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In the current situation of polarization in the Middle East, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that a long tradition of dialogue and openness toward the "Other" exists in many strands of Jewish thought. Himself or herself the quintessential Other in a world in which she or he has existed dispersed, in exile, as a minority, the Jew has consistently envisioned the self in relation to surrounding societies. Esther Benbassa and Jean-Christophe Attias show that alterity is a useful and morally compelling notion with which to structure Judaism's historically specific and politically charged encounters with deity, femininity, the Christian West, and the Muslim East.

In Benbassa and Attias's view, the Other may be rejected, but it is also a mirror, both reminding the Jew of ethical duties and constituting a source of temptation and danger. Sometimes, the authors find, the Other is the enemy. They note that it is with the enemy that peace is made, peace with the Other and peace with the self. The Jew and the Other, which is an extended commentary on a dozen Biblical verses and which follows the five books of the Pentateuch, offers the history of that encounter as an inextricable part of the Jewish condition and is itself a meditation on this encounter.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801489464
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 08/03/2004
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 4.50(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Esther Benbassa is Professor of Modern Jewish History at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Sorbonne, and Director of the Alberto Benveniste Center for Sephardic Studies and Culture. Among her books translated into English are Haim Nahum: A Sephardic Chief Rabbi in Politics and The Jews of France: A History from Antiquity to the Present. Jean-Christophe Attias is Professor of the History of Rabbinic Culture at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Sorbonne. He is the author of Le Commentaire biblique. Mordekhai Komtino ou l'hermeneutique du dialogue and of Isaac Abravanel, la memoire et l'esperance. Benbassa and Attias have also coauthored Israel, the Impossible Land and The Jews and Their Future: A Conversation on Jewish Identities, both recently published in English translation. G. M. Goshgarian is the translator of several books from Cornell, including Three Women in Dark Times: Edith Stein, Hannah Arendt, and Simone Weil by Sylvie Courtine-Denamy.

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Jonathan Boyarin

"This is a rich summation of the resources and challenges of Jewish identity and difference at the turn of the third Christian millennium. Committed, lucid, critical, and informed, it exemplifies a vibrantly human science of Jewishness."

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