Spin That Dreidel: A Hanukkah Reading List

To kick off this Hanukkah celebration, spin the dreidel on any of the amazing Jewish Studies titles below and you won’t go wrong. Better yet, imbibe in our 8 day Hanukkah sale with 36% off with free domestic shipping when you order online at  www.nyupress.org. Just use promocode HANUK36 at checkout!

(Why 36? According to Jewish Numerology, 18 is “life” and 36 is “two lives.” So celebrate your savings when you give the gift of a NYU Press book and buy one for yourself too while you’re at it!)

Hanukkah in America

A History

By Dianne Ashton

“Children growing up in 21st-century America are encouraged to think that the December holiday season is an inclusive one, and that Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations carry equal import. Historically and liturgically, however, as many Jewish children learn after their bar or bat mitzvah, Hanukkah is a minor holiday, ginned up to compete with Christmas’s dominance—a quandary known as the ‘December dilemma.’ Hanukkah’s history was ­manipulated: the celebration of an unlikely military victory of the ­Maccabee-led Judean insurgents against Hellenic rule became a story, spurred on by Talmudic myth, of God’s intervention to make one flask of sacred oil burn for eight nights. Ashton offers readers a lively account of the holiday’s modern iterations. At various points, Hanukkah was a social enticement to join a Jewish congregation, a counterpoint to arguments that Jews were weak and a celebration to bond children to family. Hanukkah reflects both a general Jewish problem and a distinctly American one. On the one hand, it embodies the ‘essential project of the rabbis: With the Temple destroyed, they aimed to make it possible for Jews to extend the spirituality of the Temple into their everyday lives.’ On the other, for most of the 19th century, ‘American Jewish life struggled along on the distant periphery of the Jewish world, an ocean away from the great centers of Jewish learning’ and leadership. Celebrating Hanukkah in the home allowed the creation of an American Jewish tradition.”

—New York Times



Jewish Radical Feminism

Voices from the Women’s Liberation Movement

By Joyce Antler

“The most profound reason Jewish Radical Feminism should be widely read is that it puts many current disputes about gender and Jewish identity into long perspective.”—Tablet

“It’s reassuring to learn how these iconic women navigated their own struggles with multiple identities in their own time, and to recognize the tremendous contributions they made, even from outside the mainstream.”—Forward

“From consciousness-raising groups, to health collectives, to militant lesbians and women standing up to religious patriarchy, historian Antler spends time with the dozens of Jewish personalities of radical feminist movements—women who challenged the structure of society far beyond the reach of laws.”—Lilith

“The role of Jewish women in the feminist struggle was never fully explained. Jewish Radical Feminism fills this gap both in the history of modern Judaism and feminism. This valuable study is a tribute to the struggle of these pioneer Jewish feminists.”—Washington Book Review


A Rich Brew

How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture

By Shachar M. Pinsker

“Pinsker . . . believes that cafés in six cities created modern Jewish culture. It’s the kind of claim that sounds as if it might be a game-changer, and there are enough grounds and gossip in A Rich Brew to keep this customer engrossed from cup to cup.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Pinsker takes the reader on a journey across the important centers of modern Jewish culture: Odessa, Warsaw, Vienna, Berlin, New York and Tel Aviv, using a host of different sources and making for a captivating read.” —The Forward

A Rich Brew evokes the sense of lingering in a timeless café, savoring the flavor and scent of good coffee and the conversation that goes along with it.” —The Jewish Week

“Shachar Pinsker’s absorbing new work of nonfiction, A Rich Brew, uses the café as a vehicle both to describe the development of modern Jewish culture and to delve into the topics that drove its progression.” —Jewish Book Council

“Pinsker makes clear the vital role literary cafes played in 19th- and 20th-century Western Jewish culture in this smart volume.” —Publishers Weekly


A Rosenberg by Any Other Name

A History of Jewish Name Changing in America

By Kirsten Fermaglich

“Fascinating . . . A fine contribution to an important, previously underexplored area of American Jewish identity and social history.”—Publishers Weekly

“Fermaglich’s thorough research and bright insights produce a provocative account of a seldom-explored cultural phenomenon.”—Kirkus Reviews

“An important history . . . Well-written and thoroughly documented . . . demonstrates the struggle that individuals underwent to become fully realized as Jewish Americans. highly recommended.”—STARRED Library Journal

“The real history behind Jewish name changing in the US . . . a worthy accomplishment.  One doesn’t have to be a . . . historian to appreciate A Rosenberg by Any Other Name . . . anyone with an interest in the subject matter [can] enjoy it.”—Foreword Reviews

“Fermaglich’s thoroughly researched book delves into many implications of changing one’s name and examines the way that Jewish culture was shaped overall by the practice.”— Jewish Exponent



Pastrami on Rye

An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli

By Ted Merwin

“A pleasing exercise in culinary and cultural history, evoking some favorite New York-centric comfort foods… [Merwin] does a solid job of locating the delicatessen… as a cultural and culinary center of New York Jewish life.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Combining a flair for anecdote with exhaustive research, Merwin has produced an exuberantly readable history of delis, and he reveals how their prepared foods helped free early twentieth-century women from daily kitchen drudgery. The very success of ethnic Jewish delicatessens led inevitably to cultural assimilation for Jews and to appreciative acceptance by Gentiles, and the delicatessen became indisputably an American institution.”—Booklist

“[An] affable dive into the culture and history of the Jewish deli.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Ted Merwin… delivers a scholarly paean–like an ample but lean corned beef sandwich–to a vanishing New York ethnic icon.”—New York Times “Metropolitan”

“Try reading Ted Merwin’s new book, Pastrami on Rye without having your mouth water. Merwin offers plenty of delicious descriptions as he traces how delis rose up first as take-out services for Jewish immigrants, to gathering places for Jewish communities, to symbols of integration — as pastrami piled high became popular nationwide.”—New York Post


Jews on the Frontier

Religion and Mobility in Nineteenth-Century America

By Shari Rabin

“In [an] enlightening study largely focusing on the pre–Civil War South and West, Rabin examines the intertwining of Jews and mobility in the 19th-century US… Impressively documented, this intriguing exploration is appropriate for general libraries.”—Choice

Jews on the Frontier is a compelling account of the cultural and spiritual changes experienced by American Jews outside the main coastal cities and their large congregations before the large East-European emigration waves of the late Nineteenth-Century.”—Civil War Book Review

“Rabin convincingly describes frontier mobility as the motive force behind one of the most creative and constructive eras in American Judaism.”— The Journal of Southern Religion

“Rabin makes a compelling case here that the full arc of American Jewish history cannot ignore the young Jewish men who pursued their livelihoods by heading for the frontier. Their religious inconsistencies, creativities, and sense of empowerment as ordinary Jews may actually serve as a better template for thinking about how Judaism developed in America.” —Annals of Iowa

Jews on the Frontier stands as a significant historiographical intervention in de-centering established institutions and denominations and the Protestant secular from the narratives of minority religions and religious communities.”—Reading Religion


Postcards from Auschwitz

Holocaust Tourism and the Meaning of Remembrance

By Daniel P. Reynolds

“Incisively scrutinizes the intersection of tourism and Holocaust remembrance . . . raises important questions about history, tourism, and genocide.”—STARRED Publishers Weekly

“This should be required reading for anyone contemplating a trip to places of remembrance, such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum or the Auschwitz and Dachau death camps in Europe. Reynolds effectively tells how history and tourism intersect.”—Library Journal

“A graphic journey of discovery that reveals . . . many troubling questions: Do Holocaust tourists come as casual sightseers or as pilgrims? Where is evidence, in those dedicated places, of redemption? Soon there will be no survivors of the Holocaust; what will the places, monuments, and museums tell future generations?”—Kirkus Reviews


Jewish New York

The Remarkable Story of a City and a Peopl

By Deborah Dash Moore, Jeffrey S. Gurock, Annie Polland, Howard B. Rock, Daniel Soyer, with Diana L. Linden

“A definitive look at how Jewish New Yorkers and New York City shaped each other. The lively narrative begins in the 17th century, with the arrival of the first Jews in North America, and runs through 2015. This is the best kind of popular history: one that does not sacrifice nuance or detail for accessibility.”—STARRED Publishers Weekly

“Chronicling the story of Jews in New York is an undertaking as tall as the Empire State Building, and as multilayered as a pastrami on rye from Katz’s Delicatessen. But it has been achieved in Jewish New York.”—Times of Israel

Jewish New York.. . chronicle[s] the growth of Jewish influence on the city through the 21st century, citing the success of several prominent New Yorkers, including two former Brooklynites, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Bernie Sanders.”—The New York Times

“This survey of Jewish New York is a valuable contribution to Jewish literature, and the appended visual essay is an added bonus. An epic story of a people who have been, and remain, central to the life of New York City.”—Kirkus Review

“American Jews aren’t going anywhere. What they are going to be is very, very different. . . . This difference is nowhere more startling than when observed within the longer trajectory of New York’s Jewish history. Allowing us to look back at that history is Jewish New York. . . a thorough and readable work.”—The Forward


Making Judaism Safe for America

World War I and the Origins of Religious Pluralism

By Jessica Cooperman

“In this perceptive book, Jessica Cooperman highlights the important role of the National Jewish Welfare Board, and shows how ideas about pluralism shaped both Judaism and American religion generally during the tumultuous World War I era.  A valuable contribution!”—Jonathan D. Sarna, University Professor and Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University and author of American Judaism: A History

“Illuminating. Insightful. Challenging. We all know World War II forced the U.S. to rely on an ideology of pluralism and harmony.  Jessica Cooperman’s timely and nuanced study traces the origin of this inclusive language to World War I, as religious minorities, and most especially American Jews, fought for first-class status and a seat at the table. She also shows the costs of that inclusion and the shaping of a certain kind of American Jewry. Her study of the structural changes hoisted upon the U.S. military by American Jews is a must-read for people interested in American pluralism, American religious life, and the costs and benefits of fitting in to the American ideal.”—Kevin M. Schultz, author, Tri-Faith America


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