05-02-2008 02:35 PM
Ruth Wisse and Jews and Power
Taking in everything from the kingdom of David to the Oslo accords, Ruth Wisse offers a radical new way to think about the Jewish relationship to power that offers lessons for American political culture today. Bestselling author Michael Oren writes, "In an era of deepening political and moral confusion, Ruth Wisse supplies a voice that is both clarion and courageous." Jews and Power is richly provocative-and sure to stir debate both inside and outside the Jewish world.
Traditional Jews believed that upholding the covenant with God constituted a treaty with the most powerful force in the universe; this later transformed itself into a belief that, unburdened by a military, Jews could pursue their religious mission on a purely moral plain. Wisse, an eminent professor of comparative literature at Harvard, demonstrates how Jewish political weakness increased Jewish vulnerability to scapegoating and violence and unwittingly goaded power-seeking nations to cast them as perpetual targets.
Although she sees hope in the state of Israel, Wisse questions the way the strategies of the Diaspora continue to drive the Jewish state, echoing Abba Eban's observation that Israel was the only nation to win a war and then sue for peace.
Jews and Power draws a persuasive parallel to the United States today, as it struggles to figure out how a liberal democracy can face off against enemies who view Western morality as weakness. Wisse's narrative offers a compelling argument that is rich with history and bristling with contemporary urgency.
About Ruth Wisse: Ruth Wisse is Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. Born in Romania and raised in Montreal, she was the first professor to introduce courses in Yiddish literature at McGill University, where she helped to establish the Department of Jewish Studies in the late 1960s. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.