Defining Jewish Difference

Defining Jewish Difference : From Antiquity to the Present

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This book traces the interpretive career of Leviticus 18:3, a verse that forbids Israel from imitating its neighbors. Beth A. Berkowitz shows that ancient, medieval and modern exegesis of this verse provides an essential backdrop for today's conversations about Jewish assimilation and minority identity more generally. The story of Jewishness that this book tells may surprise many modern readers for whom religious identity revolves around ritual and worship. In Leviticus 18:3's story of Jewishness, sexual practice and cultural habits instead loom large. The readings in this book are on a micro-level, but their implications are far-ranging: Berkowitz transforms both our notion of Bible-reading and our sense of how Jews have defined more

Product details

  • Electronic book text | 248 pages
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1139227769
  • 9781139227766

Review quote

'... [a] profoundly impressive study ...' Mara Benjamin, Religious Studies Review 'Berkowitz's chapters are a wellspring of information on defining Jewish identity from epochs of Jewish life, culled mainly from scriptural verses as interpreted in traditional rabbinic sources ... this volume is a welcome and needed repository of classic rabbinic legal discussion, disputation, and decisions concerning keeping Judaism and maintaining Jewish survival in the proximity of adaptation and assimilation ... this book, with its erudite scholarship, is a worthwhile read.' The Catholic Biblical Quarterlyshow more

About Beth A. Berkowitz

Beth A. Berkowitz is Associate Professor of Rabbinic Literatures and Cultures at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Her first book, Execution and Invention: Death Penalty Discourse in Early Rabbinic and Christian Cultures, won the Salo Baron Prize for Outstanding First Book in Jewish Studies. She has published articles in the Journal for the American Academy of Religion, the Journal of Jewish Studies, Jewish Quarterly Review, the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, AJS Review and Biblical Interpretation. She has held postdoctoral fellowships in Yale University's Program in Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania's Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies and New York University Law School's Tikvah Center for Law and Jewish Civilization. She received her BA and PhD from Columbia University and her MA from the University of more

Table of contents

1. Introduction: law, identity, and Leviticus 18:3; 2. The question of Israelite distinctiveness: paradigms of separatism in Leviticus 18:3; 3. Allegory and ambiguity: Jewish identity in Philo's De Congressu; 4. A narrative of neighbors: rethinking universalism and particularism in patristic and rabbinic writings; 5. The limits of 'their laws' in midrash halakhah; 6. A short history of the people of Israel from the patriarchs to the Messiah: constructions of Jewish difference in Leviticus rabbah; 7. Syncretism and anti-syncretism in the Babylonian Talmud; 8. The judaization of reason: the Tosafists, Nissim Gerondi, and Joseph Colon; 9. Women's wear and men's suits: Ovadiah Yosef's and Moshe Feinstein's discourses of Jewishness; 10. Conclusion: an 'upside-down people'?show more