Synopses & Reviews
Is relativity Jewish? The Nazis denigrated Albert Einstein's revolutionary theory by calling it Jewish science, a charge typical of the ideological excesses of Hitler and his followers. Philosopher of science Steven Gimbel explores the many meanings of this provocative phrase and considers whether there is any sense in which Einstein's theory of relativity is Jewish.
Arguing that we must take seriously the possibility that the Nazis were in some sense correct, Gimbel examines Einstein and his work to explore how beliefs, background, and environment may--or may not--influence the work of the scientist. You cannot understand Einstein's science, Gimbel declares, without knowing the history, religion, and philosophy that influenced it.
No one, especially Einstein himself, denies Einstein's Jewish heritage, but many are uncomfortable saying that he was a Jew while he was at his desk working. To understand what Jewish means for Einstein's work, Gimbel first explores the many definitions of Jewish and asks whether there are elements of Talmudic thinking apparent in Einstein's theory of relativity. He applies this line of inquiry to other scientists, including Isaac Newton, Ren? Descartes, Sigmund Freud, and ?mile Durkheim, to consider whether and how their specific religious beliefs or backgrounds manifested in their scientific endeavors.
Einstein's Jewish Science intertwines science, history, philosophy, theology, and politics in fresh and fascinating ways to solve the multifaceted riddle of what religion means--and what it means to science. There are some senses, Gimbel claims, in which Jews can find a special connection to E = mc2, and this claim leads to the engaging, spirited debate at the heart of this book.
"Prior to WWII, Nazi sympathizers dismissed Einstein's theory of relativity as 'Jewish science.' Yet Einstein himself, notes Gimbel, recognized an intellectual style that could be identified as Jewish. In this wide-ranging exploration, Gimbel (Exploring the Scientific Method), chair of the department of philosophy at Gettysburg College, seeks to discover whether and to what extent Einstein's work could legitimately be called 'Jewish' and what difference it makes. He speculates about whether only a Jew could have discovered relativity theory, or whether the style of reasoning characteristic of Jewish theology can influence scientific thinking (as Catholicism informed the reasoning of Descartes). Finally, Gimbel asks, did Einstein's theory contribute to wider conversations about Jewish themes among contemporary scholars such as Walter Benjamin and Martin Buber? Gimbel felicitously concludes that what makes the theory of relativity so attractive is its cosmopolitanism and intellectual open-mindedness. It is thus only metaphorically Jewish: as the ancient rabbis assumed the existence of God's truth but could approach it only through their contrasting interpretations, so Einstein assumed that science was the pursuit of truth about the world that still allows us the integration of different perspectives on, and individual beliefs about, the world. Agent: Deirdre Mullane, Mullane Literary Associates." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
andldquo;With graceful lucidity, Gimbel illuminates the intensely personal challenges facing the great physicist.andrdquo;andmdash;Booklist, Starred Review
andldquo;Falafel Nationand#160;[is] a book that makes food a partner in the creation of Israel in the twentieth century, set in the context of migrations, politics, intergroup struggles, and state building. This work will be an important addition to the literature on food history and the history of Israel.andrdquo;andmdash;Hasia R. Diner, author of Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migrationand#160;and#160;
andldquo;What do Israelis talk about when they talk about food? Yael Raviv explores the food stories emerging from Zionism as they take shape in response to crisis, propaganda, and wave after wave of immigration. This lively and enlightening study of agriculture and cuisine as powerful elements in the task of state-making deserves wide readership in the academy and beyond.andrdquo;andmdash;Laura Shapiro, author of Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Centuryand#160;and#160;
andldquo;Everybody who is interested in nation-building should read this book. Using falafel as a metaphor, Yael Raviv has done a brilliant job at portraying her native country. Bravo!andrdquo;andmdash;Joan Nathan, author of Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France
andldquo;Original, thought-provoking, and in many ways groundbreaking. Falafel Nation is rich with interesting and insightful ideas and comments that made me think time and again of the ways in which Israel can be observed from the culinary perspective. No doubt, approaching Israeli history, society, and political conflicts from the kitchen and the restaurant allows for a fresh and, indeed, critical view of this society.andrdquo;andmdash;Nir Avieli, author of Rice Talks: Food and Community in a Vietnamese Townand#160;
andldquo;The time is now ripe for a short book, summarizing briefly the well-known facts about Einsteinandrsquo;s rocky road as a husband and father and scientist, and emphasizing his lasting importance as a politician and a philosopher. This book is accurate and well balanced. It presents Einsteinandrsquo;s Jewish heritage as he saw it himself, not as the core of his being, but as a historical accident bringing inescapable responsibilities. The reasons for reading this book are also simple. . . . There are a few scientists whose lives and thoughts are of perennial interest, because they permanently changed our way of thinking. To the few belong Galileo and Newton and Darwin, and now Einstein. . . . New books will need to be written and read, because these people had enduring ideas that throw light on new problems as the centuries go by.andrdquo;andmdash;Freeman Dyson, New York Review of Books
andlsquo;What makes Gimbelandrsquo;s book different is its brevity and its emphasis on these cultural and political aspects of the man. Gimbel is a philosopherandhellip; yet at the same time the explanations of the science are exemplary andndash; swift and clear.andrsquo;andmdash;Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times.andnbsp;
A revealing new portrait of Albert Einstein, the worldandrsquo;s first scientific andldquo;superstarandrdquo;
The commonly held view of Albert Einstein is of an eccentric genius for whom the pursuit of science was everything. But in actuality, the brilliant innovator whose Theory of Relativity forever reshaped our understanding of time was a man of his times, always politically engaged and driven by strong moral principles. An avowed pacifist, Einsteinandrsquo;s mistrust of authority and outspoken social and scientific views earned him death threats from Nazi sympathizers in the years preceding World War II. To him, science provided not only a means for understanding the behavior of the universe, but a foundation for considering the deeper questions of life and a way for the worldwide Jewish community to gain confidence and pride in itself.
Steven Gimbelandrsquo;s biography presents Einstein in the context of the world he lived in, offering a fascinating portrait of a remarkable individual who remained actively engaged in international affairs throughout his life. This revealing work not only explains Einsteinandrsquo;s theories in understandable terms, it demonstrates how they directly emerged from the realities of his times and helped create the world we live in today.
When people discuss food in Israel, their debates ask politically charged questions: Who has the right to falafel? Whose hummus is better? But Yael Ravivand#8217;s Falafel Nation moves beyond the simply territorial to divulge the role food plays in the Jewish nation. She ponders the power struggles, moral dilemmas, and religious and ideological affiliations of the different ethnic groups that make up the and#8220;Jewish Stateand#8221; and how they relate to the gastronomy of the region. How do we interpret the recent upsurge in the Israeli culinary sceneand#8212;the transition from ideological asceticism to the current deluge of fine restaurants, gourmet stores, and related publications and media?
Focusing on the period between the 1905 immigration wave and the Six-Day War in 1967, Raviv explores foodways from the field, factory, market, and kitchen to the table. She incorporates the role of women, ethnic groups, and different generations into the story of Zionism and offers new assertions from a secular-foodie perspective on the relationship between Jewish religion and Jewish nationalism. A study of the changes in food practices and in attitudes toward food and cooking, Falafel Nation explains how the change in the relationship between Israelis and their food mirrors the search for a definition of modern Jewish nationalism.and#160;
About the Author
Yael Raviv is the director of the Umami food and art festival in New York City. She has a PhD in performance studies from New York University and is an adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU. Her work has appeared in Women and Performance
, and elsewhere.