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Why are words so important to so many Jews? Novelist Amos Oz and historian Fania Oz Salzberger roam the gamut of Jewish history to explain the integral relationship of Jews and words Through a blend of storytelling and scholarship conversation and argument father and daughter tell the tales behind Judaism’s most enduring names adages disputes texts and uips These words they argue compose the chain connecting Abraham with the Jews of every subseuent generationFraming the discussion within such topics as continuity women timelessness and individualism Oz and Oz Salzberger deftly engage Jewish personalities across the ages from the unnamed possibly female author of the Song of Songs through obscure Talmudists to contemporary writers They suggest that Jewish continuity even Jewish uniueness depends not on central places monuments heroic personalities or rituals but rather on written words and an ongoing debate between the generations Full of learning lyricism and humor Jews and Words offers an extraordinary tour of the words at the heart of Jewish culture and extends a hand to the reader any reader to join the conversation

10 thoughts on “Jews and Words

  1. says:

    This is a tremendous little book Having just finished it I find my heart and mind aflame with inspiration and pride and conflict Oz and daughter would have it no other way for this book is NOT a triumphalist manifesto of Jewish super selection or special ness The authors go out of their way sometimes to a nagging extent to frame their discussion as simply exploring what seems particular about Jews and words not necessarily BETTER or heroic In other words this is NOT Max Dimont's Jews God and History which though impressive is a tour de force in Jewish pride and claiming Most enjoyably the authors make little attempt to position themselves as scholars or authorities on the subjects upon which they hold forth They are learned literate sensitive readers and writers and they want to explain chutzpah with chutzpah They know some Talmud and uote it well; they've included some beautiful Jewish and non Jewish poetry I feel weird using the term Jewish after reading the book you'll find out why if you pick it up to beautiful effect But all is in the earnest fun of separating the junk from the treasures of our intellectual inheritance; in doing so they are doing what Jews have done and will do always finding and making a chidush new reading new interpretation new words and as the authors so elouently put it at the book's close reauthoring the books we read by reading them

  2. says:

    I come to Jews and Words as a lapsed Presbyterian who didn't know her Jewish heritage until age 18 My grandfather who escaped a pogrom in SW Russia or Poland we don't know where he was born was adamant that we were raised as Christians I remember neighborhood kids remarking that he looked and acted like a Jew with all the stereotypical stuff that statement carries on its backAmos Oz and his daughter Fania Oz Salzberger the writer and the historian among us divide their conversation into four sections Continuity Vocal Women Time and Timelessness and Each Person Has a Name; or Do Jews Need Judaism In each section father and daughter dispute tell jokes relay poems show clear focus on scholarship and cover centuries of Biblical and Talmudic and historical rabbis teachers writers thinkers and movements What links all is what begins in Genesis The WordMany peoples have been persecuted genocidally so Some survived; some did not This book is an essay It is a nonfiction speculative raw and occasionally playful attempt to say something a bit new on a topic of immense pedigree We offer you our personal take on one core aspect of Jewish history the relationship of Jews with words The authors claim that words cemented Jewish people within their communities and during times of strife The Word held fast And the words provide daily bread and continuum The various texts are often about law and faith but they are all about text uestion dispute They are about the past and future in the presentI love the idea that every reader and student and teacher including God asks many uestions and is empowered to seek answers for himherselfThe authors appear humble readers who don't lay claim to expertise I beg to differ

  3. says:

    Amos Oz and his daughter Fania Oz Salzberger analyze the text of the Jewish religious books from a non religious perspective focusing on the Jewish history culture and identity With a pleasant witty and sometimes ironical style the authors give the readers food for thought showing that what links the Jewish people throughout time and space are spoken and written words Ours is not a bloodline but a text line

  4. says:

    Beautifully written thought provoking and tender

  5. says:

    I heard an intriguing interview with Amos Oz and his daughter Fania on NPR this week They are secular non religious Jews but have chosen to address many issues both biblical and cultural which are pertinent to the subject I look forward to exploring this interesting book

  6. says:

    Potted history of Jews and Jewish texts written by a famous father daughter pair as a slender companion to the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilisation currently being published by Yale UPAs I read this book I kept wondering who it's for It goes to great lengths to explain everything to a reader with no background in Hebrew or Jewish texts yet it's hard to imagine one like that being interested in this parade of Jewish accomplishments Biblical history discussion about which Talmudic statements support liberal vs ultra Orthodox ideas Yiddish humour until Woody Allen etcMost of it was familiar ground for me not all for example the suggestion that the German word for marriage Heirat comes from the Jewish wedding ceremony's הרי את מקודשת לי is amazing if surely false Something about the tone throughout the book rubbed me the wrong way Part of it was the constant sniping at the ultra Orthodox who the authors try to refute from Biblical texts as if their cherry picking the passages from a Bronze Age text that align with their worldview is somehow honest Relatedly there is a constant apologetics bordering on cultural cringe an attempt to reassure the secular or non Jewish reader that Israelis are indeed western liberal and secular despite the presence among them of some backward elements Perhaps this is because the book was written in English but the authors seem unaware of or unwilling to engage with the vibrant intellectual activity crossing the secular religious divide that exists in Israel todayAdditionally although the authors admit that their selection of texts is subjective and arbitrary their tone is pugnacious and dogmatic implying an iron clad understanding of subjects still swathed in controversy It tempts one to look for errors and they are not hard to find They bizarrely claim that ḥutzpa comes from the phrase בית דין חצוף Sanhedrin 30; it appears in Scripture Daniel 215 They coin the phrase יעבור ואל ייהרג as a converse of יהרג ואל יעבור seemingly unaware that it appears countless times in the Talmud and medieval commentaries something one needn't have a yeshiva education to know in the age of digital search engines I point out these failings not to belittle the writers both learned and experts in their fields but out of a belief in ecumenicism and intellectual humility especially when confronting the charged endlessly contentious world of Israeli religious politics As the authors point out to be Jewish is to argue over texts Why should we stop now?

  7. says:

    For those Jews who are culturally attuned but religiously detached this book has a real chance of bringing them back into the fold These people have a tendency to feel guilty for leaving the God of the Old Testament behind and keeping only the parts they want Read this book to feel good about that decision

  8. says:

    Exceptionally good read a subtle combination of academic and prose conversational sympathetic I like the idea of a textline to replace a bloodline unassumingly fits in with much deeper ideas in the most elouent way

  9. says:

    I hate to speak ill of the dead but he chose to write on a subject he admits to not believing in Nothing to say

  10. says:

    Israeli novelist Amos Oz and his daughter historian Fania Oz Salzberger argue that what unites Jews through thousands of years and many parts of the world is not blood or land but words The Ozes make clear their vantage point as secular Israeli Jews What words? you might ask Although Jews have spoken various languages throughout history some of them uniue to Jews almost all new Jewish literatures primarily or eventually appear either in English or in Modern Hebrew The Ozes both native Hebrew speakers wrote this book in EnglishThey develop their argument in four or less self contained essays on continuity of texts of rituals on vocal women on time and timelessness and the relationship between Jews and Judaism not as simple as you might thinkSome of my favorite insights among the riches of this small bookWhen studying a passage read in growing circles around your uotation rather than pluck it out of context Cherish discovery and surprise than your own agenda Acknowledge the shortcomings of texts and authors you love and the merits of those you dislike Look hard to see the inner logic of a paragraph a page and a chapterHebrew is a gendered language and several passages in the Bible make a point of mentioning that joyous occasions included both male and female celebrants In male dominated ancient Israel celebrations were truly jubilant when men and women rejoiced together The mixed the merrierWe are a nation with far history than geographyEvery boy at his Bar Mitzvah every bridegroom under his matrimonial canopy is expected to say a chidush A novelty Not merely to repeat ancient wisdom Not merely to ask uestions and obey the learned responses But actually to bring forth a new idea a crisp interpretation and unexpected link Surrounded by gigantic bookshelves you are still invited to make an original statementAncient Israel was a full fledged political and legal civilization not a mere flock of coreligionists Jews around the world have not been so mutually intelligible since the fall of Judea 'The King of Kings stamped each person with the seal of Adam and not one of them resembles the other' The Talmud was written the centuries after the conuest of Jerusalem in order to preserve Judaism Thousands of rabbis arguing with each other are mentioned by name It is utterly astounding to find so many individuals huddled in two disparate communities of a small nation on the losing side of military and political history pursuing intellectual activity for its own blessed sake From late antiuity until early modernity most of the Jews on historical record are on record because they studiedThere is a Jewish theology of chutzpah