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VCU Menorah Review Summer/Fall 2015
Number 83
For the Enrichment of Jewish Thought

Books in Brief

The Case against Academic Boycotts of Israel, edited by Cary Nelson & Gabriel Noah Brahm.
New York: Global Jewish Advocacy

How should we understand the international debate about the future of Israel and the Palestinians? Can justice be achieved in the Middle East? Until now, there was no single place for people to go to find detailed scholarly essays analyzing proposals to boycott Israel and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement of which they are a part.

This book for the first time provides the historical background necessary for informed evaluation of one of the most controversial issues of our day — the struggle between two peoples living side-by-side but with conflicting views of history and conflicting national ambitions. This book encourages empathy for all parties, but it also takes a cold look at what solutions are realistic and possible. In doing so, it tackles issues, like the role of anti-Semitism in calls for the abolition of the Jewish state, that many have found impossible to confront until now. The book gathers essays by an international cohort of scholars from Britain, Israel, and the United States.

The Heart of the Matter: Studies in Jewish Mysticism and Theology by Arthur Green.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Judaism, like all the great religions, has a strand within it that sees inward devotion, the opening of the human heart to God’s presence, to be the purpose of its entire edifice of praxis, liturgy, and way of life. This voice is not always easy to hear in a tradition where so much attention is devoted to the how rather than the why of religious living. The devotional claim, certainly a key part of Judaism’s biblical heritage, has reasserted itself in the teachings of individual mystics and in the emergence of religious movements over the long course of Jewish history. This volume represents Arthur Green’s own quest for such a Judaism — as a rabbi, as a scholar, and as a contemporary seeker.

This collection of essays brings together Green’s scholarly writings, centered on the history of early Hasidism, and his highly personal approach to a rebirth of Jewish spirituality in our own day. In choosing to present them in this way he asserts a claim that they are all of a piece. They represent one man’s attempt to wade through history and text, language and symbol, and an array of voices both past and present while always focusing on the essential questions: “What does it mean to be a religious human being, and what does Judaism teach us about how to be one?” This, the author considers to be the heart of the matter.

Rethinking the Messianic Idea in Judaism. Michael L. Morgan and Steven Weitzman, editors.
Indiana University Press.

Over the centuries, the messianic tradition has provided the language through which modern Jewish philosophers, socialists, and Zionists envisioned a utopian future. Michael L. Morgan, Steven Weitzman, and an international group of leading scholars ask new questions and provide new ways of thinking about this enduring Jewish idea. Using the writings of Gershom Scholem, which ranged over the history of messianic belief and its conflicted role in the Jewish imagination, these essays put aside the boundaries that divide history from philosophy and religion to offer new perspectives on the role and relevance of messianism today.

To the Gates of Jerusalem by James G. McDonald and Norman J.W. Gorda.
Indiana University Press.

This volume, the third in a series of James G. McDonald’s edited diaries and papers, covers his work from 1945, with the formation of the Anglo-American Committee, through 1947, with the United Nations’ decision to partition Palestine between Jews and Arabs. The “Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry Regarding the Problems of European Jewry and Palestine” was a group charged with finding a solution to the problem of European Jewish Refugees in the context of the increasingly unstable British Mandate in Palestine. McDonald’s diaries and papers offer the most thorough personal account we have of the Committee and the politics surrounding it. His diary is part travelogue through the desolation of postwar Europe and a Middle East being transformed by new Jewish settlements and growing Arab intransigence. McDonald maintained discreet contact with Zionist and moderate Arab leaders throughout the Committee’s hearings and deliberations. He was instrumental in the recommendation that 100,000 Jewish refugees enter Palestine and won President Truman’s trust in order to counter attempts to nullify the report’s recommendations.

|  Virginia Commonwealth University  |  College of Humanities and Sciences  |  School of World Studies  |
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Updated: Jan. 24, 2013

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