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The Study of Judaism: Bibliographical Essays, Introduction by Jacob Neusner

Judaica

The Study of Judaism: Bibliographical Essays.
by Jacob Neusner.
Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith/Ktav. 229 pp. $12.50.

The purpose of this collection of bibliographical essays, as stated in the introduction by Jacob Neusner, is to provide guidance for “serious students in the field of religion who are not experts in the study of Judaism.” In addition, Neusner suggests that librarians will find the volume helpful for filling in gaps in their collections, and that teachers in the newly proliferating departments of Jewish studies will find it useful in the planning of courses.

But there would seem to be another, albeit unstated, purpose prompting this effort, stemming from the unease that many Jews currently feel with regard to developments both in the academic world and in the broader society. For instance, the rise of ethnic-studies programs, some of which are staffed by individuals whose attempts at “consciousness-raising” include frankly anti-Semitic indoctrination, is a cause for anxiety on two scores: on the one hand, academic integrity is compromised, and on the other, anti-Semitism is purveyed as academic “knowledge.” A further cause for apprehension is the growing popularity of religious-studies programs; in themselves unobjectionable, such programs have on occasion given shelter to clerics whose faith in religion has lapsed and who have replaced the relevance-that-failed with the new relevance of revolution. Finally, there is concern over the growth of religious movements of withdrawal among young people, some of which show signs of becoming vehicles of millenarian action. Jewish youth, in disconcerting numbers, are flocking to such movements.

It is therefore not surprising that there should be efforts on the part of Jews to counter these developments, and the present volume, in addition to its more explicit purpose, would seem to represent such an effort. The general strategy it embodies is one that has long enjoyed favor among Jewish defense agencies, consonant as it is with a traditional Jewish penchant for interpreting all problems confronting Jews as rooted in ignorance, and capable of being dispelled by education and knowledge.

The essays themselves, it should be noted, do not follow a uniform format. Some provide annotated bibliographies, others do not; some have long introductions preceding the bibliographical material, some very brief ones; even the style of citation varies from essay to essay. More seriously, quality and comprehensiveness also vary sharply. Frank Talmage's essay-cum-bibliography on “Judaism on Christianity: Christianity on Judaism,” which shows how exponents of the two faiths viewed and continue to view each other, provides a superb introduction to its subject, and its citations are close to comprehensive. An incidental lesson to be learned from the essay is the gravity of the translation gap from Hebrew into English. Such an important work as Golah venekhar (1954) by Yehezkel Kaufmann, known in this country primarily for his monumental History of the Religion of Israel, has not yet, for example, been translated into English.

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Fritz Rothschild and Seymour Siegel's “Modern Jewish Thought” and Henry Friedlander's “The Holocaust: Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Catastrophe” are of equally high quality; likewise the essay on “Rabbinic Sources” (i.e., Targum, Talmud, and Midrash) by John T. Townsend, who appends to an informed discussion of this material a bibliography old-fashioned in its comprehensiveness. Although Townsend, like other contributors, makes his selections predominantly from among studies published in English, he also includes major German and Hebrew works. I noted only a few significant omissions, most notably the important work by Yehuda Feliks on Kil'ayim I—II (“Mixed Sowing, Breeding, and Grafting”). One also wishes, given the general excellence of Townsend's bibliography, that the reference works and study aids had been expanded so as to include some of the leading works of topical specialists, for example, I. Löw or U. Feldmann (on fauna and agriculture), J. Preuss (on Talmudic medicine), A. Reifenberg, W. Wirgin, and S. Mandel (on coinage), B. Kisch (on weights and measures), as well as such general introductions to rabbinic sources as those of E. Z. Melamed and E. Urbach.

If Townsend is perhaps overly restrictive in his definition of the subject, Richard B. Bavier,1 in “Judaism in New Testament Times,” defines his bibliographic task widely, but then omits crucial works. Thus he includes Rostovtzeff's volumes on the social and economic history of the Hellenistic and Roman world, but leaves out W. W. Tarn's Hellenistic Civilization and E. Will's Historie politique du monde hellenistique. While A.H.M. Jones's 1938 work The Herods of Judea is listed, his The Later Roman Empire of 1964 is not; and certainly A. N. Sherwin White's Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament is pertinent to the subject at hand. With the exception of Elias Bickerman's Der Gott der Makkabäer, all the sources cited by Bavier are either English-language originals or else works that have been translated into English, yet the restriction to English is a serious weakness in dealing with this era. For not merely is Will omitted, but likewise such important works as D. A. Schlatter's Geschichte Israels von Alexander des Grossen his Hadrian, E. Meyer's Ursprung . . . des Christentums, and J. Juster's Les Juifs dans l'empire romaine. On Philo, the works of Goodenough, Wolfson, and Sandmel are quoted and L. Feldman is cited, but such an important scholar as Isaac Hein-emann is ignored. The subject of sectarianism, apart from the Pharisees and some references to the Zealots, is not treated at all, and the voluminous literature on the Dead Sea finds is neither discussed nor listed. Modern Israeli scholarship is omitted altogether. The significant, and in some areas, revolutionary scholarship of men like G. Alon, M. Stern, S. Safrai, and Y. M. Grintz, although some of it has appeared in English, must thus wait for future bibliographies. Finally, I find it difficult to take seriously a bibliography of the New Testament period which does not include such basic works as T. Reinach's Textes d'auteurs grecs et romains relatifs au Judaisme or Tcherikover, Fuks, and Stern's Corpus Papyrorum Judacarum.

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Lloyd Gartner's “The Contemporary Jewish Community” also strikes me as flawed in important respects. For example, his list of pertinent periodicals omits Jewish Social Studies and the Jewish Journal of Sociology. The sections of the bibliography dealing with Zionism and Israel inexplicably contain no references whatever to the Revisionist movement; omission of such books as J. B. Schechtman's two-volume biography of Vladimir Jabotinsky or his history (with Ben Ari) of the Revisionist movement is inexcusable in a bibliography of this kind. The section dealing with diplomacy leaves out such important sources as R. H. S. Crossman's Palestine Mission, James G. McDonald's My Mission in Israel 1948-51, and Bartley drum's Behind the Silken Curtain.

Other sections of Gartner's essay are equally incomplete, particularly the section on Oriental Jewish communities. It is simply not true to state as he does that “The serious study of Jews in Muslim and Oriental lands during modern times has barely begun.” Apart from the important studies in this area of S. D. Goitein and H. Z. Hirschberg, one might note such works as L. Cabot-Briggs and N. Lami Guede's No More Forever: A Saharan Jewish Town, M. Cohen and M. M. Moreno's Gli Ebrei in Libia, M. Eisenbeth's Les Juifs de l'Afrique du Nord and Les Juifs au Maroc, M. D. Japhet on The Jews of India, H. S. Kehimkar's The History of Bene Israel of India, S. Landshut's Jewish Communities in the Muslim Countries of the Middle East, and Erich Brauer's Ethnologie der Jemenitischen Juden, to say nothing of the voluminous literature in Hebrew. None of these works is included, the only citations on Oriental Jewish communities being Yitzhak Ben Zvi's The Exiled and the Redeemed and André Chouraqui's Between East and West. Unfortunately, such bibliographies, remiss in their scope, tend to reinforce the opinion that Oriental Jews are discriminated against by their Western brethren, even as subjects of study.

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One final criticism: the topic of political Zionism gets comparatively little attention—indeed, there is no separate essay on the subject—and even the traditional Jewish affirmation of the tie to Zion is neglected. Yet the Zionist revolution and its achievements are issues central to modern Jewry, historically as crucial as the Holocaust. The absence of an essay on Zionism, to my mind, constitutes a basic defect in the conception and planning of the book. Still, despite my various demurrals, the fundamental idea of the volume is a good one, so good in fact that I hope there will be other volumes of this sort—or perhaps an improved edition of the present one—to cover, in solid bibliographical fashion, the significant Jewish issues of our time.


Footnotes

1 Bavier, incidentally, is still a student and can hardly qualify as an expert (as yet) in the field. The authors of the other essays are all recognized “professionals” in their particular areas.

About the Author




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