Saturday, September 22, 2007

Essential works about Judaism

Ruth Wisse, whose Jews and Power has just been published by Schocken, teaches Yiddish literature and comparative literature at Harvard. She selected a five best list of essential works about Judaism for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (1876)

One of the finest books about Jewish experience was written by an Englishwoman. George Eliot studied Judaism for years before writing this novel, her last, and her hero's gradual discovery of his Jewish origins seems to reproduce her own evolving appreciation of what Jews were about. Daniel Deronda's mother despised being Jewish, and when he was born she arranged for him to be raised as the ward of a wealthy English gentleman. But Deronda is pleased as his self-discovery unfolds, and he dreams of helping Jews find their own land "such as the English have"--in effect becoming a Zionist more than two decades before Theodor Herzl founded the Zionist movement. The novel has its painful side. Deronda's Jewish path thwarts his potential romance with the lovely Gwendolen Harleth, and well-meaning Christians who want to envelop Deronda in their embrace must learn from him the art of "separateness with communication."
Read about the other titles on Wisse's list.

--Marshal Zeringue