Turning Points in Jewish History

About the Book


Turning Points in Jewish History presents the entire span of Jewish history through the lens of thirty pivotal moments in the Jewish people’s experience from biblical times through the present.   Simultaneously concise and reasonably comprehensive, accessible and anchored in primary texts, it is designed to elicit “The Big Picture”— a broader, deeper understanding of the recurring themes in Jewish history— through focused insight into the most important historical events in the life of the Jewish people.

The turning points—developed in individual chapters—represent formative times when environmental factors, events, decisions, and discoveries coalesced to generate an impact experienced by all subsequent generations. Every chapter includes a short history of the event; a timeline; an original text, with commentary, as a personal window into the period; and the author’s analysis of its legacy and memory in the ongoing Jewish narrative.   This is an objective, varied, and balanced approach to Jewish history. Eight chapters are devoted to the biblical period, four to the Hellenistic-Roman periods, five to the Middle Ages, and thirteen to the modern age.

Author Marc J. Rosenstein offers candid—critical and respectful—analysis of the various controversies and schisms that arose out of Judaism’s encounters with power, powerlessness, exile, messianism, rationalism, mysticism, catastrophe, modernity, nationalism, feminism, and other developments.  He also explicitly discusses alternative religious and ideological interpretations of events.   The book’s thirty distinct and logically connected turning points lend themselves to a full course, or to customized classes on specific turning points. Discussion questions for every chapter (in print and online) facilitate reflection and continuing conversation.

Marc J Rosenstein

Marc J. Rosenstein (Rabbinic Ordination HUC-JIR, 1975; PhD, Hebrew University, 1986) was director of the Israel Rabbinical Program at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem from 2009 to 2015.  Previously he served as executive director of the Galilee Foundation for Value Education, Shorashim, Israel.  He is also author of Galilee Diary (URJ Press, 2010) and co-author of Our Place in the Universe: Judaism and the Environment (Behrman House, 2014).