"Jewish Materialism" by Eliyahu Stern

Jewish Materialism The Intellectual Revolution of the 1870s Eliyahu Stern

Publication date:
20 Mar 2018
Yale University Press
320 pages: 235 x 156mm
24 b-w illus.

A paradigm-shifting account of the modern Jewish experience, from one of the most creative young historians of his generation

To understand the organizing framework of modern Judaism, Eliyahu Stern believes that we should look deeper and farther than the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel, and the influence and affluence of American Jewry. Against the revolutionary backdrop of mid-nineteenth-century Europe, Stern unearths the path that led a group of rabbis, scientists, communal leaders, and political upstarts to reconstruct the core tenets of Judaism and join the vanguard of twentieth-century revolutionary politics.
In the face of dire poverty and rampant anti-Semitism, they mobilized Judaism for projects directed at ensuring the fair and equal distribution of resources in society. Their program drew as much from the universalism of Karl Marx and Charles Darwin as from the messianism and utopianism of biblical and Kabbalistic works. Once described as a religion consisting of rituals, reason, and rabbinics, Judaism was now also rooted in land, labor, and bodies. Exhaustively researched, this original, revisionist account challenges our standard narratives of nationalism, secularization, and de-Judaization.

Eliyahu Stern is associate professor of modern Jewish intellectual and cultural history at Yale University. He lives in New Haven, CT.

“With deep erudition and stunningly original analysis, Eliyahu Stern’s Jewish Materialism recovers a lost intellectual revolution to provocatively challenge the master narrative of modern Jewish politics."—James Loeffler, University of Virginia

"Earnest and erudite, Stern connects Jewish thought to Jewish experience. This fresh and innovative account of the materialism of the 1870s reveals common origins of later Jewish commitments to Zionism, socialism, and liberalism. Above all, it historicizes Jewish commitments to social justice."—Timothy Snyder, Yale University

“This is an outstanding and groundbreaking work which will alter our perception of nineteenth century Eastern European Jewry, the rise of Jewish nationalism and modern Judaism. This should be compulsory reading for anyone studying this period.”—Jonatan Meir, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev