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Van Leer Institute Series on Ideas
41 minutes | 8 days ago
Jason Manning, "Suicide: The Social Causes of Self-Destruction" (U Virginia Press, 2020)
The conventional approach to suicide is psychiatric: ask the average person why people kill themselves, and they will likely cite depression. But this approach fails to recognize suicide’s social causes. People kill themselves because of breakups and divorces, because of lost jobs and ruined finances, because of public humiliations and the threat of arrest. While some psychological approaches address external stressors, this comprehensive study is the first to systematically examine suicide as a social behavior with social catalysts.Drawing on Donald Black’s theories of conflict management and pure sociology, Suicide: The Social Causes of Self-Destruction (University of Virginia Press, 2020) presents a new theory of the social conditions that compel an aggrieved person to turn to self-destruction. Interpersonal conflict plays a central but under-appreciated role in the incidence of suicide. Examining a wide range of cross-cultural cases, Jason Manning argues that suicide arises from increased inequality and decreasing intimacy, and that conflicts are more likely to become suicidal when they occur in a context of social inferiority. As suicide rates continue to rise around the world, this timely new theory can help clinicians, scholars, and members of the general public to explain and predict patterns of self-destructive behavior.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/van-leer-institute
54 minutes | a month ago
Paul Vallely, "Philanthropy: From Aristotle to Zuckerberg" (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2020)
In this magnum opus, Paul Vallely guides the reader on a journey through the history and meaning of giving in religion and society.Vivid with anecdote and scholarly insight, this magisterial survey – from the ancient Greeks to today's high-tech geeks – provides an original take on the history of philanthropy. It shows how giving has, variously, been a matter of honor, altruism, religious injunction, political control, moral activism, enlightened self-interest, public good, personal fulfillment and plutocratic manipulation.Its narrative moves from the Greek man of honor and Roman patron, via the Jewish prophet and Christian scholastic – through Puritan proto-capitalist, Enlightenment activist and Victorian moralist – to the robber-baron philanthropist, the welfare socialist, the celebrity activist and today's wealthy mega-giver. In the process it discovers that philanthropy lost an essential element as it entered the modern era. The book then embarks on a journey to determine where today's philanthropists come closest to recovering that missing dimension. Philanthropy: From Aristotle to Zuckerberg (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2020) explores the successes and failures of philanthrocapitalism, examines its claims and contradictions, and asks tough questions of top philanthropists and leading thinkers – among them Richard Branson, Eliza Manningham-Buller, Jonathan Ruffer, David Sainsbury, John Studzinski, Bob Geldof, Naser Haghamed, Lenny Henry, Jonathan Sacks, Rowan Williams, Ngaire Woods, and the presidents of the Rockefeller and Soros foundations, Rajiv Shah and Patrick Gaspard. In extended conversations they explore the relationship between philanthropy and family, faith, society, art, politics, and the creation and distribution of wealth.Highly engaging and meticulously researched, Paul Vallely's authoritative account of philanthropy then and now critiques the excessive utilitarianism of much modern philanthrocapitalism and points to how philanthropy can rediscover its soul.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at email@example.com.Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm
35 minutes | a month ago
J. Jay Garfinkel, "Heirlooms : Memory and Cherished Objects" (One Family Foundation, 2020)
Everyone will lose someone they love at some point in their life; a spouse, a parent, or a child. Having to deal with the clothes or personal effects that remain can be a heartbreaking experience. It is a challenge: what is one to do with all the small and large items that made up the material life of the one who’s gone - store them in the attic? Discard them? Donate them to charity or call the junkman?In his recently released book, Heirlooms: Memory and Cherished Objects, artist and writer Jay Garfinkel found another way. His unique book contains photographs of the personal effects of victims of terror attacks in Israel. He gave the families a way to preserve a piece of their legacy through a fine art photograph of their cherished object.The subtitle of the book, Memory and Cherished Objects, was selected, says Garfinkel, because "the person we have lost will not make any new memories, so we need to create a space for them in our life. Heirlooms create a space where memory happens.”The American-Israeli artist Jay Garfinkel tragically lost his son in middle age. His response was to create a dozen fine art photographs of his son's most treasured possessions that stirred memories. His exhibit-sized prints freed him to throw away everything else. It gave him some comfort. But real comfort came after he agreed to work with OneFamily, an Israeli NGO that assists families affected by terror and war. Over a period of 14 months, he met with 33 Israel families whose loved ones were murdered in terror attacks—and with their cooperation, he selected an object of the deceased, which he then documented as a still life photograph.Heirlooms: Memory and Cherished Objects describes his journey meeting families of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds in different parts of the country. Garfinkel recorded intimate conversations about love, loss, and finding one's equilibrium by helping others find their way.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm
54 minutes | 2 months ago
N. Darshan-Leitner and S. M. Katz, "Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism's Money Masters" (Hachette, 2017)
Covid-19 is the global threat that owns today’s headlines, but the threat of international and domestic terrorism is still very much with us. Specifically, the widespread upheaval, uncertainty and global anxiety occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic has been seen by terror organizations as a golden opportunity to tie their messaging to information about the disease and intensify their propaganda for purposes of recruitment and incitement to violence. Whether it’s Boko Haram or ISIS, Hezbollah or Hamas, or the range of hate groups acting around the globe, terrorism continues to be a threat to decent people everywhere.N. Darshan-Leitner and S. M. Katz's book Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism's Money Masters (Hachette, 2017) is a revelatory account of the cloak-and-dagger Israeli campaign to target the finances fueling terror organizations--an effort that became the blueprint for U.S. efforts to combat threats like ISIS and drug cartels. ISIS boasted $2.4 billion of revenue back in 2015, yet for too long the global war on terror overlooked financial warfare as an offensive strategy."Harpoon," the creation of Mossad legend Meir Dagan, directed spies, soldiers, and attorneys to disrupt and destroy money pipelines and financial institutions that paid for the bloodshed perpetrated by Hamas, Hezbollah, and other groups. Written by an attorney who worked with Harpoon and a bestselling journalist, Harpoon offers a gripping story of the Israeli-led effort, now joined by the Americans, to choke off the terrorists' oxygen supply, money, via unconventional warfare.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at VanLeerIdeas@gmail.com or tweet @embracingwisdomSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm
55 minutes | 3 months ago
David Nasaw, "The Last Million: Europe's Displaced Persons from World War to Cold War" (Penguin, 2020)
In May 1945, German forces surrendered to the Allied powers, putting an end to World War II in Europe. But the aftershocks of global military conflict did not cease with the German capitulation. Millions of lost and homeless concentration camp survivors, POWs, slave laborers, political prisoners, and Nazi collaborators in flight from the Red Army overwhelmed Germany, a nation in ruins. British and American soldiers gathered the malnourished and desperate refugees and attempted to repatriate them. But after exhaustive efforts, there remained more than a million displaced persons left behind in Germany: Jews, Poles, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, and other Eastern Europeans who refused to go home or had no homes to return to. The Last Million would spend the next three to five years in displaced persons camps, temporary homelands in exile, divided by nationality, with their own police forces, churches and synagogues, schools, newspapers, theaters, and infirmaries.The international community could not agree on the fate of the Last Million, and after a year of debate and inaction, the International Refugee Organization was created to resettle them in lands suffering from postwar labor shortages. But no nations were willing to accept the 200,000 to 250,000 Jewish men, women, and children who remained trapped in Germany. In 1948, the United States, among the last countries to accept refugees for resettlement, finally passed a displaced persons bill. With Cold War fears supplanting memories of World War II atrocities, the bill granted the vast majority of visas to those who were reliably anti-Communist, including thousands of former Nazi collaborators and war criminals, while severely limiting the entry of Jews, who were suspected of being Communist sympathizers or agents because they had been recent residents of Soviet-dominated Poland. Only after the controversial partition of Palestine and Israel's declaration of independence were the remaining Jewish survivors able to leave their displaced persons camps in Germany.A masterwork from acclaimed historian David Nasaw, The Last Million: Europe's Displaced Persons from World War to Cold War (Penguin, 2020) tells the gripping yet until now largely hidden story of postwar displacement and statelessness. By 1952, the Last Million were scattered around the world. As they crossed from their broken past into an unknowable future, they carried with them their wounds, their fears, their hope, and their secrets. Here for the first time, Nasaw illuminates their incredible history and, with profound contemporary resonance, shows us that it is our history as well.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at VanLeerIdeas@gmail.com.
40 minutes | 3 months ago
Michael J. Sandel, "The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good?" (FSG, 2020)
These are dangerous times for democracy. We live in an age of winners and losers, where the odds are stacked in favor of the already fortunate. Stalled social mobility and entrenched inequality give the lie to the American credo that you can make it if you try. The consequence is a brew of anger and frustration that has fueled populist protest and extreme polarization, and led to deep distrust of both government and our fellow citizens--leaving us morally unprepared to face the profound challenges of our time.World-renowned philosopher Michael J. Sandel argues that to overcome the crises that are upending our world, we must rethink the attitudes toward success and failure that have accompanied globalization and rising inequality. Sandel shows the hubris a meritocracy generates among the winners and the harsh judgement it imposes on those left behind, and traces the dire consequences across a wide swath of American life. He offers an alternative way of thinking about success--more attentive to the role of luck in human affairs, more conducive to an ethic of humility and solidarity, and more affirming of the dignity of work. The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good? (FSG, 2020) points us toward a hopeful vision of a new politics of the common good.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at VanLeerIdeas@gmail.com.
52 minutes | 3 months ago
Adina Hoffman, "Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City" (FSG, 2017)
A remarkable view of one of the world's most beloved and troubled cities, Adina Hoffman's Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City (FSG, 2017) is a gripping and intimate journey into the very different lives of three architects who helped shape modern Jerusalem.The book unfolds as an excavation. It opens with the 1934 arrival in Jerusalem of the celebrated Berlin architect Erich Mendelsohn, a refugee from Hitler's Germany who must reckon with a complex new Middle Eastern reality. Next we meet Austen St. Barbe Harrison, Palestine's chief government architect from 1922 to 1937. Steeped in the traditions of Byzantine and Islamic building, this "most private of public servants" finds himself working under the often stifling and violent conditions of British rule. And in the riveting final section, Hoffman herself sets out through the battered streets of today's Jerusalem searching for traces of a possibly Greek, possibly Arab architect named Spyro Houris. Once a fixture on the local scene, Houris is now utterly forgotten, though his grand Armenian-tile-clad buildings still stand, a ghostly testimony to the cultural fluidity that has historically characterized Jerusalem at its best.A beautifully written rumination on memory and forgetting, place and displacement, Till We Have Built Jerusalem uncovers the ramifying layers of one great city's buried history as it asks what it means, everywhere, to be foreign and to belong.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at email@example.com.
44 minutes | 4 months ago
S. L. Lewis and M. A. Maslin, "The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene" (Yale UP, 2018)
Meteorites, mega-volcanoes, and plate tectonics--the old forces of nature--have transformed Earth for millions of years. They are now joined by a new geological force--humans. Our actions have driven Earth into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. For the first time in our home planet's 4.5-billion-year history a single species is increasingly dictating Earth's future.To some the Anthropocene symbolizes a future of superlative control of our environment. To others it is the height of hubris, the illusion of our mastery over nature. Whatever your view, just below the surface of this odd-sounding scientific word, the Anthropocene, is a heady mix of science, philosophy, and politics linked to our deepest fears and utopian visions.In The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene (Yale UP, 2018), scientists Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin reveal a new view of human history and a new outlook for the future of humanity in the unstable world we have created.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
32 minutes | 4 months ago
Mike Shanahan, "Ladders to Heaven: How Figs Shaped our History" (Unbound, 2016)
They are trees of life and trees of knowledge. They are wish-fulfillers … rainforest royalty … more precious than gold. They are the fig trees, and they have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways. Mike Shanahan's book Ladders to Heaven: How Figs Shaped our History, Fed our Imaginations, and can Enrich our Future (Unbound, 2016) tells their amazing story. Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles in the dawn of civilisation. They feature in every major religion, starring alongside Adam and Eve, Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. This is no coincidence – fig trees are special. They evolved when giant dinosaurs still roamed and have been shaping our world ever since.These trees intrigued Aristotle and amazed Alexander the Great. They were instrumental in Kenya’s struggle for independence and helped restore life after Krakatoa’s catastrophic eruption. Egypt’s Pharaohs hoped to meet fig trees in the afterlife and Queen Elizabeth II was asleep in one when she ascended the throne. And all because 80 million years ago these trees cut a curious deal with some tiny wasps. Thanks to this deal, figs sustain more species of birds and mammals than any other trees, making them vital to rainforests. In a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, their story offers hope. Ultimately, it’s a story about humanity’s relationship with nature. The story of the fig trees stretches back tens of millions of years, but it is as relevant to our future as it is to our past.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at email@example.com.
58 minutes | 5 months ago
Sumit Guha, "History and Collective Memory in South Asia, 1200-2000" (U Washington Press, 2019)
In this far-ranging and erudite exploration of the South Asian past, Sumit Guha discusses the shaping of social and historical memory in world-historical context. He presents memory as the result of both remembering and forgetting and of the preservation, recovery, and decay of records. By describing how these processes work through sociopolitical organizations, Guha delineates the historiographic legacy acquired by the British in colonial India; the creation of the centralized educational system and mass production of textbooks that led to unification of historical discourses under colonial auspices; and the divergence of these discourses in the twentieth century under the impact of nationalism and decolonization.In History and Collective Memory in South Asia, 1200-2000 (University of Washington Press, 2019), Guha brings together sources from a range of languages and regions to provide the first intellectual history of the ways in which socially recognized historical memory has been made across the subcontinent. This thoughtful study contributes to debates beyond the field of history that complicate the understanding of objectivity and documentation in a seemingly post-truth world.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a Jerusalem-based psychologist, Middle East television commentator, and host of the Van Leer Series on Ideas with Renee Garfinkel
40 minutes | 5 months ago
Betty Rojtman, "The Fascination with Death in Contemporary French Thought" (Palgrave MacMillan, 2020)
The Fascination with Death in Contemporary French Thought: A Longing for the Abyss (Palgrave MacMillan, 2020) analyses a cultural phenomenon that goes to the very roots of Western civilization: the centrality of death in our sense of human existence. It does so through a close reading of seminal works by the most creative authors of modern French thought, such as Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Lacan, and Jacques Derrida. These works encode an entire ethics of postmodernism.Betty Rojtman offers the reader a prism through which to see anew the key issues of the twentieth century: tragedy, finitude, nothingness—but also contestation, liberty, and sovereignty. Little by little we understand that this fascination with death may be just the other side of humankind’s great protest, its thirst for the infinite and its desire to be.Finally, Rojtman tries to offer another view on these fundamental questions by shifting to a parallel cultural reference: Kabbalah.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @embracingwisdom.
68 minutes | 6 months ago
Robert Plomin, "Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are" (MIT Press, 2019)
Have you ever felt, “Oh my God, I’m turning into my mother (or father)!” ? Robert Plomin explains why that happens in Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are (MIT Press, 2019).A century of genetic research shows that DNA differences inherited from our parents are the consistent lifelong sources of our psychological individuality―the blueprint that makes us who we are. Robert Plomin’s decades of work demonstrate that genetics explains more about the psychological differences among people than all other factors combined. Nature, not nurture, is what makes us who we are.Plomin explores the implications of these findings, drawing some provocative conclusions―among them that parenting styles don't really affect children's outcomes once genetics is taken into account. This book offers readers a unique insider's view of the exciting synergies that came from combining genetics and psychology.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at email@example.com or tweet @embracingwisdom
47 minutes | 6 months ago
Joseph E. David, "Kinship, Law and Politics: An Anatomy of Belonging" (Cambridge UP, 2020)
Why are we so concerned with belonging? In what ways does our belonging constitute our identity? Is belonging a universal concept or a culturally dependent value? How does belonging situate and motivate us? In these days of identity politics, these issues are more significant and more complex than ever.Joseph E. David grapples with these questions through a genealogical analysis of ideas and concepts of belonging. In his book Kinship, Law and Politics: An Anatomy of Belonging (Cambridge UP, 2020) examines crucial historical moments in which perceptions of belonging were formed, transformed, or dismantled.The cases presented here focus on the pivotal role played by belonging in kinship, law, and political order, stretching across cultural and religious contexts from eleventh-century Mediterranean religious legal debates to twentieth-century statist liberalism in Western societies.With thorough inquiry into diverse discourses of belonging, David pushes past the politics of belonging to acknowledge just how wide-ranging and fluid notions of belonging can be.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @embracingwisdom.
38 minutes | 6 months ago
Eric Weiner, "The Geography of Genius: Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Places" (Simon and Schuster, 2016)
Living, as we do, in a time in which a U.S. president anoints himself “a very stable genius”, we are particularly appreciative of Eric Weiner, a former foreign correspondent for NPR who writes with humility and humor, as he brings us along with him on his travels to times and places that produced genius.Beginning with Athens in the Golden age, and ending with Palo Alto in the Silicon age, Weiner steps lightly through a most serious and fascinating topic, aided and supplemented with the latest social science research on creativity and its cultivation.The Geography of Genius: Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Places (Simon and Schuster, 2016) is an intellectual odyssey that examines the connection between our surroundings and our most innovative ideas, and has fun doing it. What inspires genius? Why do certain urban settings – and certain historical challenges – foster innovation?Would geniuses like Socrates, Michelangelo, Einstein and Disney have flourished, had they found themselves in other locations and other historical circumstances?Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at email@example.com or tweet @embracingwisdom.
33 minutes | 6 months ago
Armstrong Williams, "What Black and White America Must Do Now: A Prescription to Move Beyond Race" (Hot Books, 2020)
What Black and White America Must Do Now: A Prescription to Move Beyond Race (Hot Books, 2020) explores the complexity of race and culture in the United States. In his third book, renowned conservative entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist Armstrong Williams discusses his prescription for healing and atonement amidst today’s current social upheaval.Race and racism are America's original sin, and four hundred years later, they still plague the nation, pitting groups against each other. Despite how much time has elapsed, many Americans remain befuddled by how to move forward; however, the time for solutions has come.In this book, Armstrong Williams recounts his personal story and journey growing up working on his family farm in rural South Carolina, leading to an unexpected meeting with the late Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, which turned into an unlikely relationship that led him to the halls of power in Washington, D.C.Williams calls for all Americans to stand up to represent America’s highest virtues and ideals, and he challenges us to look beyond the pale of race for something much deeper.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @embracingwisdom
44 minutes | 7 months ago
Robert Kolker, "Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of An American Family" (Doubleday, 2020)
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of An American Family (Doubleday, 2020) is the story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science's great hope in the quest to understand the disease.Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. After World War II, Don's work with the Air Force brought them to Colorado, where their twelve children perfectly spanned the baby boom: the oldest born in 1945, the youngest in 1965. In those years, there was an established script for a family like the Galvins--aspiration, hard work, upward mobility, domestic harmony--and they worked hard to play their parts. But behind the scenes was a different story: psychological breakdown, sudden shocking violence, hidden abuse. By the mid-1970s, six of the ten Galvin boys, one after another, were diagnosed as schizophrenic. How could all this happen to one family?What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. Their story offers a shadow history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization, lobotomy, and the “schizophrenogenic” mother to the search for genetic markers for the disease, always amid profound disagreements about the nature of the illness itself. And unbeknownst to the Galvins, samples of their DNA informed decades of genetic research that continues today, bringing hope for paths to treatment, prediction, and even eradication of the disease for future generations.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The NBN’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at email@example.com or tweet @embracingwisdom.
49 minutes | 7 months ago
Alexander Kaye, "The Invention of Jewish Theocracy: The Struggle for Legal Authority in Modern Israel" (Oxford UP, 2020)
The tension between secular politics and religious fundamentalism is a problem shared by many modern states. This is certainly true of the State of Israel, where the religious-secular schism provokes conflict at every level of society. Driving this schism is the idea of the halakhic state, the demand by many religious Jews that Israel should be governed by the law of the Torah as interpreted by Orthodox rabbis.The Invention of Jewish Theocracy: The Struggle for Legal Authority in Modern Israel (Oxford University Press) traces the origins of the idea, its development, and its crucial importance in Israel's past and present. The book also shows how the history of this idea engages with burning contemporary debates on questions of global human rights, the role of religion in Middle East conflicts, and the long-term consequences of European imperialism.The Invention of Jewish Theocracy is an intellectual history, based on newly discovered material from numerous Israeli archives, private correspondence, court records, and lesser-known published works. It explains why the idea of the halakhic state emerged when it did, what happened after it initially failed to take hold, and how it has regained popularity in recent decades, provoking cultural conflict that has severely shaken Israeli society.The book's historical analysis gives rise to two wide-reaching insights. First, it argues that religious politics in Israel can be understood only within the context of the largely secular history of European nationalism and not, as is commonly argued, as an anomalous exception to it. It shows how even religious Jews most opposed to modern political thought nevertheless absorbed the fundamental assumptions of modern European political thought and reread their own religious traditions onto that model.Second, it demonstrates that religious-secular tensions are built into the intellectual foundations of Israel rather than being the outcome of major events like the 1967 War. These insights have significant ramifications for the understanding of the modern state. In particular, the account of the blurring of the categories of "secular" and "religious" illustrated in the book are relevant to all studies of modern history and to scholars of the intersection of religion and human rights.Alexander Kaye, Karl, Harry, and Helen Stoll Chair of Israel Studies; Assistant Professor, Department of Near East and Judaic Studies, Brandeis University.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a Jerusalem-based psychologist, Middle East television commentator, and host of the Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas with Renee Garfinkel https://newbooksnetwork.com/category/van-leer-institute/
58 minutes | 7 months ago
Rafael Medoff, "The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust" (JPS, 2019)
Like so many Americans, American Jews supported President Roosevelt. They adored him. They believed in him. They idolized him.Perhaps they shouldn’t have.Based on recently discovered documents, The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust (Jewish Publication Society) reassesses the hows and whys behind the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration’s fateful policies during the Holocaust.Rafael Medoff delves into difficult truths: With FDR’s consent, the administration deliberately suppressed European immigration far below the limits set by U.S. law. His administration also refused to admit Jewish refugees to the U.S. Virgin Islands, dismissed proposals to use empty Liberty ships returning from Europe to carry refugees, and rejected pleas to drop bombs on the railways leading to Auschwitz, even while American planes were bombing targets only a few miles away—actions that would not have conflicted with the larger goal of winning the war.What motivated FDR? Medoff explores the sensitive question of the president’s private sentiments toward Jews. Unmasking strong parallels between Roosevelt’s statements regarding Jews and Asians, he connects the administration’s policies of excluding Jewish refugees and interning Japanese Americans.The Jews Should Keep Quiet further reveals how FDR’s personal relationship with Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, American Jewry’s foremost leader in the 1930s and 1940s, swayed the U.S. response to the Holocaust. Documenting how Roosevelt and others pressured Rabbi Wise to stifle American Jewish criticism of FDR’s policies, Medoff chronicles how and why the American Jewish community largely fell in line with Wise. Ultimately Medoff weighs the administration’s realistic options for rescue action, which, if taken, would have saved many lives.Rafael Medoff is founding director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and coeditor of the institute’s online Encyclopedia of America’s Response to the Holocaust.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a Jerusalem-based psychologist, Middle East television commentator, and host of the Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas with Renee Garfinkel
62 minutes | 8 months ago
Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf, "The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace" (All Point Books, 2020)
Two prominent Israeli liberals argue that for the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to end with peace, Palestinians must come to terms with the fact that there will be no "right of return."In 1948, seven hundred thousand Palestinians were forced out of their homes by the first Arab-Israeli War. More than seventy years later, most of their houses are long gone, but millions of their descendants are still registered as refugees, with many living in refugee camps. This group―unlike countless others that were displaced in the aftermath of World War II and other conflicts―has remained unsettled, demanding to settle in the state of Israel. Their belief in a "right of return" is one of the largest obstacles to successful diplomacy and lasting peace in the region.In The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace (All Point Books, 2020), Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf―both liberal Israelis supportive of a two-state solution―reveal the origins of the idea of a right of return, and explain how UNRWA – an agency created for the Palestinians and not for the millions of other refugees - the very agency charged with finding a solution for the refugees – colluded with Palestinian, Arab and international political pressure to create a permanent “refugee” problem.Schwartz and Wilf make a compelling and well-documented argument that this Palestinian demand for a “right of return” has no legal, moral or historical basis and make an impassioned plea for the US, the UN, and the EU to recognize this fact, for the good of Israelis and Palestinians alike.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a Jerusalem-based psychologist, Middle East television commentator, and host of the Van Leer Series on Ideas with Renee Garfinkel ttps://newbooksnetwork.com/category/van-leer-institute/
66 minutes | 8 months ago
Paula Fredriksen, "When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation" (Yale UP, 2018)
How did a group of charismatic, apocalyptic Jewish missionaries, working to prepare their world for the impending realization of God's promises to Israel, end up inaugurating a movement that would grow into the gentile church? Committed to Jesus’s prophecy—“The Kingdom of God is at hand!”—they were, in their own eyes, history's last generation. But in history's eyes, they became the first Christians.In When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation (Yale University Press, 2018), Paula Fredriksen answers this question by reconstructing the life of the earliest Jerusalem community. As her account arcs from this group’s hopeful celebration of Passover with Jesus, through their bitter controversies that fragmented the movement’s midcentury missions, to the city’s fiery end in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, she brings this vibrant apostolic community to life. Fredriksen offers a vivid portrait both of this temple-centered messianic movement and of the bedrock convictions that animated and sustained it.Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a Jerusalem-based psychologist, Middle East television commentator, and host of the Van Leer Series on Ideas with Renee Garfinkel.
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