Turning Points in Jewish History

About the Book

Examining the entire span of Jewish history by focusing on thirty pivotal moments in the Jewish people’s experience from biblical times through the present—essentially the most important events in the life of the Jewish people—Turning Points in Jewish History provides “the big picture”: both a broad and a deep understanding of the Jewish people’s historical experience.

Zeroing in on eight turning points in the biblical period, four in Hellenistic-Roman times, five in the Middle Ages, and thirteen in modernity, Marc J. Rosenstein elucidates each formative event with a focused history, a timeline, a primary text with commentary as an intimate window into the period, and discussion of its legacy for subsequent generations. Along the way he candidly analyzes various controversies and schisms arising from Judaism’s encounters with power, powerlessness, exile, messianism, rationalism, mysticism, catastrophe, modernity, nationalism, feminism, and more.

The book’s thirty distinct and logically connected events lend themselves to a full course, or to customized classes on specific turning points. Discussion questions for every chapter (some in print, more online) facilitate reflection and continuing conversation.

Praise for Turning Points

“The history of the Jewish people is remarkable but very difficult to teach. Here, impressively, Marc Rosenstein conveys the drama and complexity of Jewish history in a single accessible volume. Masterfully balancing the concerns of Jewish religious tradition with the insights of modern historical scholarship, Turning Points in Jewish History is an excellent tool for advanced study for adult and teen synagogue education as well as university courses.”—Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism

“Fantastic book! An extraordinarily accessible one-volume story of the Jewish people.”—Ron Wolfson, Fingerhut Professor of Education at American Jewish University and author of Relational Judaism: Using the Power of Relationships to Transform the Jewish Community

“Rosenstein presents thirty pivotal moments in Jewish history with verve, insight, and pedagogical genius. This book evidences balance, deep knowledge, and a capacious view of the Jewish experience. The primary texts, time lines, and bibliographies are consistently well chosen; the side commentaries reliably guide the reader; and the texts for further discussion hit the sweet spot between canonical and provocative.”—Alan Levenson, Schusterman/Josey Chair of Jewish History at the University of Oklahoma and author of Joseph: Portraits Through the Ages

“Master educator Marc Rosenstein makes each historical era just right for every reader. Interested in history? Here are well-crafted timelines and guides for deeper study. Interested in literature? Here are exciting original texts. Interested in philosophy? Here are significant Jewish ideas that have enriched Western civilization. Whether for a beginner or a teacher, I have never seen a better introduction to Jewish civilization, from ‘In the beginning’ until today.”—Noam Zion, senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem

“Marc Rosenstein’s excellent book occupies a rare space in contemporary explorations of the Jewish past. It straddles history—the study of the past—and toldot, a Hebrew term referring to the unfolding of the generations. Turning Points in Jewish History empowers its readers to go beyond the false dichotomy of the academic and the empathetic. It helps link history with toldot, a reconstruction of what has been, a reflection on what is, and an inspiration toward what is yet to be.”—Michael Marmur, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost of the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

Marc J. Rosenstein

Marc J. Rosenstein is the former director of both the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion’s Israel Rabbinical Program and the Galilee Foundation for Value Education. He is the author of Galilee Diary and Turning Points in Jewish History (JPS, 2018).  Ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, he holds a PhD in modern Jewish history from the Hebrew University.  He grew up in the Chicago area and held positions as a Jewish educator in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, before making aliyah with his family in 1990.  Since then, he has lived in Moshav Shorashim, in the Galilee.

Book Reviews


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Table of Contents

Questions for Discussion

Press Release

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