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How I Stopped Being a Jew Hardcover – 7 Oct 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; 1 edition (7 Oct. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781686149
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781686140
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 1.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 152,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


“Perhaps books combining passion and erudition don’t change political situations, but if they did, this one would count as a landmark.”
– Eric Hobsbawm (in praise of The Invention of the Jewish People), Observer

“Sand’s quiet earthquake of a book is shaking historical faith in the link between Judaism and Israel.”
– Rafael Behr (in praise of The Invention of the Jewish People), Observer

“No discussion of the region any longer seems complete without acknowledgement of this book.”
– Independent on Sunday, Best History Books of 2009 (in praise of The Invention of the Jewish People)

“A radical dismantling of a national myth.”
– Guardian (in praise of The Invention of the Jewish People)

About the Author

Shlomo Sand studied history at the University of Tel Aviv and at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, in Paris. He currently teaches contemporary history at the University of Tel Aviv. His books include The Invention of the Land of Israel, The Invention of the Jewish People, and On the Nation and the Jewish People.

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Zero on 7 Nov. 2014
Format: Hardcover
According to Sand the contradictions of Israel are implicit in its inception: a secular state, established by colonisation and the expropriation of land, its claims to ancient title over Israel/Palestine have no more validity than would an Anglo-Saxon’s “right to return” to Germany (should we opt to exercise it), unless, that is, secular Jews choose to ground them – as the devout do – in a contractual arrangement with a supernatural being. Sand dubs the current Israeli position on Jewishness “identitarian”, or alternatively “ethno-Zionism”, and notes that Zionists have reached out to the Jewish diaspora and sought to make “Israel” a state of mind that anyone, no matter how far flung, can experience – so long, of course, as she has a Jewish mother. These “new Jews”, as Sand terms them, can be in Los Angeles or London; they can be religiously unobservant, and possess no recognisably “Israeli” cultural attributes (because, after all, most of what we term “Jewish culture” is in fact the cuisine, the humour and folk tales of the discredited Yiddish-speakers), yet they possess the “right” to settle in Israel – a right to citizenship, in effect, that is held by the Israeli constitution to be logically and morally prior to that of Palestine’s indigenous people.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. V. Kovalenko on 4 Dec. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A good book from an excellent historian. Yet it contains very few new ideas/facts that have not been stated in his earlier books. The title is a bit inadequate, though. The main impression from reading the book is that the author is as Jewish as one can be:) Jewish history and identity are complex and fascinating. Shlomo's merit is divorcing them from simplistic Zionist myths and outright racism.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mic Le Critique on 20 Nov. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Shlomo Sand is one of the few Israelis to objectively question what it is that makes a Jew, a Zionist, an Israeli. This book joins his other tomes on this never ending story.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 21 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Sand against the sacred cows 20 Oct. 2014
By Sergio Lipkin - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The title of this book should be "The invention of Secular Judaism", and in this way it would naturally close the trilogy that started with "The Invention of Jewish People" and was followed by "The Invention of the Land of Israel". Among Sand's discussion on those three inventions, the one referred to secular judaism (the object of the new book) is perhaps the most directed to the jewish public, or likely to have jews as the most interested readers. The central subject relates to the jewish identity, a question that simply has been torturing jews around the world at least since the end of nineteen century. Sand is not absolutely interested in doing any type of proselitism: he does not want to convince any jew to stop being jewish as he did. Sand simply wants to dramatically invoke all jews to deeply re-think and face fearless the identity question again as he thinks this is the crux of the matter of all historical contraditions between Judaism an Zionism (and he is surely echoing Boas Evron call in this same direction, as stated on his magnific 1995 book - Jewish State or Israeli Nation? ).
Like his arguments or not, the book is certainly extremely rich as a source for relevant subjects in the discussion agenda of the jewish identity question. Like his conclusions or not, the point is that it is almost impossible not to see and feel an overall beauty in the last chapter remarks, where Sand let the reader get in contact with his profound and declared love for Israel, something really amazing when contrasted with the usual image of "Israel traitor" drawn by many of Sand's detractors.
After reading the chapter last lines, I had the impression that Sand would like to tell us, among other things, that to keep faithfully loving Israel, a non-religious and pro-enlightment israeli jew must "leave judaism" in a very precise way: by getting rid of any kind of secular messianic concept of jewish redemption, by recognizing that jewishness is not a sufficient condition for nation building and that it's prominent consideration involves a very high token to pay in terms of exclusion and descrimination. For "diasporic" jews, Sand's conclusion seems to raise a similar dramatic and "revolutionary" question: in order to "save" both Liberal Judaism and Liberal Zionism, they must be divorced: jews must establish a radical separation between their community affiliation and the national project of the Israeli people. Hard questions, difficult thoughts. But we cannot avoid them anymore.
Thank you Sand, for this conceptual earthquake.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
A Must Read 17 Oct. 2014
By Lloyd E. Siverns - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Hard hitting but a book that needs to be read by everyone who is a friend of Israel but apprehensive or unwilling to be associated with an oppressive political/religious/military system that in demanding special treatment refuses to acknowledge the rights of others. It is past time, for the sake of Israel and for the Palestinians to pretend that the holocaust -terrible as it was and the memory of which we must keep alive- is a ticket to destroy the hopes and dreams and lives of others. With our friends we must be honest and friends are both within and without the ghetto.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
This is a nice piece of writing by Shlomo Sand 24 Oct. 2014
By 2ndamendmentman78 - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a nice piece of writing by Shlomo Sand. I appreciate Sand's exposure of something that the establishment media doesn't touch. This is the jewish view towards non-jews, which is very strongly influenced by the Old Testament and more than the Old Testament, the Talmud. Let's face it. The Jewish view of non-jews is a hateful one and this explains Israel's policies towards non-Jews, particularly palestinians. I admire Dr. Sand for rejecting the hateful mindset of jewish supremacism and ethnocentrism for a more universal, humanistic outlook that seeks to love all people, regardless of race, religion, or nationality.

This is a solid book by Dr. Sand. I commend him for his decision to renounce his Jewish identity and join the rest of humanity.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
What's a Secular Jew? 26 Oct. 2014
By Sheldon Richman - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One may quibble with a point here and there, but Professor Sand has something important to say. I've long wondered what it means to be a secular Jew. As a secularist myself, the term "secular Jew" strikes me as an insult to those who embrace Jewish monotheism, particularly those who died for their faith. (I think of my own anti-Zionist orthodox grandfather, who would be perplexed by the phrase "atheist Jew.") It's a way to have one's cake and eat it too, which raises suspicions. Very often it amounts to a source of pseudo-ethnic superiority, not to mention a vicarious racist Israeli chauvinism in people who have no interest in living in Israel but who applaud the oppression of Arabs. It's irreligious religion and thus incoherent. I welcome Sand's discussion and hope it will provoke much self-examination.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Teaches us a new way of looking at Jewishness 12 Mar. 2015
By Deep Woods 9 - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed Shlomo Sand’s book tremendously, though I feel that the title is a bit stronger than the argument he makes. Perhaps it’s a touch of sensationalism, or perhaps the book suffers a bit from translation. In any case, he makes some fantastic arguments, especially at the beginning of the book, as he shares anecdotes which demonstrate the absurdity of the rules which determine who is and is not a Jew.
Sand points out that conversion to another faith is enough to get a Jew kicked out of the club, but since he is an atheist he can’t convert to another faith. So there is no way for him to leave the club. What does this mean? It means that Jewishness is NOT a race – because were it a race, no one would be able to join it via conversion. After all, I can’t become African-American simply by accepting a set of beliefs and expressing a desire to identify with African-American culture and history. And yet, if Jewishness is not a race, it must be a combination religious/cultural identity. And we all know that it IS entirely possible to leave a religion and a culture, so it must be possible to decide to stop being a Jew.
And we see that, despite the fervent wishes of many Jews, there simply is no basis for a belief in Jewish genetics. (Check out the 2013 study entitled “A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages” to see how European Jews really are.) With the most cutting edge genetic testing of today, the most that can be demonstrated is that the majority of Ashkenazi Jews (the pale-skinned mostly Eastern European Jews that most Americans know) share some genes due to population bottlenecks. And the Ashkenazi genetic mix tends to be substantially European in origin. But Ashkenazi Jews are not the only Jews in the world, so saying that many Ashkenazi are distantly related is not the same thing as proving a genetic basis for a “Jewish race.” And Shlomo Sand is right when he says that not long ago, claiming that there was such a thing as a Jewish “race” would have gotten you called an anti-semite. But today, it’s all the rage amongst Jews because it’s politically expedient.
To all Jews reading this who no longer wish to be Jews, I would point out, along with Sand, that it is entirely possible to “stop being Jewish.” After all, since Jewishness is a combination religious/cultural identity, you can stop being Jewish by leaving behind the religious component and by leaving behind the cultural component. Basically, if you don’t believe the ridiculous myths of the Tanach and if you don’t consider secular Jewish culture to be your defining culture, you can stop being a Jew any time you want. But watch out, because those who took the blue pill will become enraged at you like you’ve never seen. And the very irrationality of the anger you provoke should clue you in to the fact that you’re onto something. You are threatening the myth that keeps others enslaved, and they will defend their own enslavement. It's like the Allegory of the Cave.
You can stop being Jewish the same way that a Catholic can leave the Catholic Church even though the Church claims that baptism makes one permanently Catholic. And you can stop being Jewish the same way that you can adopt a new culture when you move to a new country. The key is in not just leaving behind Jewishness; you must work to fill the hole left by leaving behind one culture by filling it with a new identity. Otherwise the vestiges of Jewishness will remain with you the way that the “lapsed Catholic” will always fall back on a Catholicism in which he no longer really believes. What that new identity is, is up to you. After all, this is YOUR new life and only you can define yourself.
If you’re happy being Jewish, stay Jewish. No worries; your identity is your own business and if you’re fulfilled by the Jewish faith, stay there. But if you don’t consider yourself Jewish, there’s no reason to stay in the group when you can find fulfillment elsewhere. And don’t ever let the anger of others define you, either the anger of anti-semites OR the anger of Jews.
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