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The Jewish Writings: Hannah Arendt

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The Jewish Writings

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The Jewish Writings
Hannah Arendt

Edited by Jerome Kohn and Ron H. Feldman
Schocken Books, New York: 2007
ISBN: 978-0-8052-4238-6

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - July 6, 2007

Hannah Arendt is perhaps best known as a political writer and as a social activist. Her Jewish identity, and Jewish writings are lesser known - this despite the fact that the main body of her written work was devoted to Jewish subjects and that she ardently advocated for Jewish rights and freedoms. In The Jewish Writings, the book's editors, Jerome Kohn and Ron H. Feldman have compiled an extensive collection of Arendt's Jewish writings. A thorough reading of these works not only serve a means by which to explore Arendt's life and philosophies, but also provides insights into how her Jewishness influenced other writings and activities.

Arendt was born in Germany in 1906, fled to France in 1933, where she worked with Youth Aliyah. Arrested and sent to an interment camp in Gurs, she managed to escape in 1940, eventually making her way to the United States. She died in 1975. In America she sought to encourage other Jews to take up arms against the Nazis, and after the war was an outspoken advocate for the creation of Jewish Homeland in Palestine. Her connection with the greater Jewish community faltered in the early 1960's with the publication of her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem about the trail of Adolf Eichmann. As a consequence to this schism, Arendt's work fell out of favor in many circles and she faded out of the realm of respected Jewish thinkers and writers.

The Jewish Writings introduces Arendt to a new generation of readers and scholars, and reintroduces her writing to those who lost interest in her work when she fell out favor. The text primarily consists of Arendt's own writing, and is drawn from both published and unpublished sources and includes an assortment of her notes, magazine articles, speeches, and essays. The material is organized chronologically by decade, covering the period from the 1930-1960's.

The Jewish Writings is a phenomenal resource for scholars and general readers alike. This book not only provides readers with access to a large body of Ardent's writings, but it also provides unique insights into Arendt's mind set and of the development of her philosophical and political sentiments. The text includes notes by both Ardent and the book's editors. It also includes a publication history of all the material contained in the book. In addition, a significant portion of Arendt's early writings were penned in either German or French ant this publication makes these writings accessible to an English reading audience. In addition, the book's detailed preface and introduction serve as a concise biography of Arendt, and they offer a compelling overview of the world in which Arendt lived.

The Jewish Writings is well suited for use as a supplemental text in University level classes in a number of subjects including Jewish studies, women's studies, history, writing, political and social sciences, and philosophy. The text can also be used as a reference book on Arendt's writing, and it can be read by general readers simply for the insights that it provides into the world that Arendt lived in and how being Jewish impacted almost every aspect of her life and career. Covering topics ranging from antisemitism and Jewish history to the establishment of the State of Israel and the search for peace in the Middle East, this book will fascinate anyone with an interest in Jewish history or in the writings and life of Hannah Arendt.

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