Synopses & Reviews
Although fewer American Jews today describe themselves as religious, they overwhelmingly report a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people. Indeed, Jewish peoplehood has eclipsed religion—as well as ethnicity and nationality—as the essence of what binds Jews around the globe to one another. In Jewish Peoplehood, Noam Pianko highlights the current significance and future relevance of “peoplehood” by tracing the rise, transformation, and return of this novel term. The book tells the surprising story of peoplehood. Though it evokes a sense of timelessness, the term actually emerged in the United States in the 1930s, where it was introduced by American Jewish leaders, most notably Rabbi Stephen Wise and Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, with close ties to the Zionist movement. It engendered a sense of unity that transcended religious differences, cultural practices, geographic distance, economic disparity, and political divides, fostering solidarity with other Jews facing common existential threats, including the Holocaust, and establishing a closer connection to the Jewish homeland. But today, Pianko points out, as globalization erodes the dominance of nationalism in shaping collective identity, Jewish peoplehood risks becoming an outdated paradigm. He explains why popular models of peoplehood fail to address emerging conceptions of ethnicity, nationalism, and race, and he concludes with a much-needed roadmap for a radical reconfiguration of Jewish collectivity in an increasingly global era. Innovative and provocative, Jewish Peoplehood provides fascinating insight into a term that assumes an increasingly important position at the heart of American Jewish and Israeli life.
"Offers new, original, and genuinely interesting readings of key figures in twentieth-century thought." --David N. Myers, author of Between Jew and Arab: The Lost Voice of Simon Rawidowicz
"[A] fine addition to the scholarly debate about the history of Jewish nationalism, one that helps the reader understand the rich potential that nationalism has held for Jews beyond simply supporting the idea of a Jewish state." --H-Judaic, July, 2011 Indiana University Press
"[The book] is a timely and ambitious attempt to unearth approaches to Zionism that sought to embrace the concept of Jewish nationhood outside of the purely statist model." --American Jewish Archives Journal
"The volume is engaging, insightful, and very readable, making it one of those rare works that can speak to many audiences, from an educated public readership to scholars with specialized training. It would make an excellent volume for inclusion in undergraduate courses on the history of Jewish thought, contemporary courses in Israel studies, and political science." --Religious Studies Review
"Pianko succeeds in presenting an interesting and valuable book that will stimulate discussions on the history of the Zionist narrative and the future of Jewish political thought. Though these Zionist roads may not have been taken, Noam Pianko has done a noteworthy job in marking those roads for future scholars in Jewish studies." --transversal Indiana University Press
"[S]uccessful and stimulating...." --American Jewish History
"[T]here is certainly much food for thought in these pages." --The Journal of Israeli History
"A brilliant and provocative work... persuasive and elegantly argued. The book makes a signal contribution to Jewish political thought by enlarging its scope and giving it back some of its rich, yet overlooked history." --Deborah Dash Moore, author of G. I. Jews Indiana University Press
Today, Zionism is understood as a national movement whose primary historical goal was the establishment of a Jewish state. However, Zionism's association with national sovereignty was not foreordained. Zionism and the Roads Not Taken uncovers the thought of three key interwar Jewish intellectuals who defined Zionism's central mission as challenging the model of a sovereign nation-state: historian Simon Rawidowicz, religious thinker Mordecai Kaplan, and political theorist Hans Kohn. Although their models differed, each of these three thinkers conceived of a more practical and ethical paradigm of national cohesion that was not tied to a sovereign state. Recovering these roads not taken helps us to reimagine Jewish identity and collectivity, past, present, and future.
Cover title appears on paper binding only.
Jewish peoplehood has eclipsed religion—as well as ethnicity and nationality—as the prevailing definition of what it means to be a Jew. In Jewish Peoplehood, Noam Pianko examines the history, the current significance, and the future relevance of a term that assumes an increasingly important position in American Jewish and Israeli life.
About the Author
NOAM PIANKO is the Samuel N. Stroum Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Washington and directs the Stroum Jewish Studies Center there. He is the author of Zionism and the Roads Not Taken: Rawidowicz, Kaplan, Kohn.
Table of Contents
1. Breaking the Sovereign Mold: Nation beyond State in Modern Jewish Thought
2. "Sovereignty Is International Anarchy": Jews, World War I, and the Future of Nationalism
3. Text, Not Territory: Simon Rawidowicz, Global Hebraism, and the Centering of Decentered National Life
4. Making American Democracy Safe for Judaism: Mordecai Kaplan, National Civilization, and the Morality of Zionism
5. From German Zionism to American Nationalism: Hans Kohn, Cultural Humanism, and the Realization of "the Political Idea of Judaism"
6. Zionism, Jewish Peoplehood, and the Dilemmas of Nationality in a Global Era