The Jewish Search for a Usable Past

The Jewish Search for a Usable Past

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Roskies has illuminated a path to further self-understanding of who Jews are and the type of bridges used to reach a usable past." -Lifestyles Magazine

[The author has] an exceptional gift for historical reconnection... The force of the shtetl, if not its romance, remains very much within him." -Irving Louis Horowitz, Congress Monthly

... fine new volume of essays... " -David Singer, Commentary

These studies, each a gem unto itself, together reveal how Jews cope with loss and catastrophe and illustrate that it is exactly by coping with loss and tragedy that Jews create a usable past and in, in the process, define their present and shape their future." -Choice

After redrawing the map of modern Jewish memory, David G. Roskies takes the reader on a grand tour of major memory sites, each of which is built upon foundations of rebellion, rupture, and loss. Among them: chronicles of catastrophe from the Warsaw ghetto; a gallery of rabbis and zaddikim who are really rebels in disguise; a failed revolution recast into an Honor Row of magnificent tombstones; and a Holy Land where the search for a sacred space is led by those least likely ever to find it. The creativity with which Jews have coped with loss and catastrophe in modern times is richly revealed in this lively account.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 232 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 23.62mm | 28g
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 0253335051
  • 9780253335050
  • 1,490,507

Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
1. The Jewish Search for a Usable Past
2. The Library of Jewish Catastrophe
3. Ringelblum's Time Capsules
4. The Shtetl in Jewish Collective Memory
5. Rabbis, Rebels, and the Lost Art of the Law
6. The Golden Peacock: The Art of Song
7. A Culture Set in Stone: The Art of Burial
8. A City, a School, and a Utopian Experiment
9. Zionism, Israel, and the Search of a Covenantal Space
Conclusion
Notes
Index
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Review quote

Roskies (Jewish Theol. Seminary) shows that the Jewish present is not evolving as a simple continuation of the past nor, contrary to what is often claimed, is it emerging from a radical break with the past. It sits, rather, upon what Roskies calls memory sites, images of the past recreated from the ashes of destruction and the potentially debilitating sense of Jewish loss these catastrophes create. How are such memory sites created? Roskies illustrates the process through careful and engaging examinations of, among other topics, Jewish chronicles of the Warsaw Ghetto, of Jewish rethinking of Jewish participation in the early socialist and Zionist movements, and of the function of the concept of holy space for secular Israelis. These studies, each a gem unto itself, together reveal how Jews cope with loss and catastrophe and illustrate that it is exactly by coping with loss and tragedy that Jews create a usable past and, in the process, define their present and shape their future. Recommended for general readers and for faculty and researchers. -A. J. AverPeck, College of the Holy Cross, Choice, March 2000
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About David G. Roskies

David G. Roskies is Professor of Jewish Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary. His books include Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture and A Bridge of Longing: The Lost Art of Yiddish Storytelling. He is founder and editor of Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History.
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