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Books

Jewish Lives, Jewish Lives Series, Jewish Biography, Jewish History, Jewish Culture, Jewish Books, Biography books, Top selling books, Jewish Book, Bestselling biographies, Best biography books, Judaism, Jewish, King David, Jacob, King Solomon, Rabbi Akiva, Moses, Peggy Guggenheim, Mark Rothko, Leonard Bernstein, Bernard Berenson, Sarah Bernhardt, Barbra Streisand, Groucho Marx, Hank Greenberg, Steven Spielberg, Louis Brandeis, Disraeli, Leon Blum, Ben-Gurion, Jabotinsky, Moshe Dayan, Walter Rathenau, Leon Trotsky, Emma Goldman, Yitzhak Rabin, Marcel Proust, Lillian Hellman, Primo Levi, Franz Kafka, Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Rav Kook, Moses Mendelssohn, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud

Moses Mendelssohn: Sage of Modernity

By Shmuel Feiner
Published November 23, 2010
248 pages

“A fascinating portrait” —Library Journal

The “German Socrates,” Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) was the most influential Jewish thinker of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A Berlin celebrity and a major figure in the Enlightenment, revered by Immanuel Kant, Mendelssohn suffered the indignities common to Jews of his time while formulating the philosophical foundations of a modern Judaism suited for a new age. His most influential books included the groundbreaking Jerusalem and a translation of the Bible into German that paved the way for generations of Jews to master the language of the larger culture.

Feiner’s book is the first that offers a full, human portrait of this fascinating man—uncommonly modest, acutely aware of his task as an intellectual pioneer, shrewd, traditionally Jewish, yet thoroughly conversant with the world around him—providing a vivid sense of Mendelssohn’s daily life as well as of his philosophical endeavors. Feiner, a leading scholar of Jewish intellectual history, examines Mendelssohn as father and husband, as a friend (Mendelssohn’s long-standing friendship with the German dramatist Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was seen as a model for Jews and non-Jews worldwide), as a tireless advocate for his people, and as an equally indefatigable spokesman for the paramount importance of intellectual independence.

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Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution

By Yehudah Mirsky
Published February 11, 2014
288 pages

“Learned, luminous and uncannily timely” —Jewish Review of Books

Rav Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935) was one of the most influential—and controversial—rabbis of the twentieth century. A visionary writer and outstanding rabbinic leader, Kook was a philosopher, mystic, poet, jurist, communal leader, and veritable saint. The first chief rabbi of Jewish Palestine and the founding theologian of religious Zionism, he struggled to understand and shape his revolutionary times. His life and writings resonate with the defining tensions of Jewish life and thought.

A powerfully original thinker, Rav Kook combined strict traditionalism and an embrace of modernity, Orthodoxy and tolerance, piety and audacity, scholasticism and ecstasy, and passionate nationalism with profound universalism. Though little known in the English-speaking world, his life and teachings are essential to understanding current Israeli politics, contemporary Jewish spirituality, and modern Jewish thought. This biography, the first in English in more than half a century, offers a rich and insightful portrait of the man and his complex legacy. Yehudah Mirsky clears away widespread misunderstandings of Kook’s ideas and provides fresh insights into his personality and worldview. Mirsky demonstrates how Kook's richly erudite, dazzlingly poetic writings convey a breathtaking vision in which “the old will become new, and the new will become holy.”

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Gershom Scholem: Master of the Kabbalah

By David Biale
Published June 19, 2018
256 pages

"A superb, much-awaited biography.”—Steven Aschheim, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

A new biography of the seminal twentieth-century historian and thinker who pioneered the study of Jewish mysticism and profoundly influenced the Zionist movement

Gershom Scholem (1897–1982) was perhaps the foremost Jewish intellectual of the twentieth century. Pioneering the study of Jewish mysticism as a legitimate academic discipline, he overturned the rationalist bias of his predecessors and revealed an extraordinary world of myth and messianism. In his youth, he rebelled against the assimilationist culture of his parents and embraced Zionism as the vehicle for the renewal of Judaism in a secular age. He moved to Palestine in 1923 and participated in the creation of the Hebrew University, where he was a towering figure for nearly seventy years.

David Biale traces Scholem’s tumultuous life of political activism and cultural criticism, including his falling-out with Hannah Arendt over the Eichmann trial. Mining a rich trove of diaries, letters, and other writings, Biale shows that his subject’s inner life illuminates his most important writings. Scholem emerges as a passionately engaged man of his times—a period that encompassed two world wars, the rise of Nazism, and the Holocaust.

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