Jewish Studies

Key titles to add to your Littman Library collection

Founded by Louis Littman in memory of his father to explore, explain, and perpetuate the Jewish heritage, the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization published its first book in 1965. It has gone on to publish many highly regarded titles and has established a reputation as one of the world’s leading publishers in the field.

To celebrate #LUP120, we’ve been focusing on Jewish studies and our work with the Littman Library. Below are some key books from our partner to add to your collection!

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Must A Jew Believe Anything? by Menachem Kellner

The crucial question for today’s Jewish world, Kellner argues, is not whether Jews will have Jewish grandchildren, but how many different sorts of mutually exclusive Judaisms those grandchildren will face. This accessible book examines how the split that threatens the Jewish future can be avoided. For this second edition, the author has added a substantial Afterword, reviewing his thinking on the subject and addressing the reactions to the original edition.


Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History by Marc B. Shapiro

A consideration of how segments of Orthodox society rewrite the past by eliminating that which does not fit in with their world-view. This wide-ranging and original review of how this policy is applied in practice adds a new perspective to Jewish intellectual history and to the understanding of the contemporary Jewish world.


Hadassah: American Women Zionists and the Rebirth of Israel by Mira Katzburg-Yungman

Hadassah is the largest Zionist organization in the Diaspora, the largest and most active women’s organization in Jewish history, and the largest women’s organization in the United States. The history of Hadassah is inseparable from the history of American Jewry and of the State of Israel; this is an extensive, diverse, and balanced contribution to both those areas as well as to the history of Jewish women.

Jewish Cultural Studies series

Under the general editorship of Simon Bronner, the Jewish Cultural Studies series offers a contemporary view of Jewish culture as it has been constructed, symbolized, produced, communicated, and consumed around the globe. The first in the series Jewishness: Expression, Identity and Representation examines the idea of Jewishness with provocative interpretations of Jewish experience, and fresh approaches to the understanding of Jewish cultural expressions. Most recently published was
Connected Jews: Expressions of Community in Analogue and Digital Culture, edited by Simon J. Bronner and Caspar Battegay. These essays consider how different media shape actions and project anxieties, conflicts, and emotions, and how Jews and Jewish institutions harness, tolerate, or resist media to create their ethnic and religious social belonging.


Rediscovering Traces of Memory by Jonathan Webber, and photographed by Chris Schwarz and Jason Francisco

This much-updated second edition of a ground-breaking book expands the broad coverage of its stimulating approach. With forty-five new photographs and accompanying essays, it convincingly demonstrates the complexity of the Jewish past in Polish Galicia and the attempts to memorialize its heritage, as well as the unexpected revival of Jewish life.

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Hasidic Studies: Essays in History and Gender by Ada Rapoport-Albert, with an introduction by Moshe Rosman

Ada Rapoport-Albert has been a key partner in the profound transformation of the history of hasidism that has taken shape over the past few decades. The essays in this volume show the erudition and creativity of her contribution. Written over a period of forty years, they have been updated with regard to significant detail and to take account of important works of scholarship written after they were originally published.


The Jews in Poland and Russia: A Short History by Antony Polonsky

This first volume of a three-volume series begins with an overview of Jewish life in Poland and Lithuania down to the mid-eighteenth century, including social, economic, and religious history. The period from 1764 to 1881 is covered in more detail, with attention focused on developments in each country in turn.

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Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry series

Established in 1986 by the Institute for Polish—Jewish Studies, Polin has acquired a well-deserved reputation for publishing authoritative material on all aspects of Polish Jewry. Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 32 will be publishing later this year and will consider cantorial and religious music; Jews in popular culture; Jews in the classical music scene; the Holocaust reflected in Jewish music; and klezmer in Poland today.


Jewish Theology and World Religions by Alon Goshen Gottstein and Eugene Korn 

The contributors to this volume represent a range of disciplines and denominations within Judaism and share the conviction that articulating contemporary Jewish views of other world religions is an urgent objective for Judaism. Their essays show why a Jewish theology of world religions is a priority for Jewish thinkers and educators concerned with reinvigorating Judaism’s contribution to the contemporary world and maintaining Jewish identity and continuity.


Ideology and Experience: Antisemitism in France at the Time of the Dreyfus Affair by Stephen Wilson

This analysis of racism in late 19th-century France views the subject not in isolation, but in its social context, as an indicator and symptom of social change. It also provides general analysis of anti-Semitic ideology in France, and of the Jewish response to this challenge.

For more information about any of the above books, please visit the Liverpool University Press website.


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Art, Enlightenment, History, Irish Studies, Jewish Studies, Literature, Modern Languages, News, Poetry

International Women’s Day 2019

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we’ve curated a list of recent work by our brilliant female authors. Keep reading to find out more about some of the key titles by women from across our disciplines!


Sarah Schenirer and the Bais Yaakov Movement by Naomi Seidman

Sarah Schenirer and the Bais Yaakov movement she founded represent a revolution in the name of tradition in interwar Poland. The new type of Jewishly educated woman the movement created was a major innovation in a culture hostile to female initiative. Naomi Seidman provides a vivid portrait of Schenirer that dispels many myths.


Moving Histories by Jennifer Redmond

Moving Histories explores the story of Irish female emigrants in Britain, from their working lives to their personal relationships. Using a wide range of sources, including some previously unavailable, Jennifer Redmond’s book offers a new appraisal of an important, but often forgotten, group of Irish migrants.


Middlebrow Matters by Diana Holmes

Middlebrow Matters is the first book to study the middlebrow novel in France. It asks what middlebrow means, and applies the term positively to explore the ‘poetics’ of the types of novel that have attracted ‘ordinary’ fiction readers – in their majority female – since the end of the 19th century.


Chronicle of Constantine Manasses by Linda Yuretich

Linda Yuretich translates the mid-12th-century Synopsis Chronike by Constantine Manasses, covering a history of the peoples of the East, Alexander the Great’s conquests, the Hellenistic empires, the Trojan War and early empire until the reigns of Constantine I in the East, finally focusing on New Rome and its emperors.


Tyranny and Usurpation by Doyeeta Majumder

Doyeeta Majumder investigates the political, legal, historical circumstances under which the ‘tyrant’ of early Tudor drama becomes conflated with the ‘usurper-tyrant’ of the commercial theatres of London, and how the usurpation plot emerges as one of the central preoccupations of early modern drama.


The Unfinished Revolution by Karen Salt

In The Unfinished Revolution, Karen Salt examines post-revolutionary (and contemporary) sovereignty in Haiti, noting the many international responses to the arrival of a nation born from blood, fire and revolution. Using blackness as a lens, Salt charts the impact of Haiti’s sovereignty—and its blackness—in the Atlantic world.


Wolfe Tone by Marianne Elliott

The paperback version of the second edition of Marianne Elliott’s award-winning and highly acclaimed biography of Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-98), the founder of Irish Republican nationalism, published earlier this month. Elliott has updated the work with new scholarship, new historical insights and fresh insights, making it a crucial publication for all scholars and readers of Irish history.


A Scientific Companion to Robert Frost by Virginia Smith

Virginia Smith’s A Scientific Companion to Robert Frost, represents the first systematic attempt to catalogue and explain all of the references to science and natural history in Frost’s published poetry.


Les Lumières catholiques et le roman français by Isabelle Tremblay

A pious expedient between philosophy and anti-philosophy can be found in some eighteenth-century novels. The collected essays in this volume edited by Isabelle Tremblay study how French novels of the Catholic Enlightenment contributed to the great debates of the eighteenth century and to the transmission of ideas. They also aim to restore those novels to the literary constellation of the age.


Pavilion Poetry

Pavilion Poetry is Liverpool University Press’ poetry imprint which so far is made up of entirely female poets. In April, the next set of collections will be publishing – Hand Over Mouth Music by Janette Ayachi, Dear Big Gods by Mona Arshi, and The Following Scan Will Last Five Minutes by Lieke Marsman, translated by Sophie Collins.


Writers and their Work

To further celebrate female authors, we’ve curated a collection of  books in our Writers and their Work series which are written either by a female author, or have a female as their subject. View the collection on our website.


For more information about any of the above books, please visit the Liverpool University Press website.


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Jewish Studies

Recovering a Voice – In Conversation with David Weinberg

David Weinberg’s multi-national study, focusing on France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, offers a wide lens through which to view post-war efforts to help Jewish communal life recover its voice and its raison d’être. By underscoring the similarities in the situation facing Jews across borders, he demonstrates how the three communities with the aid of international Jewish organizations utilized unprecedented means to meet unprecedented challenges. We caught up with David Weinberg to discuss more about the book.


Firstly, could you tell us a bit about Recovering a Voice and what compelled you to focus your research in this area?

In the course of my writing and research on modern Jewish history over the past half century, I became increasingly aware of the absence of serious discussion of post-war European Jewry.   What little I could find echoed the familiar trope that continental Jews were vanishing or had already vanished.  I also gradually realized that these attitudes were mirrored in the attitudes of the general Jewish population in both America and Israel.  Trips to Europe, which focused on death camps and bypassed contemporary Jewish institutions, reinforced the image of a “world that is no more.”  So too did displays in synagogues and museums that portrayed ritual items of European communities as historical artifacts or objets d’art.

I was determined to “right the wrong” by publishing a general survey of European Jewry since World War Two that would demonstrate its continuing vibrancy and strength.  I soon realized, however, that the topic was unmanageable.  Nor was I prepared to make any bold predictions about the future of European Jewish life, especially in light of the wave of anti-Semitic incidents in the past two and a half decades.  In the end, I decided to produce a more limited study that would concentrate on three Jewish communities that struggled and largely succeeded in recovering their place in European and world Jewish affairs in the first decade and a half after the devastation of the Holocaust.

You discuss how the efforts made by French, Belgian, and Dutch Jews to reconstruct their lives after the Second World War have largely been ignored. Why do you think this area has been overlooked in previous scholarship?

There are several reasons.  First and foremost is the fact that research on twentieth-century European Jewry has focused almost entirely on eastern Europe and especially Poland, communities that were decimated during the Holocaust.  The result is that the immediate post–war era has become almost exclusively associated with the fate of DP’s (Displaced Persons), who were uprooted and who were unlikely to return to their homelands.  Second, continental countries fearing that they would be accused of anti-Semitism have incorporated their Jewish citizens into their narrative of national postwar recovery.  The result is that few general works about Europe after 1945 even bother to mention Jews – except as victims of Nazism.  Finally, scholars of modern Jewish history are mostly American or Israeli in origin and view their communities as having replaced European Jewry as centers of contemporary Jewish life.

What kind of sources did you use in the research of this work? Are there any sources that particularly stand out to you which you could share details of with us?

The two major sources were the archives of major international Jewish relief and political organizations active in post-war reconstruction and of the newly created Jewish communal bodies in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Great Britain.  I also made good use of community-wide newspapers and journals, which sprang up almost immediately after the resumption of communal life.  Several of these sources have been digitally reproduced and are available on-line; others remain largely untouched and difficult to access.

Amongst the thousands of documents that I waded through, several have stuck in my memory.  The correspondence between leaders of American agencies and emerging leaders of west European Jewry are filled with stereotypical comments about the other that belie the public image of postwar mutual good will and amity.  In my examination of the Cold War, I was surprised to find how crucial anti-communist fears played in American Jewish attitudes towards European Jewish reconstruction.  (Typical was a letter by Joseph McCarthy’s ally Roy Cohn warning the Joint Distribution Committee about the infiltration of “communist” elements into French Jewish communal organizations.)   Then there are the veiled and not so veiled anti-Semitic comments contained in several of the speeches of General Charles De Gaulle and other Resistance figures on the eve of Liberation.  Finally, I uncovered fascinating details about the struggle between Yad Vashem and local European Jewish institutions for control of both the documentation and the memory of the Holocaust.

What I most regret is that I was unable to interview participants in the events.  Though I am grateful to those who shared their recollections, I wish that their memories of the past had been as keen as my interest in the subject.

How does Recovering a Voice pave the way for future research in this area?

Though my investigation of primary sources was exhaustive, sending me to archives in the United States, Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Israel, there were many sources I was unable or did not have the time to investigate.  In recent years, several young Dutch and French historians have begun to fill in these gaps by mining local documents with excellent results.  I would also encourage researchers to examine developments in local communities outside of the major centers of Jewish life.  Finally, I look forward to seeing studies on other aspects of communal life that I did not closely investigate, including most notably cultural and literary trends that illustrate the obstacles facing survivors who chose to remain in their native or adopted homelands.

What are you working on next?

I have been thinking about preparing a series of essays on the challenges and opportunities facing world Jewry in the years immediately after the Holocaust.  The study would focus on the complex interrelationship amongst American, Israeli, and European Jewry. How did American Jews emerge as a major force in world Jewry after the war and how was their new role viewed by European and Israeli Jews?  What assumptions did Israeli leaders after 1948 make about the fate of European Jewish survivors who remained in their homelands and of American Jews?  What efforts did European Jewish leaders make to maintain a sense of a distinctive Jewish heritage in the wake of the Holocaust?

For more information on Recovering a Voice, please visit our website.


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Jewish Studies

The Carved Wooden Torah Arks of Eastern Europe – 5 Minutes with Bracha Yaniv

Bracha Yaniv was recently named a finalist in the Jewish Book Awards for her book The Carved Wooden Torah Arks of Eastern Europe. We caught up with her this Jewish Book Week to discuss the sources of inspiration for Jewish motifs and the influence of Torah arks on the design of the synagogue.

Congratulations on being named a finalist in the Jewish Book Awards. What made you focus on the Torah arks of Eastern Europe?

There was a student of mine who wanted to write a seminar paper on the Torah arks of Eastern Europe, but she could not find enough images of arks from Eastern Europe. So I decided to help her in this search. Indeed, at that time no book was available on this subject, or any monographic work on Torah arks of any diaspora.

As most of the Torah arks of Eastern Europe were destroyed during the first half of the twentieth century, any research is dependent on pre-WWII photographs. So this was the first step of my research – the search of what ended up in about 120 images, upon which the research is based.

What can we learn from the arks discussed in The Carved Wooden Torah Arks of Eastern Europe?

The Torah arks of Eastern Europe are unique in their iconographic richness. Unlike Torah arks in most masonry synagogues, which were designed by non-Jewish architects, the wooden arks were designed and carved by Jewish artisans. This accounts for the fact that the arks display Jewish motifs, inspired by Jewish literary sources and the reason why they are the focus of the book.

 Your book throws new light on long-forgotten traditions of Jewish craftsmanship and religious understanding. What were your findings when conducting your research? Did you discover anything that you found particularly surprising?

Discussions concerning Jewish art often start with the Second Commandment which accordingly limits the artistic figurative expressions. But the carved Torah arks discussed in this book prove that when Jewish content is expressed limitations are minimised and creative solutions are found. Perhaps the most surprising motif I found was the metaphor of God presented in the form of an eagle, in this case, inspired by biblical literary sources.

 How do you think The Carved Wooden Torah Arks of Eastern Europe paves the way for further research into Jewish traditions, art and culture?

The Carved Wooden Torah Arks of Eastern Europe assembles a collection of motifs, part of which were known – others, revealed and deciphered for the first time. So, for the reader who is interested in the meaning of Jewish motifs, the book will be most useful. The contribution of the book to the research of other fields of Jewish art is based on the fact that the Torah ark is the focus of the design of the synagogue as well as the focus of worship in the synagogue. As such, the design of the Torah arks influenced the design of other kinds of artistic media, for example, wall paintings and paper cuts. Now that we understand the motifs carved on the Torah arks, other fields of Jewish art can be better understood.


Bracha Yaniv is Professor of Jewish Art History at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and founding editor of Ars Judaica: The Bar-Ilan Journal of Jewish Art. She has published two pioneering books in Hebrew on the history, design, and iconography of ceremonial synagogue objects.


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Jewish Studies, Uncategorized

Jewish Education in Eastern Europe – 5 minutes with Eliyana Adler

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 30, Jewish Education in Eastern Europe edited by Eliyana R. Adler and Antony Polonsky is the most recent addition to the esteemed Polin series. As part of Jewish Book Week, Eliyana Adler discusses the importance of the study of education and what we can expect from this groundbreaking new volume.  

Over the years, Polin has provided a forum for exploring a host of aspects of East European Jewish history. I am gratified to be able to add education to that list. It never ceases to surprise me that there is not more curiosity about education in the past and present. It is, after all, so fundamental to our lives and our society. This collection of essays helps us to think about the diversity of educational options available to Jewish children, as well as what that education meant to them and to the societies in which they lived.

The volume is organized chronologically and geographically, with contributions about Jews in schools in the Russian empire, in Hungary, and in Poland. By far the greatest concentration focuses on interwar Poland. The scholars in this section examine Yiddish schools, Orthodox schools, youth groups, and the experiences of Jews in Polish schools. Most of them make use of the remarkable collection of autobiographies young Polish Jews submitted to a series of contests sponsored by the YIVO in the 1930s.

Until the recent publication of selected anthologies of these autobiographies in Polish, Hebrew, and English, this was a relatively unknown source. Authors in the volume, making use of the anthologies as well as the complete archived collection, demonstrate the results of creative and sustained engagement with the youthful writings.

Although their topics and sources are related, this does not lead to overlap or repetition. On the contrary, the authors’ varied research approaches yield complimentary results that inspire further questions. For example, Ido Bassok notes the ways in which political youth groups took the place of religious affiliations while Naomi Seidman suggests that Orthodox youth groups incorporated many organizational techniques from their political counterparts. Sean Martin’s study of the development of Jewish religion classes in Polish schools provides a fascinating counterpart to Kamil Kijel’s exploration of the effects of exclusive and nationalist rhetoric on Jewish children in Polish schools.

The questions of pedagogy, school choice, educational ambitions, identity proliferation, financial constraints, and integration that animate these autobiographies, as well as the essays about them, should sound familiar to contemporary readers. Although interwar Poland was very different from the world in which we live, the intensity of aspirations makes it compelling and accessible.

In addition to the more obvious ties of period and place, a number of themes crisscross the volume as a whole. Several of the authors, for example, explore textbooks as historical sources. Daniel Viragh’s essay about modern Hungarian children’s books covers very different material from Vassili Schedrin’s study of Jewish history texts in Russia, but both showcase the benefits of probing this unique source base.

Others look at the way that wars impact upon educational institutions. While some of the essays look at political influences on Jewish education, others pay attention to religious trends. Two of the essays also contain rare photographs from late imperial Russia.

Some readers will pick up this volume out of a general interest in the history of Jewish education. Others may open it initially in order to read one particular essay related to their own research interests. We hope that they will all find themselves drawn to leaf through other essays on topics they had not even considered previously. It is also our hope that the volume will inspire further research and writing about aspects of Jewish education in the past.


Eliyana R. Adler is an associate professor in history and Jewish studies at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of In Her Hands: The Education of Jewish Girls in Tsarist Russia (2011) and articles on the history of Jewish education. Her co-editor, Antony Polonsky, is professor emeritus of Holocaust studies at Brandeis University


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