Jews by Arthur Hertzberg
The Essence and Character of a People

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What makes a Jew a Jew? In the most controversial book on Jewish identity to come along in decades, two influential Jewish leaders dare to answer that provocative question. There is an essential Jewish identity, shaped by the legacy of history and faith, which bridges divergent cultures, politics, and even beliefs. So argues author Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, the outspoken and influential leader at the forefront of the world Jewish community, who together with Aron Hirt-Manheimer, the distinguished editor of Reform Judaism magazine, presents a myth-shattering view of Jewish character.

Jews is a landmark work that provocatively explores the meaning of Jewish identity through the ages. Hertzberg and Hirt-Manheimer present an original and insightful look at the entire Jewish experience and what it means for Jews and non-Jews alike. The authors boldly advance a series of radical arguments:

They dare to define the "essential" Jew.

They dare to say that the Jewish character has remained the same since the time of Abraham and Sarah.

They dare to propose that anti-Semitism is not a Christian invention-it is a reaction to Jews as persistent dissenters in every society.

They dare to suggest that the Holocaust was a reenactment of the Crucifixion in which the traditional roles were reversed.

They dare to examine the illness of self-hatred that has afflicted Jews from Karl Marx to Woody Allen.

This book offers a new and startling perspective on how Jews relate to people of other traditions while also defining the challenge, responsibility, and essence of being a Jew in our time. Jews: The Essence and Character of a People defies the conventional view of Jews that has prevailed for centuries and presents a compelling and realistic portrait of contemporary Jews. This important book is sure to stimulate passionate debate among both Jews and non-Jews.

"Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg's life of honor, education, and compassion commands our attention whenever he speaks. Few people have communicated so consistently from the platform of their own convictions. If more people had Rabbi Hertzberg's courage, our divisions would diminish. If more people had his wisdom, our possibilities would expand."
-Bill Bradley, former U.S. Senator, New Jersey

"Hertzberg's sharp wit and penetrating mind, his rabbinical acumen, his active involvement in all aspects of Jewish life, his strong commitment to Zionism and Israel-all combine to invest his writings with great authority. This book will no doubt be hailed as the culmination of the author's many literary and scholarly achievements."
-Justice Hayim Cohn, Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel (retired)

"Arthur Hertzberg has one of America's most amazing minds. Whatever he writes is more than worth reading, it's a must for all who are interested in Judaism."
-Edgar M. Bronfman, president, World Jewish Congress

"I deeply respect Aron Hirt-Manheimer's ability as a writer, as an editor par excellence, and as a man of ideas. Any book on which he collaborates will be the better for his presence."
-Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, editor and chief author of The Torah: A Modern Commentary


About Arthur Hertzberg

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Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, author of "The Zionist Idea", "Jewish Polemics", "The Jews in America", "Jews", and "A Jew in America", is the Bronfman Visiting Professor of Humanities at New York University and Professor Emeritus of Religion at Dartmouth. A world-renowned Jewish scholar, he has served as president of the American Jewish Policy Foundation and the American Jewish Congress and as vice-president of the World Jewish Congress.
Published May 19, 1998 by HarperOne. 304 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Jews

The New York Review of Books

This last winter, at its annual meeting, the Conference of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, the coordinating body of Jewish voluntary fund-raising for Israel and local community needs all over the country, said quite flatly, in a public resolution, that policies which disenfranchise the rabb...

Apr 29 1982 | Read Full Review of Jews: The Essence and Charact...

The New York Review of Books

Arthur Hertzberg asserts that the American Jewish community is “eroding” [“What Future for American Jews?” NYR, November 23, 1989].

Mar 15 1990 | Read Full Review of Jews: The Essence and Charact...

The New York Review of Books

So there was nothing haphazard in suddenly letting out, in September, some of the longstanding Jewish refuseniks, Yosif Begun and Victor Brailovsky and a number of others, while denouncing Zionism with greater fervor than before, and blaming … ...

Oct 22 1987 | Read Full Review of Jews: The Essence and Charact...

The New York Review of Books

Yehuda Helman, the executive vice-president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the central representative body of the Jewish establishment, told Ma’ariv‘s New York correspondent: “We now will have a very hard task to repair the damage that the Jewish vote has...

Jan 31 1985 | Read Full Review of Jews: The Essence and Charact...

The New York Review of Books

Menachem Begin’s outburst denouncing the United States on December 20 is best understood as a scene from a bad marriage.

Feb 18 1982 | Read Full Review of Jews: The Essence and Charact...

The New York Review of Books

After the Six Day War in 1967, Jews in America were freer, and more powerful, than Jews had ever been before in the Diaspora.

Nov 23 1989 | Read Full Review of Jews: The Essence and Charact...

The New York Review of Books

For at least a century, Jews in America have worried about three main issues: their success in establishing themselves in American society;

Nov 21 1985 | Read Full Review of Jews: The Essence and Charact...

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