Seth Dunn ציבורי
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We are surrounded by more readily available information than ever before. And a huge percentage of it is inaccurate. Some of the bad info is well-meaning but ignorant. Some of it is deliberately deceptive. All of it is pernicious. With the internet always at our fingertips, what’s a teacher of history to do? In Why Learn History (When It’s Already …
 
There’s nothing more vital to survival than water. “Water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink!”, said the Ancient Mariner, in the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Besides widespread water shortage, too much of America’s water is undrinkable. From big cities and suburbs to the rural heartland, chemicals linked to cancer, heart disease, obesity…
 
The first all-encompassing book on Israel’s foreign policy and the diplomatic history of the Jewish people, The Star and the Scepter: A Diplomatic History of Israel (Jewish Publication Society, 2020) retraces and explains the interactions of Jews with other nations from the ancient kingdoms of Israel to modernity. Starting with the Hebrew Bible, Em…
 
Child sponsorship, originally a project of nineteenth-century Protestant missionaries, has become one of today’s most profitable private fund-raising tools for global organizations, including World Vision, Compassion International, and ChildFund. Christian Globalism at Home: Child Sponsorship in the United States (Princeton UP, 2020) is an investig…
 
In 1984, in an unprecedented act of brotherhood, Israel airlifted thousands of persecuted and starving Ethiopian Jews from Africa to Israel. They had been waiting in Ethiopia for millennia, sustained by the hope to return home to the Holy Land. Among the refugees was an 8-year-old boy, Danny Adeno Abebe. Now an Israeli journalist, Abebe tells the s…
 
“A map is the greatest of all epic poems, its lines and colors show the realization of great dreams.” --Gilbert Grosvenor The Great Game raged through the wilds of Central Asia during the nineteenth century, as Imperial Russia and Great Britain jostled for power. Tsarist armies gobbled up large tracts of Turkestan, advancing inexorably towards thei…
 
The identity of contemporary Jews is multifaceted, no longer necessarily defined by an observance of the Torah and God’s commandments. Indeed, the Jews of modernity are no longer exclusively Jewish. They are affiliated with a host of complementary and sometimes clashing communities—vocational, professional, political, and cultural—whose interests m…
 
Theological Stains: Art Music and the Zionist Project (Oxford UP, 2020) offers the first in-depth study of the development of art music in Israel from the mid-twentieth century to the turn of the twenty-first. In a bold and deeply researched account, author Assaf Shelleg explores the theological grammar of Zionism and its impact on the art music wr…
 
“…and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” -Isaiah 2:4 The instinct to fight may be innate in human nature, but war—organized violence—comes with organized society. War has shaped humanity’s history, its social and po…
 
Most of us have had this experience: browsing through countless options on Netflix, unable to commit to watching any given movie—and losing so much time skimming reviews and considering trailers that it’s too late to watch anything at all. In a book borne of an idea first articulated in a viral commencement address, Pete Davis argues that this is t…
 
The phenomenon of friendship is universal and elemental. Friends, after all, are the family we choose. But what makes these bonds not just pleasant but essential, and how do they affect our bodies and our minds? In Friendship: The Evolution, Biology and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond (Bloomsbury, 2020), science journalist Lydia Denw…
 
Why do I feel bad? There is real power in understanding our bad feelings. With his classic Why We Get Sick, Dr. Randolph Nesse helped to establish the field of evolutionary medicine. Now he returns with Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry (Dutton, 2019), a book that transforms our understanding of me…
 
“Allying with a Hamas cell (on a Palestinian university campus) is not the same as joining the College Republicans at the University of Kansas...in the West Bank and Gaza, we are not in Kansas anymore” - Cary Nelson Why is there no academic freedom on university campuses in the Palestinian territories? In Not in Kansas Anymore: Academic Freedom in …
 
Everything you use, from your home to your smartphone, from highways to supermarkets, was designed by someone. What did they get right? Where did they go wrong? And what can we learn from how these experts think that can help us improve our own lives? In How Design Makes The World, bestselling author and designer Scott Berkun reveals how designers,…
 
Believers: Faith in Human Nature (Norton, 2019) is a scientist's answer to attacks on faith by some well-meaning scientists and philosophers. It is a firm rebuke of the "Four Horsemen"--Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens--known for writing about religion as something irrational and ultimately harmful. Anthropologi…
 
Western culture has endlessly represented the ways in which love miraculously erupts in people's lives, the mythical moment in which one knows someone is destined for us; the feverish waiting for a phone call or an email, the thrill that runs our spine at the mere thought of him or her. Yet, a culture that has so much to say about love is virtually…
 
The conventional approach to suicide is psychiatric: ask the average person why people kill themselves, and they will likely cite depression. But this approach fails to recognize suicide’s social causes. People kill themselves because of breakups and divorces, because of lost jobs and ruined finances, because of public humiliations and the threat o…
 
In this magnum opus, Paul Vallely guides the reader on a journey through the history and meaning of giving in religion and society. Vivid with anecdote and scholarly insight, this magisterial survey – from the ancient Greeks to today's high-tech geeks – provides an original take on the history of philanthropy. It shows how giving has, variously, be…
 
Everyone will lose someone they love at some point in their life; a spouse, a parent, or a child. Having to deal with the clothes or personal effects that remain can be a heartbreaking experience. It is a challenge: what is one to do with all the small and large items that made up the material life of the one who’s gone - store them in the attic? D…
 
Covid-19 is the global threat that owns today’s headlines, but the threat of international and domestic terrorism is still very much with us. Specifically, the widespread upheaval, uncertainty and global anxiety occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic has been seen by terror organizations as a golden opportunity to tie their messaging to information ab…
 
In May 1945, German forces surrendered to the Allied powers, putting an end to World War II in Europe. But the aftershocks of global military conflict did not cease with the German capitulation. Millions of lost and homeless concentration camp survivors, POWs, slave laborers, political prisoners, and Nazi collaborators in flight from the Red Army o…
 
These are dangerous times for democracy. We live in an age of winners and losers, where the odds are stacked in favor of the already fortunate. Stalled social mobility and entrenched inequality give the lie to the American credo that you can make it if you try. The consequence is a brew of anger and frustration that has fueled populist protest and …
 
A remarkable view of one of the world's most beloved and troubled cities, Adina Hoffman's Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City (FSG, 2017) is a gripping and intimate journey into the very different lives of three architects who helped shape modern Jerusalem. The book unfolds as an excavation. It opens with the 1934 arrival in Jeru…
 
Meteorites, mega-volcanoes, and plate tectonics--the old forces of nature--have transformed Earth for millions of years. They are now joined by a new geological force--humans. Our actions have driven Earth into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. For the first time in our home planet's 4.5-billion-year history a single species is increasingly…
 
They are trees of life and trees of knowledge. They are wish-fulfillers … rainforest royalty … more precious than gold. They are the fig trees, and they have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways. Mike Shanahan's book Ladders to Heaven: How Figs Shaped our History, Fed our Imaginations, and can Enrich our Future (Unbound, 2016) tells …
 
In this far-ranging and erudite exploration of the South Asian past, Sumit Guha discusses the shaping of social and historical memory in world-historical context. He presents memory as the result of both remembering and forgetting and of the preservation, recovery, and decay of records. By describing how these processes work through sociopolitical …
 
The Fascination with Death in Contemporary French Thought: A Longing for the Abyss (Palgrave MacMillan, 2020) analyses a cultural phenomenon that goes to the very roots of Western civilization: the centrality of death in our sense of human existence. It does so through a close reading of seminal works by the most creative authors of modern French t…
 
Have you ever felt, “Oh my God, I’m turning into my mother (or father)!” ? Robert Plomin explains why that happens in Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are (MIT Press, 2019). A century of genetic research shows that DNA differences inherited from our parents are the consistent lifelong sources of our psychological individuality―the blueprint that …
 
Why are we so concerned with belonging? In what ways does our belonging constitute our identity? Is belonging a universal concept or a culturally dependent value? How does belonging situate and motivate us? In these days of identity politics, these issues are more significant and more complex than ever. Joseph E. David grapples with these questions…
 
Living, as we do, in a time in which a U.S. president anoints himself “a very stable genius”, we are particularly appreciative of Eric Weiner, a former foreign correspondent for NPR who writes with humility and humor, as he brings us along with him on his travels to times and places that produced genius. Beginning with Athens in the Golden age, and…
 
What Black and White America Must Do Now: A Prescription to Move Beyond Race (Hot Books, 2020) explores the complexity of race and culture in the United States. In his third book, renowned conservative entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist Armstrong Williams discusses his prescription for healing and atonement amidst today’s current social uphea…
 
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of An American Family (Doubleday, 2020) is the story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science's great hope in the quest to understand the disease. Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. After World War II, Don's work w…
 
The tension between secular politics and religious fundamentalism is a problem shared by many modern states. This is certainly true of the State of Israel, where the religious-secular schism provokes conflict at every level of society. Driving this schism is the idea of the halakhic state, the demand by many religious Jews that Israel should be gov…
 
Like so many Americans, American Jews supported President Roosevelt. They adored him. They believed in him. They idolized him. Perhaps they shouldn’t have. Based on recently discovered documents, The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust (Jewish Publication Society) reassesses the hows and whys behi…
 
Two prominent Israeli liberals argue that for the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to end with peace, Palestinians must come to terms with the fact that there will be no "right of return." In 1948, seven hundred thousand Palestinians were forced out of their homes by the first Arab-Israeli War. More than seventy years later, most of the…
 
How did a group of charismatic, apocalyptic Jewish missionaries, working to prepare their world for the impending realization of God's promises to Israel, end up inaugurating a movement that would grow into the gentile church? Committed to Jesus’s prophecy—“The Kingdom of God is at hand!”—they were, in their own eyes, history's last generation. But…
 
Before the global pandemic of Covid-19 arrived, public health experts in the U.S. and U.K. were warning of the epidemic of loneliness. Loneliness steals more years of life than obesity. Loneliness is as much of a risk as smoking. Loneliness shortens a lifespan as much as poverty. It is associated with addiction, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and e…
 
History that reads like a thriller; The Good Assassin: How A Mossad Agent and a Band of Survivors Hunted Down The Butcher of Latvia (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020) by Stephan Talty is the untold story of an Israeli spy’s epic journey to bring the notorious Butcher of Latvia to justice—a case that altered the fates of all ex-Nazis. Before World Wa…
 
Attachment theory is a popular lens through which psychologists have examined human development and interpersonal dynamics. In Attachment in Religion and Spirituality: A Wider View (Guilford Press, 2020), Pehr Granqvist uses that lens to examine the psychology of religion and spirituality. He focuses on the connections between early caregiving expe…
 
The social dynamics of “alternative facts”: why what you believe depends on who you know Why should we care about having true beliefs? And why do demonstrably false beliefs persist and spread despite bad, even fatal, consequences for the people who hold them? In The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread (Yale University Press, 2018), Cailin …
 
Around the world today, nationalism is back—and it’s often deeply troubling. Populist politicians exploit nationalism for authoritarian, chauvinistic, racist, and xenophobic purposes, reinforcing the view that it is fundamentally reactionary and antidemocratic. But Yael (Yuli) Tamir makes a passionate argument for a very different kind of nationali…
 
During this global pandemic, many of us will experience trauma, which the authors define as a severely stressful life-altering event. A traumatic event is like an earthquake, shattering an individual’s coherent world-view the way an earthquake can shatter the foundations of buildings. A traumatic event is undesirable in the extreme and significant …
 
The Crusader World (Routledge, 2015), edited by Adrian J. Boas, is a multidisciplinary survey of the current state of research in the field of crusader studies, an area of study which has become increasingly popular in recent years. In this volume Adrian Boas draws together an impressive range of academics, including work from renowned scholars as …
 
With the world’s attention riveted to the nuclear threat from Iran, Yaakov Katz’s new book could not be more timely. In Shadow Strike: Inside Israel’s Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power (St. Martin's Press, 2019), Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Katz tells the inside story of how Israel stopped Syria from becoming a global nuclear nigh…
 
Law and Self-Knowledge in the Talmud (Cambridge University Press, 2018) examines the emergence of self-knowledge as a determining legal consideration among the rabbis of Late Antiquity, from the third to the seventh centuries CE. Based on close readings of rabbinic texts from Palestine and Babylonia, Ayelet Hoffmann Libson highlights a unique and s…
 
“The library is a gathering pool of narratives and of the people who come to find them. It is where we can glimpse immortality; in the library, we can live forever.” ― Susan Orlean, The Library Book. Benjamin Balint and Merav Mack's Jerusalem: City of the Book (Yale University Press, 2019) is a fascinating journey through Jerusalem’s libraries whic…
 
“The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” – Genesis 8:21 “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.” - William Shakespeare We share with other animals the experiences of violence; of pain, fear and loss, but human beings are the only species that reflects on those experiences and names their sou…
 
In 1665, Sabbetai Zevi, a self-proclaimed Messiah with a mass following throughout the Ottoman Empire and Europe, announced that the redemption of the world was at hand. As Jews everywhere rejected the traditional laws of Judaism in favor of new norms established by Sabbetai Zevi, and abandoned reason for the ecstasy of messianic enthusiasm, one ma…
 
Anti-Semitic incidents, ranging from vandalism through murder, are on the rise in Great Britain, and across Europe and North America. Julia Neuberger - Senior Rabbi at West London Synagogue, a member of the House of Lords, chair of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, and trustee of Full Fact, an organization dedicated to getting proper information an…
 
Who are the Jews from Arab countries? What were relations with Muslims like? What made Jews leave countries where they had been settled for thousands of years? And what lessons can we learn from the mass exodus of minorities from the Middle East? This neglected piece of history, as ancient as the Bible, and as modern as today’s news, is urgently re…
 
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