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What Has ‘Invention of the Jewish People’ Invented?

Nextbook author Halkin takes prominent book to task

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The Western Wall during Tisha B'Av, July 2009.(Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Hillel Halkin—whose biography of 12th-century Jewish poet Yehuda Halevi is forthcoming from Nextbook Press—reviews Shlomo Sand’s much-discussed The Invention of the Jewish People in The New Republic. (Evan R. Goldstein reviewed it for Tablet Magazine.) Halkin is not a fan; specifically, he deplores Sand’s allegedly ahistorical charge that Jews only began to conceive of themselves as a coherent people in the mid-1800s. Halkin concludes his review with a mini-manifesto, about Jewish historical writing and its relation to the Jewish present, that is worth flagging:

If Israel is going to be Jewish and fully democratic, it will have to find other ways for non-Jews to become Jews, or to identify with Jews, than the forbidding Orthodox conversion that is currently their sole societal option. A revival of historical interest in how, in certain times and places in the past, non-Jews have been successfully integrated into the Jewish people in large numbers, and without too many questions asked, might be a contribution to such a process.

Indecent Proposal

Related: Yehuda Halevi [Nextbook Press]
Inventing Israel [Tablet Magazine]

Earlier: ‘Times’ Weighs In on ‘The Invention of the Jewish People’

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What Has ‘Invention of the Jewish People’ Invented?

Nextbook author Halkin takes prominent book to task

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