ZJB: One of the many things done well over at Alan Brill’s blog are the interviews with scholar-colleagues. This one is with Eli Stern about his just published book about the modernity of the Vilna Gaon. I’m not sure I’m going to be persuaded, but it’s all going to depend on what one means by “modernity” and what a CentralEuro centric like myself ends up learning about the Vilna Gaon. I’m already beginning to think that Stern is onto something. Will report back later.
This month Eliyahu Stern published his book The Genius: Elijah of Vilna and the Making of Modern Judaism (Yale University Press). Stern has an appointment at Yale. Stern received his Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley in 2008. From 2009-2010 he was a fellow at University of Oxford. He may be first YU graduate in Jewish Studies to break the glass ceiling of the ivys for his first position. (Yerushalmi was long gone from his YU upbringing by the time he was appointed.)
Stern’s emphasis on religion as an operative factor in socio- intellectual history was already shown in his op-ed on Jewish peoplehood.
What is needed instead is a return to the original Jewish model, where peoplehood was embraced as an outcome of a shared destiny and values, where group attachment was the powerful end result of an engagement with a compelling tradition and spiritual practice. As the past…
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