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Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What hope for humans?, 17 July 2012
This review is from: If I Am Not For Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew (Paperback)
The intellectual formation of an American Jew who's now a Brit, incorporating some of his grandfather's papers, this journey is both exciting (on p58-60 we see it begin) and eminently reasonable. Along the way we meet Moses Mendelssohn, remarkably early pioneer of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment), and Napoleon's famous Sanhedrin, or Jewish council, which doesn't seem to have been quite as trail-blazing as it's painted; '[n]ot surprisingly.. [it] ruled that the Torah taught obedience to the laws of the Empire'. Zalkind Hourwitz (1751-1811) you probably won't have heard of ('to be a citizen.., in this country of equality and liberty, it suffices to be the owner of a white foreskin'); Spinoza you will (the Jews' 'continuance so long after dispersion.. [has] nothing marvellous in it.. [They] have been preserved in great measure by Gentile hatred'). But mostly we're in modern-day America. The evolution of Reform Judaism from its high water mark of 1885 ('ever striving to be in accord with the postulates of reason') to 1937 to 1999 is eye-popping (imagine the C of E going into reverse), as is the NYC politics; did you know Fiorello La Guardia was Jewish? (Italian Jewish, to be sure.) As for Israel, don't even talk about it. This is a fascinating voyage among people and ideas - not least that bit player of a grandfather - and not at all doctrinaire. If it gets bogged down in places - enough politics already! - it ends in a cri de coeur that every Jew should read (this means you, Jonathan Sachs! fat chance) and as many of the rest of us as care for humankind in the round. In the din of present-day triumphalist mumbo-jumbo, assertion and counter-assertion, we are in greater need than ever of such individual voices, quiet or combative, heroic or ironic
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