a set of interview questions sent to him by a website editor. At first, they stick to the standard fare: Did you always know you would be a writer? How autobiographical are your books? Have you written any stories you would never publish? Usually his answers in these situations are measured, calculated, cautious. But this time, when his heart is about to break and his life is about to crumble, he finds he cannot tell anything but the truth. The naked, funny, sad, scandalous, politically incorrect truth. Every question the writer tackles opens a door to a hidden room of his life. And each of his answers reveals that at the heart of every truth, there is a lie—and vice versa. Surprising, bold, intimate, and utterly engrossing, The Last Interview shows just how tenuous the lines are between work and life, love and hate, fact and fiction. And in exploring the many, often contradictory facets of an Israeli author’s identity, Eshkol Nevo also gives us a nuanced, thought-provoking portrait of a country at odds with itself..

Literary Criticism

From Schlemiel to Sabra | Philip Hollander

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In From Schlemiel to Sabra Philip Hollander examines how masculine ideals and images of the New Hebrew man shaped the Israeli state. In this innovative book, Hollander uncovers the complex relationship that Jews had with masculinity, interrogating narratives depicting masculinity in the new state as a transition from weak, feminized schlemiels to robust, muscular, and rugged Israelis. Turning to key literary texts by S. Y. Agnon, Y. H. Brenner, L. A. Arieli, and Aharon Reuveni, Hollander reveals how gender and sexuality were intertwined to promote a specific Zionist political agenda. A Zionist masculinity grounded in military prowess could not only protect the new state but also ensure its procreative needs and future. Self-awareness, physical power, fierce loyalty to the state and devotion to the land, humility, and nurture of the young were essential qualities that needed to be cultivated in migrants to the state. By turning to the early literature of Zionist Palestine, Hollander shows how Jews strove to construct a better Jewish future..

Social Science

Boundaries of Utopia - Imagining Communism from Plato to Stalin | Erik van Ree

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The idea that socialism could be established in a single country was adopted as an official doctrine by the Soviet Union in 1925, Stalin and Bukharin being the main formulators of the policy. Before this there had been much debate as to whether the only way to secure socialism would be as a result of socialist revolution on a much broader scale, across all Europe or wider still. This book traces the development of ideas about communist utopia from Plato onwards, paying particular attention to debates about universalist ideology versus the possibility for "socialism in one country". The book argues that although the prevailing view is that "socialism in one country" was a sharp break from a long tradition that tended to view socialism as only possible if universal, in fact the territorially confined socialist project had long roots, including in the writings of Marx and Engels..

Fiction

Moving Kings | Joshua Cohen

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A propulsive, incendiary novel about faith, race, class, and what it means to have a home, from Joshua Cohen, “a major American writer” (The New York Times) NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY VULTURE AND BOOKFORUM One of the boldest voices of his generation, Joshua Cohen returns with Moving Kings, a powerful and provocative novel that interweaves, in profoundly intimate terms, the housing crisis in America’s poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods with the world's oldest conflict, in the Middle East. The year is 2015, and twenty-one-year-olds Yoav and Uri, veterans of the last Gaza War, have just completed their compulsory military service in the Israel Defense Forces. In keeping with national tradition, they take a year off for rest, recovery, and travel. They come to New York City and begin working for Yoav’s distant cousin David King—a proud American patriot, Republican, and Jew, and the recently divorced proprietor of King’s Moving Inc., a heavyweight in the tri-state area’s moving and storage industries. Yoav and Uri now must struggle to become reacquainted with civilian life, but it’s not easy to move beyond their traumatic pasts when their days are spent kicking down doors as eviction-movers in the ungentrified corners of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, throwing out delinquent tenants and seizing their possessions. And what starts off as a profitable if eerily familiar job—an “Occupation”—quickly turns violent when they encounter one homeowner seeking revenge. Praise for Moving Kings “A Jewish Sopranos . . . utterly engrossing, full of passionate sympathy . . . Cohen is an extraordinary prose stylist, surely one of the most prodigious at work in American fiction today.”—James Wood, The New Yorker “Brilliant . . . It feels master-planned to slowly unsettle your convictions, as the best novels do. . . . Cohen has a brain-on-fire intellect and a Balzac-grade enthusiasm for understanding varieties of experience.”—Los Angeles Times “Moving Kings is a lit fuse, a force let loose, a creeping flame heading for demolition, and Cohen himself is a master of argot and wit.”—Cynthia Ozick “A dazzling and poignant book.”—Rachel Kushner “Cohen’s writing is filled with sharp turns of phrase and elegant rhythms. . . . The denouement is as vengeful as any Old Testament plot twist. . . . Cohen has become one of America’s top young novelists.”—Time.

Fiction

Sadness Is a White Bird | Moriel Rothman-Zecher

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**A 2019 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Finalist** **A 2018 National Jewish Book Award Finalist for Debut Fiction** In this “nuanced, sharp, and beautifully written” (Michael Chabon) debut novel, a young man prepares to serve in the Israeli army while also trying to reconcile his close relationship to two Palestinian siblings with his deeply ingrained loyalties to family and country. The story begins in an Israeli military jail, where—four days after his nineteenth birthday—Jonathan stares up at the fluorescent lights of his cell and recalls the series of events that led him there. Two years earlier: Moving back to Israel after several years in Pennsylvania, Jonathan is ready to fight to preserve and defend the Jewish state. But he is also conflicted about the possibility of having to monitor the occupied Palestinian territories, a concern that grows deeper and more urgent when he meets Nimreen and Laith—the twin daughter and son of his mother’s friend. From that morning on, the three become inseparable: wandering the streets on weekends, piling onto buses toward new discoveries, laughing uncontrollably. They share joints on the beach, trading snippets of poems, intimate secrets, family histories, resentments, and dreams. But with his draft date rapidly approaching, Jonathan wrestles with the question of what it means to be proud of your heritage, while also feeling love for those outside of your own family. And then that fateful day arrives, the one that lands Jonathan in prison and changes his relationship with the twins forever. “Unflinching in its honesty, unyielding in its moral complexity” (Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize–winning author), Sadness Is a White Bird explores one man’s attempts to find a place for himself, discovering in the process a beautiful, against-the-odds love that flickers like a candle in the darkness of a never-ending conflict..

Fiction

The Parting Gift | Evan Fallenberg

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“An unabashed tale that does not pull punches and looks at love’s underside…This breathless story should only be read in one sitting. It hits hard and never lets up. Terse, brusque, etched on one’s inner thigh with an old serrated knife.” —André Aciman, author of Call Me by Your Name This erotic tale of jealousy, obsession, and revenge is suffused with the rich flavors and intoxicating scents of Israel’s Mediterranean coast. An unnamed narrator writes a letter to an old college friend, Adam, with whom he has been staying since his abrupt return to the States from Israel. Now that the narrator is moving on to a new location, he finally reveals the events that led him to Adam’s door, set in motion by a chance encounter with Uzi, a spice merchant whose wares had developed a cult following. From his first meeting with Uzi, the narrator is overwhelmed by an animal attraction that will lead him to derail his life, withdraw from friends and extend his stay in a small town north of Tel Aviv. As he becomes increasingly entangled in Uzi’s life—and by extension the lives of Uzi’s ex-wife and children—his passion turns sinister, ultimately threatening all around him. Written in a circuitous style that keeps you guessing until the end, The Parting Gift is a page-turner and a shrewd exploration of the roles men assume, or are forced to assume, as lovers, as fathers, as Israelis, as Palestinians..

Fiction

The Sound of Our Steps | Ronit Matalon

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Gorgeously observed and emotionally powerful, The Sound of Our Steps is an inventive novel of immigration and exile from Ronit Matalon, a major voice in contemporary Israeli fiction In the beginning there was Lucette, who is the mother to three children—Sammy, a gentle giant, almost blind, but a genius with locks; Corinne, a flighty beauty who cannot keep a job; and "the child," an afterthought, who strives to make sense of her fractured Egyptian-Jewish immigrant family. Lucette's children would like a kinder, warmer home, but what they have is a government-issued concrete box, out in the thorns and sand on the outskirts of Tel Aviv; and their mother, hard-worn and hardscrabble, who cleans homes by night and makes school lunches by day. Lucette quarrels with everybody, speaks only Arabic and French, is scared only of snakes, and is as likely to lock her children out as to take in a stray dog. The child recounts her years in Lucette's house, where Israel's wars do not intrude and hold no interest. She puzzles at the mysteries of her home, why Maurice, her father, a bitter revolutionary, makes only rare appearances. And why her mother rebuffs the kind rabbi whose home she cleans in his desire to adopt her. Always watching, the child comes to fill the holes with conjecture and story. In a masterful accumulation of short, dense scenes, by turns sensual, violent, and darkly humorous, The Sound of Our Steps questions the virtue of a family bound only by necessity, and suggests that displacement may not lead to a better life, but perhaps to art..

Fiction

They Were Like Family to Me | Helen Maryles Shankman

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Finalist for the 2017 Story Prize Honorable Mention in the 2017 ALA Sophie Brody Medal for achievement in Jewish Literature “An absolutely dazzling triumph…A singularly inventive collection” (Jewish Book Council) of linked stories set in a German-occupied town in Poland during World War II, where tales of myth and folklore meet the real-life monsters of the Nazi invasion. 1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its monstrous power, Hitler’s SS fires up the new crematorium at Auschwitz and the occupying army empties Poland’s towns and cities of their Jewish citizens. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival depends on unthinkable choices, Poland has become a moral quagmire, a place of shifting truths and blinding ambiguities. “Filled with rich attention to the details of flora and fauna and insightful descriptions of the nuances of rural and small-town life” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town at a crossroads: we meet an SS officer dedicated to rescuing the creator of his son’s favorite picture book; a Messiah who announces that he is quitting; a Jewish girl who is hidden by an outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are the enigmatic Willy Reinhart, Commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect “his” Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker and his family, struggling to survive. “Moving and unsettling...Like Joyce’s Dubliners, this book circles the same streets and encounters the same people as it depicts the horrors of Germany’s invasion of Poland through the microcosm of one village....A deeply humane demonstration of wringing art from catastrophe” (Kirkus Reviews), They Were Like Family to Me (originally called In the Land of Armadillos) is a testament to the persistence of humanity in the most inhuman conditions..

Social Science

Freedom Dreams | Robin D.G. Kelley

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Kelley unearths freedom dreams in this exciting history of renegade intellectuals and artists of the African diaspora in the twentieth century. Focusing on the visions of activists from C. L. R. James to Aime Cesaire and Malcolm X, Kelley writes of the hope that Communism offered, the mindscapes of Surrealism, the transformative potential of radical feminism, and of the four-hundred-year-old dream of reparations for slavery and Jim Crow. From'the preeminent historian of black popular culture' (Cornel West), an inspiring work on the power of imagination to transform society. From the Trade Paperback edition..

Social Science

Judaism, Race, and Ethics | Jonathan K. Crane

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Recent political and social developments in the United States reveal a deep misunderstanding of race and religion. From the highest echelons of power to the most obscure corners of society, color and conviction are continually twisted, often deliberately for nefarious reasons, or misconstrued to stymie meaningful conversation. This timely book wrestles with the contentious, dynamic, and ethically complicated relationship between race and religion through the lens of Judaism. Featuring essays by lifelong participants in discussions about race, religion, and society— including Susannah Heschel, Sander L. Gilman, and George Yancy—this vibrant book aims to generate a compelling conversation vitally relevant to both the academy and the community. Starting from the premise that understanding prejudice and oppression requires multifaceted critical reflection and a willingness to acknowledge one’s own bias, the contributors to this volume present surprising arguments that disentangle fictions, factions, and facts. The topics they explore include the role of Jews and Jewish ethics in the civil rights movement, race and the construction of American Jewish identity, rituals of commemoration celebrating Jewish and black American resilience, the “Yiddish gaze” on lynchings of black bodies, and the portrayal of racism as a mental illness from nineteenth-century Vienna to twenty-first-century Charlottesville. Each essay is linked to a classic Jewish source and accompanied by guiding questions that help the reader identify salient themes connecting ancient and contemporary concerns. In addition to the editor, the contributors include Sander L. Gilman, Annalise E. Glauz-Todrank, Aaron S. Gross, Susannah Heschel, Sarah Imhoff, Willa M. Johnson, Judith W. Kay, Jessica Kirzane, Nichole Renée Phillips, and George Yancy..

Fiction

To Be a Man | Nicole Krauss

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In a dazzling collection of stories, the New York Times–bestselling author of The History of Love, National Book Award finalist Nicole Krauss, explores what it means to be in that most perplexing of partnerships: a couple. In one of her strongest books of fiction, Nicole Krauss plunges fearlessly into the confusion of what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman that has existed from the very beginning in all Western myths that inform our culture. Set in contemporary times in Switzerland New York, Tel Aviv, Los Angeles and South America, these stories open a window onto young women’s coming of age and their newfound, somewhat mysterious sexual power, as well as the opportunities and dangers it presents (“Switzerland”). In a Los Angeles of terrible wildfires, a high school student, distressed by her divorcing parents and determined to assert her agency in the intoxicating freedom of a dangerous environment, forges an original and surprising sexual path (“End Days”). Men play a key role in all these stories as fathers, lovers, friends, children, seducers—even as a husband who is not a husband (“The Husband”). The stories mirror one another and resonate beautifully with a balance so finely tuned that the book almost feels like a novel: aging parents and newborn babies; generation gaps and unexpected deliveries of strange new leases on life; mystery and wonder at a life lived or one still to come. The two stories that bookend the collection, “Switzerland” and “To Be a Man,” perfectly introduce and play out the author’s major themes: sex and violence, men and women, coming of age and growing older..

Fiction

Rhyming Life and Death | Amos Oz

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A behind-the-scenes exploration of the craft of writing as revealed by an eight-hour work day in the life of an author finds a literary celebrity passing the time during a mundane book event in Tel Aviv by inventing lives for the strangers he sees around him. By the author of A Tale of Love and Darkness..

Comics & Graphic Novels

Drawing on Religion | Ken Koltun-Fromm

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Comics traffic in stereotypes, which can translate into real danger, as was the case when, in 2015, two Muslim gunmen opened fire at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, which had published depictions of Islam and Muhammad perceived by many to be blasphemous. As a response to that tragedy, Ken Koltun-Fromm calls for us to expand our moral imaginations through readings of graphic religious narratives. Utilizing a range of comic books and graphic novels, including R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis Illustrated, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, the Vakil brothers’ 40 Sufi Comics, and Ms. Marvel, Koltun-Fromm argues that representing religion in these formats is an ethical issue. By focusing on the representation of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu religious traditions, the comics discussed in this book bear witness to the ethical imagination, the possibilities of traversing religious landscapes, and the problematic status of racial, classed, and gendered characterizations of religious persons. Koltun-Fromm explores what religious stereotypes do and how they function in comics in ways that might expand or diminish our imaginative worlds. The pedagogical challenge, he argues, is to linger in that space and see those worlds well, with both ethical sensitivity and moral imagination. Accessibly written and vibrantly illustrated, this book sheds new light on the ways in which comic arts depict religious faith and culture. It will appeal to students and scholars of religion, literature, and comic studies..

Fiction

Three Floors Up | Eshkol Nevo

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Set in an upper-middle-class Tel Aviv apartment building, this best-selling and warmly acclaimed Israeli novel examines the interconnected lives of its residents, whose turmoils, secrets, unreliable confessions, and problematic decisions reveal a society in the midst of an identity crisis. On the first floor, Arnon, a tormented retired officer who fought in the First Intifada, confesses to an army friend with a troubled military past how his obsession about his young daughter's safety led him to lose control and put his marriage in peril. Above Arnon lives Hani, known as "the widow," whose husband travels the world for his lucrative job while she stays at home with their two children, increasingly isolated and unstable. When her brother-in-law suddenly appears at their door begging her to hide him from loan sharks and the police, she agrees in spite of the risk to her family, if only to bring some emotional excitement into her life. On the top floor lives a former judge, Devora. Eager to start a new life in her retirement, Devora joins a social movement, desperately tries to reconnect with her estranged son, and falls in love with a man who isn't what he seems. A brilliant novelist, Eshkol Nevo vividly depicts how the grinding effects of social and political ills play out in the psyche of his flawed yet compelling characters, in often unexpected and explosive ways..