Cover image for What shall I do with this people? : Jews and the fractious politics of Judaism
What shall I do with this people? : Jews and the fractious politics of Judaism
Viorst, Milton.
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Publication Information:
New York, NY : The Free Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
287 pages ; 23 cm
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BM155.3 .V56 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Author Notes

Milton Viorst has spent his professional life combining the disciplines of journalism and scholarship. He has academic degrees from Rutgers, Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Lyon (France).

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in 1995 by an Orthodox Jew provided the germ for this book. The author believes Rabin's killing was the product of unresolved religious conflict dating back centuries and that it emerged from Judaism's failure to solve the challenges imposed by modern times. Viorst says his objective "was to find within history some understanding of why the Jews of our own day often behave impossibly about matters crucial to the well-being, if not the survival, of the Jewish community." The lesson of Rabin's death, he concludes, may be that the Jews are running out of time and unless they give priority to mastering the art of living together, the State of Israel's duration may be as brief as the earlier Maccabean State that lasted for only a century. This timely and disturbing book--its title is a quote from the Book of Exodus--should serve as a warning to end ideological dissension or face the inevitable consequences. --George Cohen

Publisher's Weekly Review

The distinguished Jewish historian Salo Baron once disparaged the "lachrymose theory" of Jewish history because it emphasized tragic events and a sorry trail of tears. What might he have said about Viorst's reading of Jewish history as an unending chronicle of conflict among Jews? Beginning with the dispute in Exodus when many Israelites questioned Moses and created a golden calf as an idol to worship, Jews have wrangled with one other throughout the ages. Viorst traces the record of these struggles from biblical times to the present, concluding with the sharp arguments in Israel between the Ultra-Orthodox and other Israelis. He sees the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by a religious zealot as the lowest point in conflict among Jews, and he wonders whether or not this murder signals such irreconcilable differences within the Jewish community as to threaten Israel's survival. This book should be read alongside Samuel Freedman's Jew vs. Jew, which describes contemporary controversies among American Jews. Freedman shares Viorst's view that internal disputes portend a gloomy future. Viorst's lucid review of Jewish history as a saga of dissension is most effective, though highly selective. His analysis and his presentation benefit from his impressive credentials as a journalist who worked for many years in the Middle East and who has written a dozen books. Viorst is no unbiased observer; he makes clear his strong opposition to Jewish religious extremism, thus inevitably contributing to the internal discord he so vigorously decries. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Former Middle East staff correspondent for The New Yorker and prolific author Viorst (In the Shadow of the Prophet) describes the historical contexts behind Judaism's current divisiveness. The author describes Jews' responses to historical events and how these responses continue to be an influence, creating intolerance among various branches of Judaism. For Viorst, the Enlightenment was a crisis that Judaism still grapples with, and he shows how the tension it caused among various Jewish communities exists today. The book is divided into three sections: "Building a Nation," "Losing a State," "Adjusting to Exile," and "Turbulence of Return." Though he's critical of current Orthodox doctrines and Zionistic zealotry, Viorst writes in a neutral tone, laying out events and reactions and how these have defined Judaism and the Jewish people. This book will appeal to lay readers as well as those with more historical background; readable and informative, it is appropriate for all libraries. (Index not seen.) Naomi E. Hafter, Baltimore (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introduction: My Synagogue, Your Synagoguep. 1
Part I Building a Nation, Losing a State
1 Moses versus Godp. 21
2 Making and Losing a Statep. 41
3 Deposing the Priestsp. 65
Part II Adjusting to Exile
4 The Halacha Contractp. 87
5 Messianic Illusionsp. 115
6 The Revolution of Reformp. 137
Part III The Turbulence of Return
7 Seeking Divine Refugep. 161
8 Chosen People, Chosen Territoryp. 187
9 God, Witness to Madnessp. 213
Notesp. 255
Bibliographyp. 265
Acknowledgmentsp. 273
Indexp. 275