Synopses & Reviews
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are usually treated as autonomous religions, but in fact across the long course of their histories the three religions have developed in interaction with one another. In Neighboring Faiths
, David Nirenberg examines how Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived with and thought about each other during the Middle Ages and what the medieval past can tell us about how they do so today.
There have been countless scripture-based studies of the three religions of the book,” but Nirenberg goes beyond those to pay close attention to how the three religious neighbors loved, tolerated, massacred, and expelled each otherall in the name of Godin periods and places both long ago and far away. Nirenberg argues that the three religions need to be studied in terms of how each affected the development of the others over time, their proximity of religious and philosophical thought as well as their overlapping geographies, and how the three neighbors” defineand continue to definethemselves and their place in terms of one another. From dangerous attractions leading to interfaith marriage; to interreligious conflicts leading to segregation, violence, and sometimes extermination; to strategies for bridging the interfaith gap through language, vocabulary, and poetry, Nirenberg aims to understand the intertwined past of the three faiths as a way for their heirs to produce the futuretogether.
"Based on a decade of exhaustive research, this book explores 'anti-Judaism' as an intellectual current (as opposed to its overtly political and social analogue, anti-Semitism) from ancient Egypt through to the Frankfurt School and just after the Holocaust. Nirenberg (Communities of Violence), professor of medieval history and social thought at the University of Chicago, contends that anti-Judaism is 'one of the basic tools with which was constructed,' yet he stresses that this device depended less on an acquaintance with real Jews, and more on 'figural Jews,' ciphers for all that a particular thinker opposed. Martin Luther, for example, not only criticized Jews for clinging to the 'killing letter' of the law, he also hurled accusations against the Roman Catholic Church for its 'Jewish' tendencies; Luther's adversaries, meanwhile, accused the Jews of using him to undermine the Church. Nirenberg, whose scholarship is concerned primarily with the historical and cultural intersections of the Abrahamic religions, is particularly strong in his treatment of the Enlightenment, illustrating how Christian anti-Jewish memes were adopted by secular, rationalist thinkers. Though Nirenberg gives short shrift to American intellectualism, and his examination terminates after the Holocaust, this is nevertheless a magisterial work of intellectual history. Agent: Georges Borchardt." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"[A] magisterial work of intellectual history." Publishers Weekly
“Neighboring Faiths provides a cogent and powerful intervention into one of the most debated topics and thorniest issues in the history of the late medieval West: How did Christians, Muslims, and Jews live with each other and think about one another? The book will be of extraordinary importance not only for specialists in the field but also for general readers and anyone interested in the relations among the three religions and in the enduring discussion on ‘the clash of civilizations, an argument Nirenberg demolishes in an elegant but forceful manner. There are no books presently in print that even approach Nirenbergs in terms of its themes, thoroughness, or interpretive thrust.”
"Brilliant, fascinating." Michael Walzer
“Using medieval Iberia—the ‘land of three religions—as his principal point of departure, Nirenberg highlights the dynamic, often ambivalent and fractious, yet interdependent relationship among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Whether focused on matters of scripture or sexuality, philosophy or poetry, conversion or conflict, he offers a brilliant and provocative demonstration of medieval conceptions of both race and religion. Neighboring Faiths is scholarship at its very best, successfully challenging current notions about the so-called clash of civilizations and even Benedict XVI on the supposed incompatibility of Christianity and Islam.”
“Neighboring Faiths maneuvers masterfully between readings of the tense and sometimes violent multicultural Iberian past and bold assessments of their lessons for our tense and sometimes violent multicultural present. Nirenberg has an uncanny knack for dwelling on—and in—interstices, and for asking the difficult questions that ‘being between often prompts. This is a keenly intelligent, cautionary collection—one that makes eloquent connections across the centuries.”
“Nirenberg succeeds in cultivating a sensibility that allows us to discover in the past a stimulus to critical awareness about the workings of our own assumptions about the relations among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and habits of thought. Among those habits is the conviction that our religious traditions are independent of one another, that they are stable, and that one contains truth and tolerance while the others do not. Conversely, this book proposes the interdependence of these religions, a process in which they are constantly transforming themselves by thinking about one another in a fundamentally ambivalent form of neighborliness.”
"It's no surprise that Nirenberg's new book, Neighboring Faiths, isn't a feel-good story about how we can all get along. The identities of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, he argues, are fundamentally enmeshed; how one group thinks about itself cannot be separated from how it thinks about the others. . . . If Nirenberg is right that ideas matter, especially once they have hardened into what he calls 'habits of thought,' our concern about the future relations between Jews, Christians, and Muslims should make us study the ideas they had about themselves and one another in the past."
andquot;How Was It Possible constitutes an invaluable resource and should find its place in all libraries.andquot;andmdash;Jack Fischel, Jewish Book Council
andldquo;Peter Hayes has assembled an outstanding collection of texts addressing what is undoubtedly the most important question arising from the Holocaust: How was it possible? This volume will prove invaluable to academic specialists, students, and non-expert readers who insist on the importance of approaching the subject with empirical and intellectual rigor.andrdquo;andmdash;Alan E. Steinweis, professor of history and Miller Distinguished Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Vermont and author of Kristallnacht 1938and#160;and#160;
andldquo;This brilliant compilation includes must-read primary sources, classic works of scholarship, and cutting-edge interpretations, assembled and introduced by a master historian and path-breaking Holocaust educator. An invaluable resource for students and teachers alike.andrdquo;andmdash;Doris L. Bergen, author of War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaustand#160;and#160;
"Nirenberg unpacks five hundred years of Western fantasies about Islam, ranging from barbarous invaders to utopian tolerance, a phenomenon he labels the 'inseparability of exclusion and inclusion.' . . . The essays in this book are learned, provocative, and consistently thought-provoking."
andquot;A first-class anthology.andquot;andmdash;Sheldon Kirshner Journal
A powerful history that shows anti-Judaism to be a central way of thinking in the Western tradition.
This incisive history upends the complacency that confines anti-Judaism to the ideological extremes in the Western tradition. With deep learning and elegance, David Nirenberg shows how foundational anti-Judaism is to the history of the West. Questions of how we are Jewish and, more critically, how and why we are not have been churning within the Western imagination throughout its history. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans; Christians and Muslims of every period; even the secularists of modernity have used Judaism in constructing their visions of the world. The thrust of this tradition construes Judaism as an opposition, a danger often from within, to be criticized, attacked, and eliminated. The intersections of these ideas with the world of power--the Roman destruction of the Second Temple, the Spanish Inquisition, the German Holocaust--are well known. The ways of thought underlying these tragedies can be found at the very foundation of Western history.
This book represents the culmination of David Nirenbergs ongoing project; namely, how Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived with and thought about each other in the Middle Ages, and what the medieval past can tell us about how they do so today. There have been scripture based studies of the three religions of the book” that claim descent from Abraham, but Nirenberg goes beyond those to pay close attention to how the three religious neighbors loved, tolerated, massacred, and expelled each otherall in the name of Godin periods and places both long ago and far away. Whether Christian Crusaders and settlers in Islamic-ruled lands, or Jewish-Muslim relations in Christian-controlled Iberia, for Nirenberg, the three religions need to be studied in terms of how each affected the development of the other over time, their proximity of religious and philosophical thought as well as their overlapping geographies, and how the three neighbors” define (and continue to define) themselves and their place in the here-and-nowand the here-afterin terms of one another. Arguing against exemplary histories, static models of tolerance versus prosecution, or so-called Golden Ages and Black Legends, Nirenberg offers here instead a story that is more dynamic and interdependent, one where Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities have re-imagined themselves, not only as abstractions of categories in each others theologies and ideologies, but by living with each other every day as neighbors jostling each other on the street. From dangerous attractions leading to interfaith marriage, to interreligious conflicts leading to segregation, violence, and sometimes extermination, to strategies of bridging the interfaith gap through language, vocabulary, and poetryNirenberg aims to understand the intertwined past of the three faiths as a way for their heirs to coproduce the future.
As the Holocaust passes out of living memory, future generations will no longer come face-to-face with Holocaust survivors. But the lessons of that terrible period in history are too important to let slip past. How Was It Possible?
, edited and introduced by Peter Hayes, provides teachers and students with a comprehensive resource about the Nazi persecution of Jews. Deliberately resisting the reflexive urge to dismiss the topic as too horrible to be understood intellectually or emotionally, the anthology sets out to provide answers to questions that may otherwise defy comprehension.
and#160;This anthology is organized around key issues of the Holocaust, from the historical context for antisemitism to the impediments to escaping Nazi Germany, and from the logistics of the death camps and the carrying out of genocide to the subsequent struggles of the displaced survivors in the aftermath.
and#160;Prepared in cooperation with the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, this anthology includes contributions from such luminaries as Jean Ancel, Saul Friedlander, Tony Judt, Alan Kraut, Primo Levi, Robert Proctor, Richard Rhodes, Timothy Snyder, and Susan Zuccotti. Taken together, the selectionsand#160;make the ineffable fathomable and demystify the barbarism underlying the tragedy, inviting readers to learn precisely how the Holocaust was, in fact, possible.
About the Author
Peter Hayes is a professor of history and Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation Professor of Holocaust Studies at Northwestern University. He is the author of From Cooperation to Complicity: Degussa in the Third Reich
and Industry and Ideology: IG Farben in the Nazi Era
. Harvey Schulweis is chairman of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Neighboring Faiths
1 Christendom and Islam
2 Love between Muslim and Jew
3 Deviant Politics and Jewish Love: Alfonso VIII and the Jewess of Toledo
4 Massacre or Miracle? Valencia, 1391
5 Conversion, Sex, and Segregation
6 Figures of Thought and Figures of Flesh
7 Mass Conversion and Genealogical Mentalities
8 Was There Race before Modernity? The Example of Jewish” Blood in Late Medieval Spain
9 Islam and the West: Two Dialectical Fantasies