This week on Behind the Headlines, we speak with two co-authors about the many transformations taking place in the Jewish world in recent decades in areas such as Holocaust memory, anti-Semitism, Israel, Jewish feminism, LGBTQ+ inclusion, intermarriage and more.
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President of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer and scholar of religion at Northwestern University Dr. Claire Sufrin sit down with ToI Opinion & Blogs Editor Miriam Herschlag to discuss their new book, “The New Jewish Canon.” They discuss what motivated them to write it, and why they chose the end of the 20th century and start of the 21st — from 1980 to 2015 — as their focal point.
The modern Jewish history is a compilation of over 80 excerpts from key primary source texts and insightful corresponding essays by leading scholars. They write on topics of history and memory, Jewish politics and the public square, religion and religiosity, and identities and communities.
It is both text and textbook of the Jewish intellectual and communal zeitgeist for the contemporary period and the recent past, canonizing our most important ideas and debates of the past two generations. Just as importantly, it stimulates debate and scholarship about what is yet to come.
But history is never static. The authors are also keen to address the unforeseen controversy that arose following the launch of the #MeToo movement, when it was discovered that several leading Jewish figures who contributed to the recently published book were accused of, and admitted to, sexual misconduct. They also speak about their decision on whether to leave the offending figures in the book or erase them from the pages of their history.
The conversation is as dynamic as its diverse subject matter, reflecting the beautiful complexity of modern Judaism.
Kurtzer is a leading thinker and author on the meaning of Israel to American Jews, on Jewish history and Jewish memory, and on questions of leadership and change in American Jewish life.
Sufrin is a scholar of religion specializing in modern Jewish thought and theology. Her research and teaching focus on German-Jewish thinkers, post-Holocaust theology, biblical interpretation, the intersection of religion and literature, and gender and religion.
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