Jewish Lives
Published
Coming Soon
Forthcoming

Jewish Lives is a series of
biography dedicated to
illuminating the range and
depth of the Jewish experience.

Antiquity

  • David
    by David Wolpe
  • Rabbi Akiva
    by Barry Holtz
  • Moses
    by Avivah Zornberg
  • Jacob
    by Yair Zakovitch
  • Solomon
    by Steven Weitzman

Arts/Culture

  • Bernard Berenson
    by Rachel Cohen
  • Irving Berlin
    by James Kaplan
  • Sarah Bernhardt
    by Robert Gottlieb
  • Leonard Bernstein
    by Allen Shawn
  • Bob Dylan
    by Ron Rosenbaum
  • George Gershwin
    by Gary Giddins
  • Mark Rothko
    by Annie Cohen-Solal

Entertainment/Sports

  • Hank Greenberg
    by Mark Kurlansky
  • Ben Hecht
    by Adina Hoffman
  • Groucho Marx
    by Lee Siegel
  • Steven Spielberg
    by Mary Haskell
  • Warner Brothers
    by David Thomson

Law/Politics

  • David Ben Gurion
    by Anita Shapira
  • Leon Blum
    by Pierre Birnbaum
  • Louis Brandeis
    by Jeffrey Rosen
  • Moshe Dayan
    by Mordechai Bar-On
  • Benjamin Disraeli
    by David Cesarani
  • Emma Goldman
    by Vivian Gornick
  • Theodor Herzl
    by Derek Penslar
  • Vladimir Jabotinsky
    by Hillel Halkin
  • Walther Rathenau
    by Shulamit Volkov
  • Leon Trotsky
    by Joshua Rubenstein

Literary Arts

  • Hayyim Nahman Bialik
    by Avner Holtzman
  • Allen Ginsberg
    by Edward Hirsch
  • Heinrich Heine
    by Fritz Stern
  • Lillian Hellman
    by Dorothy Gallagher
  • Franz Kafka
    by Saul Friedlander
  • Primo Levi
    by Berel Lang
  • Marcel Proust
    by Benjamin Taylor

Philosophy/ Religion

  • Martin Buber
    by Paul Mendes-Flor
  • Rav Kook
    by Yehudah Mirsky
  • Moses Mendelssohn
    by Shmuel Feiner
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein
    by Anthony Gottlieb

Science

  • Albert Einstein
    by Steven Gimbel
  • Sigmund Freud
    by Adam Phillips
  • Robert Oppenheimer
    by David Rieff
Close
  • David  The Divided Heart
    David: The Divided Heart
    by David Wolpe

    Of all the figures in the Bible, David arguably stands out as the most perplexing and enigmatic. He was many things: a warrior who subdued Goliath and the Philistines; a king who united a nation; a poet who created beautiful, sensitive verse; a loyal servant of God who proposed the great Temple and founded the Messianic line; a schemer, deceiver, and adulterer who freely indulged his very human appetites.

    David Wolpe, whom Newsweek called “the most influential rabbi in America,” takes a fresh look at...

    Rabbi David Wolpe is the leader of the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, the largest Conservative congregation west of the Mississippi River. He is the author of seven books, including the national best-seller Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

    PHOTO INFO
    • David and Goliath by Caravaggio

      Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordier in the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.

  • Forthcoming

    Rabbi Akiva
    by Barry Holtz

    Akiva, born some 2000 years ago, was raised in poverty, unschooled in his religious tradition. In adulthood Akiva began to learn Torah, starting from the basics, and became the greatest rabbi of his time—arguably the hero of the Talmud. Mystic, legalist, theologian and text interpreter, he also became the exemplar of Jewish martyrdom, executed with the Shema, the central prayer of Judaism, on his lips.

    Barry W. Holtz is the Baumritter Professor of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary. His books include Back to the Sources and Textual Knowledge.

  • Forthcoming

    Moses
    by Avivah Zornberg

    Moses is the overwhelming figure of Jewish history, almost unapproachable in the magnitude of the role he plays in the creation of the Jewish nation and of its religion. However, while he is traditionally viewed as singular, as the man of God, Moses' life is haunted by ambiguities. Most striking of these is his double identity. This radical complication of identity has far-reaching consequences for this most powerful Jewish life, as well as for the experience of his people.

    Dr. Zornberg is the author of Genesis: The Beginning of Desire, for which she won the National Jewish Book Award; The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus; and The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious . She lives in Jerusalem and lectures throughout the world, in Jewish, academic and psychoanalytic settings.

    PHOTO INFO
    • Finding of Moses, Jean-Jacques Lagrenee, 1649

      Moses Breaks the Tablets of the Law, Gustave Dore, 1866, Dore's English Bible

  • Jacob book/ Unexpected Patriarch/ Jewish Lives Biography Series
    Jacob: Unexpected Patriarch
    by Yair Zakovitch

    A powerful hero of the Bible, Jacob is also one of its most complex figures. Bible stories recounting his life often expose his deception, lies, and greed—then, puzzlingly, attempt to justify them. In this book, eminent biblical scholar Yair Zakovitch presents a complete view of the patriarch, first examining Jacob and his life story as presented in the Bible, then also reconstructing the stories that the Bible writers suppressed—tales that were well-known, perhaps, but incompatible with the image of Jacob they...

    Yair Zakovitch is Emeritus Father Takeji Otsuki Professor of Bible, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Professor of Jewish Peoplehood, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. He is author of numerous commentaries and monographs on the Hebrew Bible, and co-author (with Avigdor Shinan) of two Israeli bestsellers. He lives in Israel.

    PHOTO INFO
    • Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.

      Jacob’s Vision and God’s Promise, 1906, Providence Lithograph Company.

  •  Jewish Lives Biography / Book on Solomon; King , Biblical Figure
    Solomon: The Lure of Wisdom
    by Steven Weitzman

    According to the Bible, Solomon’s wisdom was so great, his knowledge so vast, that "there was nothing hidden from the king"—no secret he could not uncover, no riddle he could not solve. The king knew everything there was to know—the mysteries of nature, of love, of God himself. But what do we know of Solomon? The king himself remains a mystery.

    In this "unauthorized biography,"Biblical scholar Steven Weitzman seeks to illuminate this mystery through an account of King Solomon’s life that aims to...

    Steven Weitzman is the Daniel E. Koshland Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion at Stanford University. He was awarded the Gustave O. Arlt Prize for Outstanding Scholarship in the Humanities for his first book, Song and Story in Biblical Narrative.

    PHOTO INFO
    • Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, by Rubens.

      Judgment of Solomon, by Giuseppe Cades, late 18th century.

  • Bernard Berenson: A Life in the Picture Trade
    by Rachel Cohen

    When Gilded Age millionaires wanted to buy Italian Renaissance paintings, the expert whose opinion they sought was Bernard Berenson, with his vast erudition, incredible eye, and uncanny skill at attributing paintings. They visited Berenson at his beautiful Villa I Tatti, in the hills outside Florence, and walked with him through the immense private library—which he would eventually bequeath to Harvard—without ever suspecting that he had grown up in a poor Lithuanian Jewish immigrant family that had struggled to...

    Rachel Cohen is the author of A Chance Meeting: Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists, winner of the PEN/Jerard Fund Award. Her essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Believer, Best American Essays, and many other publications. She teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Cambridge, MA..


    PHOTO INFO
    • Bernard and Mary Berenson in 1901, shortly after their marriage, in Fernhust, Sussex. Biblioteca Berenson, Villa I Tatti - The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, courtesy of the President and Fellows of Harvard College

      Bernard Berenson at the Bellini exhibition in Venice in 1949, with art historians Michelangelo Muraro, Vittorio Moschini, Raffaello Levi, and Guido Perocco. Copyright Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche Srl.

  • Forthcoming

    Irving Berlin
    by James Kaplan

    Irving Berlin has been called—by George Gershwin, among others—the greatest songwriter of the golden age of the American popular song. “Berlin has no place in American music,” Jerome Kern wrote. “He is American music.” In a career that spanned an astonishing nine decades, Berlin wrote thousands of tunes, including many that will endure as long as music itself: “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” and on and on.

    James Kaplan’s essays, reviews, and profiles have appeared in the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and Esquire, among others. His bestselling books include You Cannot Be Serious, Dean and Me, and Frank: The Voice.

    PHOTO INFO
    • Cover of Sheet music of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” published in 1911

      Photo of Berlin, 1941

  • Jewish Lives Biography / Book on Sarah Bernhardt; Actress in Theatre & Film
    Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt
    by Robert Gottlieb

    Everything about Sarah Bernhardt is fascinating, from the obscurity surrounding her (illegitimate) birth to a career that gloriously redefined the nature of her art, to her turbulent—and notorious—romantic life, to the indomitable spirit that kept her performing until her late seventies. Even after her leg was amputated, Bernhardt performed under bombardment for soldiers in World War I and crisscrossed America on her ninth tour there, tirelessly working to promote the Allied cause. Beginning in 1880 with the...

    Robert Gottlieb is the author of the acclaimed Balanchine: The Ballet Maker. He writes for the New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and other publications, and is dance critic for the New York Observer. His career in publishing—as editor in chief of Simon and Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf, and The New Yorker—is legendary.

    ...

    PHOTO INFO
    • Poster from Sarah Bernhardt Tribute Day, December 9, 1896.

      Bernhardt in the dramatic tragedy, Phedre.

  • Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician
    Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician
    by Allen Shawn

    Leonard Bernstein stood at the epicenter of twentieth-century American musical life. His creative gifts knew no boundaries as he moved easily from the podium, to the piano, to television with his nationally celebrated Young People’s Concerts, which introduced an entire generation to the joy of classical music. In this fascinating new biography, the breadth of Bernstein’s musical composition is explored, through the spectacular range of music he composed—from West Side Story to Kaddish and beyond—and through his...

    Allen Shawn is a composer, pianist, educator, and author who lives in Vermont and teaches composition and music history at Bennington College. His previous books include Arnold Schoenberg's Journey and Twin: A Memoir .

    PHOTO INFO
    • Cover of CD boxed set, Deutsche Grammophon.

      Bernstein in rehearsal for “Mass,” 1971.

  • Forthcoming

    Bob Dylan
    by Ron Rosenbaum

    Here the beauty and torment of Bob Dylan's work is situated in the urban absurdist "black humor" movement of (mostly) Jewish writers and performers from Lenny Bruce to Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick—artists hyper-aware of being caught between two Holocausts, the one Hitler perpetrated and the nuclear nightmare to come. Dylan's caustic voice distilled the absurdity of this awareness into acid-etched lyrics that continue to echo in the consciousness of our culture.

    Ron Rosenbaum’s eight books include Explaining Hitler, The Shakespeare Wars, and How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III.

    PHOTO INFO
    • Album Cover of Highway 61 Revisited, recorded in 1965.

      Dylan with Joan Baez during Civil Rights March on Washington D.C., 1963.

  • Forthcoming

    George Gershwin
    by Gary Giddins

    Seventy-five years after his death, George Gershwin remains a nettlesome figure, recognized for his genius but criticized as a poacher of African-American culture. Yet he was the golden boy of the Jazz Age, beloved by the public, performers, and fellow songwriters, and he remains a buoyant presence in our own time, bestriding every aspect of our musical culture to a degree that no other composer does.

    Gary Giddins wrote the "Weather Bird" jazz column in the Village Voice for thirty years, and served as artistic director of the American Jazz Orchestra. He is the author of eleven books, most recently Warning Shadows: Home Alone with Classic Cinema.

    PHOTO INFO
    • Rhapsody in Blue, for solo piano and jazz band written by Gershwin in 1924.

      Undated photo of Gershwin.

  • Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel
    Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel
    by Annie Cohen-Solal

    Mark Rothko was not only one of the most influential American painters of the twentieth century; he was a scholar, an educator, and a deeply spiritual human being. Born Marcus Yakovlevich Rotkovitch, he emigrated from the Russian Empire to the United States at age ten, already well educated in the Talmud and carrying with him bitter memories of the pogroms and persecutions visited upon the Jews of Latvia. Few artists have achieved success as quickly, and by the mid-twentieth century, Rothko’s artwork was being...

    Annie Cohen-Solal is an academic and a cultural historian who served as cultural counselor to the French Embassy in the United States. Her books include the acclaimedSartre, 1905–1980; Painting American(Academie des Beaux Arts Prize); and Leo & His Circle: The Life of Leo Castelli (ArtCurial Prize).

    Publication Date:

    March 10, 2015

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    PHOTO INFO
    • Photographer Henry Elkan
      Copyright 2012 Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko

      Photographer Unknown
      Copyright 2012 Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko

  • Jewish Lives Biography / Book on Hank Greenberg;  Baseball Player, Sports Hero
    Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn't Want to Be One
    by Mark Kurlansky

    One of the reasons baseball fans so love the sport is that it involves certain physical acts of beauty. And one of the most beautiful sights in the history of baseball was Hank Greenberg's swing. His calmly poised body seemed to have some special set of springs with a trigger release that snapped his arms and swept the bat through the air with the clean speed and strength of a propeller. But what is even more extraordinary than his grace and his power is that in Detroit of 1934, his swing—or its absence—became...

    Mark Kurlansky is most recently the author of The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macorís. His previous books Cod, Salt, 1968, and The Food of a Younger Land were all New York Times best-sellers.

    Kurlansky's Hank Greenberg was listed as one of twenty 2012 Michigan Notable Books
      PHOTO INFO
      • Greenberg as a Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman, 1947 issue of Baseball Digest.

        1934 Goudey baseball card of Henry "Hank" Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers #62.

    • Forthcoming

      Ben Hecht
      by Adina Hoffman

      Ben Hecht wrote some of the greatest Hollywood movies ever made, including Scarface, His Girl Friday, and Notorious. Yet as he was tossing off the breeziest scripts, he was also becoming a fierce propagandist for pre-state Israel’s terrorist underground. A self-described “child of the century,” the charismatic and contradiction-ridden Hecht came to embody much that defined America—and especially Jewish America—in his time.

      Adina Hoffman’s books include My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century, and Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza, written with Peter Cole. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Alvin Theater in New York City showing Hecht’s “A Flag is Born,” September 5, 1946.

        Publicity photo of Hecht, 1949.

    • Forthcoming

      Groucho Marx
      by Lee Siegel

      The list of comedians influenced by Groucho Marx and his brothers goes on and on. Marx’s renowned comical effects—broad slapstick, verbal puns, deflating irony, intellectual brilliance, and an insolence toward convention and authority—were separate phases of the history of Jewish humor that Groucho and his brothers crystallized, shaped into a new style of comedy, and left as a legacy for the Jewish comics who came after them.

      Lee Siegel writes about culture and politics for a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and is a recipient of the National Magazine Award.

      PHOTO INFO
      • The Marx brothers, top to bottom: Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo.

        Marx in the 1950s quiz show, “You Bet Your Life”.

    • Forthcoming

      Steven Spielberg
      by Mary Haskell

      Now in his fifth decade of making, Steven Spielberg has achieved a career unprecedented both its successes and longevity. The little boy from a Jewish family who wanted desperately to be accepted by his gentile school friends, the son whose parents’ divorce left him deeply wounded, grew into a man who never lost touch with his childhood trauma. Wonder and terror go hand in hand in the work of one of the great storytellers of our time.

      Molly Haskell is the author of books that include From Reverence to Rape: the Treatment of Women in the Movies, and Frankly, My Dear: Gone with the Wind Revisited.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Movie Poster for E. T. (1982)

        Spielberg speaking at the Pentagon about the movie "Saving Private Ryan" 1999

    • Forthcoming

      Warner Brothers
      by David Thomson

      The Warner Brothers were outsiders who got so far inside they helped change the way America saw itself. From Europe and poverty, with little education, they founded maybe the smartest and most radical of the Hollywood studios. They were the guys who made sound work. They did the Busby Berkeley musicals and invented the gangster movie. Their studio delivered Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Doris Day, John Wayne, and dramatic romances from Casablanca to East of Eden to Bonnie and Clyde.

      David Thomson is a film critic and historian and author of more than twenty books, including The Big Screen.

    •  Biography: Ben Gurion-The Father of Modern Israel
      Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel
      by Anita Shapira

      David Ben-Gurion cast a great shadow during his lifetime, and his legacy continues to be sharply debated to this day. There have been many books written about the life and accomplishments of the Zionist icon and founder of modern Israel, but this new biography by eminent Israeli historian Anita Shapira strives to get to the core of the complex man who would become the face of the new Jewish nation. Shapira tells the Ben-Gurion story anew, focusing especially on the period in 1948 immediately following Israel’s...

      Anita Shapira is professor emerita at Tel Aviv University, where she has served as dean of the Faculty of Humanities and held the Ruben Merenfeld Chair for the Study of Zionism. She is a recipient of the prestigious Israel Prize and her most recent book, in English, Israel: A History, won the 2012 National Jewish Book Award.

      Publication Date:

      November 25, 2014

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      PHOTO INFO
      • Ben Gurion at the cornerstone of the Histadrut house in Jerusalem, 1924.

        Photo of Ben Gurion in 1954.

    • Forthcoming

      Leon Blum
      by Pierre Birnbaum

      This biography of Léon Blum explores the political and social experience of the first Jew (and socialist) to become prime minister of a major European country, France. Coming to politics as a well-known intellectual and jurist, he developed his leadership skills in the interwar years, when European countries, France among them, were divided between Right and Left. It was also a period of rampant anti-Semitism in France, and Blum's Jewishness became a central part of the story.

      PHOTO INFO
      • During a demonstration of the Popular Front in Paris, France. 14 July 1936. Credit: The Granger Collection at http://www.granger.com/

        Photo of Leon Blum, sometime before 1945.

    • Forthcoming

      Louis D. Brandeis
      by Jeffrey Rosen

      "The People's" Attorney, Louis Brandeis attacked "the curse of bigness" in business and government; as Supreme Court justice, he eloquently defended privacy, free speech, and financial reform; and as head of the American Zionist movement, he was central to the establishment of the state of Israel. Rosen argues that Brandeis can teach us about economic regulation in an age of financial chaos, constitutional change in the age of the Internet, and Zionism at a time of changing Jewish identity.

      Jeffrey Rosen is a law professor at George Washington University and the legal affairs editor of The New Republic.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Portrait of Brandeis, 1915.

        Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, 1916.

    •  Jewish Lives Biography / Book on Moshe Dayan; Israeli Military Leader
      Moshe Dayan: Israel's Controversial Hero
      by Mordechai Bar-On

      Raised in the first cooperative Zionist settlement in Palestine, Moshe Dayan was a powerful yet controversial personality in Israeli politics and defense during the nation's first decades; Israelis saw him as both a fearless warrior and strong-headed, charismatic politician. In his early career, Dayan was admired for his military leadership—as the IDF chief of staff during the 1956 Sinai War and as minister of defense during the 1967 Seven Day War—yet he was blamed for the catastrophic Yom Kippur War of 1973....

      Mordechai Bar-On is a historian at the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem. He served as Moshe Dayan's bureau chief in the 1950s. He was elected to the Knesset in 1984. A fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Bar-On is the author of The Gates of Gaza and In Pursuit of Peace.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Officers of the parachutist 890e battalion in 1955 with Moshe Dayan—Chief of Staff.

    • Forthcoming

      Disraeli
      by David Cesarani

      Benjamin Disraeli—British prime minister, writer, and Conservative parliamentarian—created a positive Jewish identity for himself that put him on equal terms with Englishmen of the political elite. By inflating the Jewish past and pretending to noble origins, Disraeli was a political artist, a populist for whom structures of power were the proscenium arch for his performances. He moved masses and manipulated elites through his popular writing and his parliamentary rhetoric.

      David Cesarani is Research Professor in History, Royal Holloway, University of London.

      PHOTO INFO
      • 1876 political cartoon of Benjamin Disraeli and Queen Victoria, "New crowns for old ones!"

        Undated photo of Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield.

    • Jewish-Lives-Biography / Book-on-Emma Goldman-Anarchist-Feminist
      Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life
      by Vivian Gornick

      Emma Goldman is the story of a modern radical who took seriously the idea that inner liberation is the first business of social revolution. Her politics, from beginning to end, was based on resistance to that which thwarted the free development of the inner self.

      The right to stay alive in one’s senses, to enjoy freedom of thought and speech, to reject the arbitrary use of power—these were key demands in the many public protest movements she helped mount.

      Gornick's biography describes...

      Vivian Gornick is the author of, among other books, the acclaimed memoir Fierce Attachments and three essay collections: The End of the Novel of Love, Approaching Eye Level, and, most recently, The Men in My Life. She lives in New York City.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Addressing a crowd at Union Square, New York, May 1916.

        Photo of Goldman in 1911.

    • Forthcoming

      Theodor Herzl
      by Derek Penslar

      Theodor Herzl’s life was tragically brief, his years of Zionist activity briefer still. Yet within less than a decade he changed the course of Jewish history, transforming Zionism from an idea into a movement that galvanized Jews the world over. His life was filled with tensions between the grandiosity of his vision and the pragmatics of his leadership, his mesmerizing charisma and troubled psyche, his own background and the identities of the European Jewish masses, his greatest supporters and foes.

      Derek J. Penslar is the Samuel Zacks Professor of Jewish History at the University of Toronto.

      PHOTO INFO
      • The Seven Stars Flag, drawn by Herzl.

        Undated photo of Herzl.

    • Vladimir Jabotinsky
      Jabotinsky: A Life
      by Hillel Halkin

      Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880–1940) was a man of huge paradoxes and contradictions and has been the most misunderstood of all Zionist politicians--a first-rate novelist, a celebrated Russian journalist, and the founder of the branch of Zionism now headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. This biography, the first in English in more than two decades, undertakes to answer central questions about Jabotinsky as a writer, a political thinker, and a leader. Hillel Halkin sets aside the stereotypes to which Jabotinsky has been...

      Hillel Halkin is a writer, critic, and translator. He is the author of Across the Sabbath River and Yehuda Halevi, both of which won the National Jewish Book Award. His most recent book is Melisande! What Are Dreams? He lives in Israel.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Jabotinsky at the Zionist Congress, 1931.

        Mid 1930’s photo of Jabotinsky in France or Poland.

    • Jewish Lives Biography / Book on Walther Rathenau; German statesman
      Walter Rathenau: The Life of Weimar's Fallen Statesman
      by Shulamit Volkov

      This deeply informed biography of Walther Rathenau (1867–1922) tells of a man who—both thoroughly German and unabashedly Jewish—rose to leadership in the German War-Ministry Department during the First World War, and later to the exalted position of foreign minister in the early days of the Weimar Republic. His achievement was unprecedented—no Jew in Germany had ever attained such high political rank.

      But Rathenau's success was marked by tragedy: within months he was assassinated by right-wing...

      Shulamit Volkov is professor emerita of modern European history, Tel Aviv University. Her most recent book is Germans, Jews, and Antisemites: Trials in Emancipation. She lives in Herzliya, Israel.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Painting of Rathenau by Edward Munch.

        Undated photo of Rathenau, from Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L40010 / CC-BY-SA.

    • Jewish Lives Biography / Book on Leon Trotsky; Revolutionary, Marxist thinker
      Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary's Life
      by Joshua Rubenstein

      Born Lev Davidovich Bronstein in Southern Ukraine, Trotsky was both a world-class intellectual and a man capable of the most narrow-minded ideological dogmatism. He was an effective military strategist and an adept diplomat, who staked the fate of the Bolshevik revolution on the meager foundation of a Europe-wide Communist upheaval. He was a master politician who played his cards badly in the momentous struggle for power against Stalin in the 1920s. And he was an assimilated, indifferent Jew who was among the...

      Joshua Rubenstein is the northeast regional director of Amnesty International USA and a longtime associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. He is the author of Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg, a masterful biography of this controversial Soviet-Jewish writer and journalist.

      TO HEAR AN INTERVIEW...

      PHOTO INFO
      • Trotsky addressing the Red Guard.

        Undated photo by Alexander H. Buchman.

    • Forthcoming

      Hayyim Nahman Bialik
      by Avner Holtzman

      The story of Hayim Nahman Bialik (1873-1934) can be told as heroic legend of a poor orphan who paved his way, against all odds, to greatness solely by his own merits: to become not only the greatest Hebrew poet but the crowned leader of his national culture. On the other hand, the same life can be illuminated as a hidden tragedy, revealing his struggle with his demons from his youth. Holtzman considers both while interweaving Bialik’s life story within the larger context of the Zionist revolution.

      Avner Holtzman is professor of Hebrew Literature and former head of the Katz research institute at Tel-Aviv University

    • Forthcoming

      Allen Ginsberg
      by Edward Hirsch

      Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) was one of the holy eccentrics of poetry, a gay, Leftist, Jewish Buddhist, a spiritual seeker who combined a utopian politics with a faith in the boundlessness of human consciousness. He was a sometimes comic, sometimes tragic rhapsodist, whose blistering jeremiad “Howl” defined his generation. He was a visionary with an unlikely genius for marketing, who launched the Beat movement, and became the most famous poet of his generation.

      Edward Hirsch, a MacArthur Fellow, has published eight books of poems, including The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems, and four prose books, among them How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, a National Bestseller.

      PHOTO INFO
      • by Michiel Hendryckx

    • Forthcoming

      Heinrich Heine
      by Fritz Stern

      Regarded as one of Germany’s greatest lyric poets, Heinrich Heine was self-consciously European before he moved to Paris, a liberal critic of liberalism, a keen observer of the transformations of Europe in his lifetime.Heine was a prominent presence in Paris in the 1830s and the 1840s;he wrote extensively, knowingly, and often woundingly about his contemporaries. He knew the luminaries of that brilliant epoch, themselves often hostile to one another: Marx and Rothschild, Berlioz and Wagner.

      Fritz Richard Stern is a historian of German history, Jewish history, and historiography. He is University Professor Emeritus and a former provost at Columbia University.

      PHOTO INFO
      • "Nicht zu Schnell" (in English "I bear no grudge"), poem by Heine.

        Painting of Heine by Moritz Oppenheim, 1831.

    • Lillian Hellman biography--cover
      Lillian Hellman: An Imperious Life
      by Dorothy Gallagher

      Glamorous, talented, audacious—her life Lillian Hellman knew everyone, did everything, had been everywhere. By the age of twenty-nine she had written The Children’s Hour, the first of four hit Broadway plays, and soon she was considered a member of America’s first rank of dramatists, a position she maintained for more than twenty-five years. Apart from her literary accomplishments—eight original plays and three volumes of memoirs—Hellman lived a rich life filled with notable friendships, controversial...

      Dorothy Gallagher is the author of Hannah’s Daughters, All the Right Enemies, and the memoirs How I Came Into My Inheritance and Strangers in the House.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Cover of 1969 Hellman autobiography.

        Photo of Hellman, courtesy of Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin.

    • Jewish Lives Biography / Book on Franz Kafka/Writer
      Franz Kafka: The Poet of Shame and Guilt
      by Saul Friedlander

      Franz Kafka was the poet of his own disorder. Throughout his life he struggled with a pervasive sense of shame and guilt that left traces in his daily existence—in his many letters, in his extensive diaries, and especially in his fiction. This stimulating book investigates some of the sources of Kafka’s personal anguish and its complex reflections in his imaginary world.

      In his query, Saul Friedländer probes major aspects of Kafka’s life (family, Judaism, love and sex, writing, illness, and despair)...

      Saul Friedländer is a renowned historian of the Holocaust and in 2008 won the Pulitzer Prize for the second volume of his influential work The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939–1945. He is Distinguished Emeritus Professor of History and Club 39 Endowed Chair in Holocaust Studies at UCLA. Friedländer was born in Prague and spent his boyhood in Nazi-...

      PHOTO INFO
      • The Metamorphosis, by Kafka.

        Undated photo of Kafka.

    • Primo Levi: The Matter of a Life (Cover)
      Primo Levi: The Matter of a Life
      by Berel Lang

      In 1943, twenty-four-year-old Primo Levi had just begun a career in chemistry when, after joining a partisan group, he was captured by the Italian Fascist Militia and deported to Auschwitz. Of the 650 Italian Jews in his transport, he was one of fewer than 25 who survived the eleven months before the camp’s liberation. Upon returning to his native Turin, Levi resumed work as a chemist and was employed for thirty years by a company specializing in paints and other chemical coatings. Yet soon after his return to...

      Berel Lang is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the State University of New York, Albany.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Book written by Levi, published in 1947.

        Undated photo of Levi.

    • Forthcoming

      Marcel Proust
      by Benjamin Taylor

      In 1891, Proust met a man only two years older than himself but already a tiger of French letters: Andre Gide. Proust, by contrast, was a mere social climber with artistic pretensions. No one who that day observed the two would have imagined that Proust would come out ahead. But after the numberless follies, and martyrizing loves, he retreated and wrote a Guide of the Perplexed, by which we are instructed in the art of putting away, however belatedly, what we have outgrown.

      Benjamin Taylor is the author of Into the Open, Tales Out of School, and The Book of Getting Even.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Proust with Robert de Flers (left) and his sixteen year old beloved, Lucien Daudet (right), 1894.

        Photo of Proust in 1900.

    • Forthcoming

      Martin Buber
      by Paul Mendes-Flor

      Pursuing a distinctive path to a Jewish Cultural Renaissance, Martin Buber sought to tap the Jewish mystical tradition, particularly as embodied in Hasidism. Buber’s most famous book, I and Thou, put forth the claim that relationships with our fellow human beings are essentially identical to our relation with God. Buber’s writings are intimately bound to his own personal journey, which intersected with the major junctures of twentieth-century Jewish history.

      Paul Mendes-Flohr is a leading Buber expert and, with Peter Schäfer and Berd Witte, is editor in chief of the twenty-two volume German edition of Buber’s collected works.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Martin Buber teaching at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

        Buber in Israel, 1940-1950, The David B. Keidan Collection of Digital Images from the Central Zionist Archives.

    • Jewish Lives Biography/ Book on Rav Kook/ rabbi, poet, mystic
      Rav Kook: Mystic in an Age of Revolution
      by Yehudah Mirsky

      Rav Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935) was one of the most influential—and controversial—rabbis of the twentieth century. A visionary writer and outstanding rabbinic leader, Kook was a philosopher, mystic, poet, jurist, communal leader, and veritable saint. The first chief rabbi of Jewish Palestine and the founding theologian of religious Zionism, he struggled to understand and shape his revolutionary times. His life and writings resonate with the defining tensions of Jewish life and thought.

      A powerfully...

      Yehudah Mirsky is Associate Professor of the Practice of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University. He served in the U.S. State Department’s human rights bureau, lived in Israel for the past decade, and has contributed to the New Republic, the Economist, and many other publications.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Letter from Rav Kook to Herbert Samuel, British High Commissioner of Palestine.

        Rav Kook, during his only visit to the US, April 1924.

    • Moses Mendelssohn: Philosopher of the Enlightenment by Shmuel Feiner
      Moses Mendelssohn: Philosopher of the Enlightenment
      by Shmuel Feiner

      The “German Socrates,” Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) was the most influential Jewish thinker of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A Berlin celebrity and a major figure in the Enlightenment, revered by Immanuel Kant, Mendelssohn suffered the indignities common to Jews of his time while formulating the philosophical foundations of a modern Judaism suited for a new age. His most influential books included the groundbreaking Jerusalem and a translation of the Bible into German that paved the way for...

      Shmuel Feiner is Professor of Modern Jewish History at Bar Ilan University and holds the Samuel Braun Chair for the History of the Jews in Prussia.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Johann Kaspar Lavater, Swiss theologist, tries to convert Moses Mendelssohn to Christianity, pointing at the text on a bookpage.

        Drawing of Mendelssohn by Daniel Chodowiecki.

    • Forthcoming

      Ludwig Wittgenstein
      by Anthony Gottlieb

      In 1912, when Ludwig Wittgenstein was twenty-three years old and had just given up research in engineering to try philosophy, his eldest sister was astonished to be told by Bertrand Russell that “We expect the next big step in philosophy to be taken by your brother.” Russell turned out to be right. Over sixty years after his death, Wittgenstein is acknowledged by historians to have had a greater impact than anyone else on the course of philosophy in the twentieth century.

      Anthony Gottlieb is a former executive editor of The Economist and is the author of The Dream of Reason, the first volume of his three-part history of Western philosophy books.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Wittgenstein, bottom right, with siblings.

        Photo of Wittgenstein, 1910s.

    • Forthcoming

      Albert Einstein
      by Steven Gimbel

      Albert Einstein was a man of his times. His theory of relativity reshaped our concepts of space, time, and motion. His science sparked the development of the atomic bomb – an odd convergence for an outspoken pacifist. But his hatred of war was overshadowed by his fear of the acquisition of such weapons by the Nazis, who were labeling Einstein’s theory “Jewish science.” The symbol of scientific modernism, Einstein came to embody the complexities of being Jewish in our contemporary world.

      Steven Gimbel is Professor of Philosophy at Gettysburg College where he holds the Edwin T. and Cynthia Shearer Johnson Chair for Distinguished Teaching in the Humanities.

    • Biography of Sigmund Freud
      Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst
      by Adam Phillips

      Becoming Freud is the story of the young Freud—Freud up until the age of fifty—that incorporates all of Freud’s many misgivings about the art of biography. Freud invented a psychological treatment that involved the telling and revising of life stories, but he was himself skeptical of the writing of such stories. In this biography, Adam Phillips, whom the New Yorker calls “Britain’s foremost psychoanalytical writer,” emphasizes the largely and inevitably undocumented story of Freud’s earliest years as the oldest...

      Adam Phillips is former Principal Child Psychotherapist at Charing Cross Hospital, London, and is now a psychoanalyst in private practice. He is a visiting professor in the English department at the University of York and was the general editor of the new Penguin Modern Classics translations of Sigmund Freud. His most recent book is One Way and Another: New and...

      PHOTO INFO
      • Freud's diagram from 'The Ego and the Id' (1923).

        Photo of Freud in 1926.

    • Forthcoming

      Robert Oppenheimer
      by David Rieff

      Both for better and for worse, the atomic age had two parents: Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer. Best known as the Manhattan Project Director, Oppenheimer was not only a leading theoretical physicists of the twentieth century but in the immediate aftermath of World War II was the most influential scientist in the United States. But his extraordinary rise was followed by an equally rapid fall, as Oppenheimer fell victim to the hysteria reigning in America during the early part of the Cold War.

      David Rieff, a New York–based journalist, is the author of eight books.

      PHOTO INFO
      • Oppenheimer and Groves examine the remains of one the bases of the steel test tower, Trinity Test Site, 1945.

        Official Los Alamos National Laboratory portrait of Oppenheimer, 1944.

    NEWS & EVENTS

    JEWISH LIVES QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
    "To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time."

    Leonard Bernstein
    Watch brothers Allen and Wallace Shawn discuss Bernstein in this engaging video
    Click Here

    Watch David Wolpe discuss his book with Abigail Pogrebin Click Here