New! Essential Lectures in Jewish History Series (Short and Interesting, like a lot of us)

Rosh Hashanah Card, early 20th c. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Rosh Hashanah Card, early 20th c. Source: Wikimedia Commons

This brief lecture inaugurates a new series: Essential Lectures in Jewish History, brief overviews of major themes and periods, designed as introductions to more detailed treatments in the Jewish Biography as History s series. Enjoy in good health! Lectures by Dr. Henry Abramson.

To view the Prezi associated with this lecture, please click here.

7 thoughts on “New! Essential Lectures in Jewish History Series (Short and Interesting, like a lot of us)

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  1. Dear Henry – I hope this note finds you and your family well.

    Laura and I have especially enjoyed your recent presentations on Spinoza and the Arizal. Your capsule summary of Descartes’ philosophy on doubt was terrific. 🙂

    In my researches, I have discovered an article by Louis Ginzburg (JQR 1943) on Saadia’s Siddur and an article on the ethics of ibn Gabirol (JQR 1891) by D. Rosin.

    You may know both these articles. Please let me know if either is of interest and I’d be glad to forward to PDFs to you.

    Best regards,


    1. Thank you David! I’m glad that you and Laura are enjoying the lectures. Please note a small pronunciation error in the Spinoza lecture: a Francophone student pointed out to me that the “t” in Descartes (but not the “s”) should in fact be sounded. I’m interested in the ibn Gabirol article, but I won’t be getting around to that until the Fall series. Thank you for the references!

  2. I really like the topic of Modern Jewish History, especially because of its current relevance in Judaism. The evolution of technology can be bad and good for Judaism. For example, like you said in class, it’s wonderful to be able to connect to other Jews very easily to make a minyan at the last minute. Jewish thoughts and ideas can be spread so easily now. Although, this is for better or for worse. I think that the main goal of Modern Judaism is to be able to keep up with the ever-changing secular world, but stay true to our religious roots. That being said, I think some of our halachas and beliefs need to be tweaked, in order to keep up. Otherwise, it can be too difficult to stay religious in a secular world, and may accidentally lead to people falling off the path of religion. To make everyone happy, we should evolve with modern society, making it work in terms of orthodoxy, so as not to lose too many Jews to secularism.

    1. I agree with Avraham, that we evolve with the modern world in order to increase our Judaism in modern times, and not to fall off the path instead. Inventions like artscroll have been a great addition to Judaism in the modern world. We have all the commentaries and original text in English, so now it is so much simpler for a gentile to convert and understand the stories of our past time.With the internet and our smartphones, laptops, tablets, e-readers, ect… we have virtually all of Tanach and all information one would ever need on Judaism in the palm of our hand or just a click away. There have been an ample amount of good that has come onto Judaism in modern day society.

  3. I appreciate the trilogy of Modern Jewish History and considering/analyzing each as an independent factor when understanding the term.

    With regards to the graph depicting achievement (y-axis) vs. time (x-axis) I really enjoyed the portrayals of
    Christian European POV (descending graph from Ancient to Medieval [1/x]) followed by and exponential growth from Medieval to Modern

    Jewish POV: In contrast the idea you expressed as “Yeridat Hadorot” was evinced through an exponential growth from Ancient to Medieval and then a relatively slow digression into the modern era.

    I would have to (respectfully) question the accuracy of the graphs given the altered criteria. I am confused as to whether the graphs are depicting religious achievement or more technological achievement.

    If the case is the latter, then I would argue that the Jewish curve would remain a straight (horizontal) line as Jews consistently (despite persecution and bigotry) maintained relatively prominent statues and positions in society and were therefore able to proper and achieve in fields such as science and mathematics.

    This was a very well done, informative, and educational video.

    Thank you Dr. Abramson.

  4. Prior to watching this clip if I were asked- what is modern Jewish history? I would not have covered anything i learned from this video. In 14 minutes I was able to get the basic overview of general and jewish modern history. For example, I’ve heard of the term “decline of the generations” in Jewish history, however never knew its meaning. Now I see it showed the slow but steady decline from the ancient time period to the modern period.

    This video gave me an understanding of modernity in general and judaism. In general modernity, the science studies overpowered religion. As someone who is interested in science I was curious to hear you say that when a person were to seek an answer to a question they use to go to a religious figure whereas in the modern period they seemed scientific proof. Most people today will agree with this and ask for concrete proof rather than saying “my rabbi or priest said so” but this reminds me that the two coexist. science can prove religion and Jewish religion created science.

  5. Thank you so much for this lecture. It gives a lot to reflect.
    Aren’t the two graphs more like comparing apple and oranges? The first one looks like it depicts scientific knowledge and prosperity. The second one – as I understood from the lectures – the spirituell authority of the jewish spirituell leader.

    The first graph as such is questionable in its limited view. Is human behaviour, peace, freedom, spirituality (with a peak in medivial times), happiness, human rights etc. reflected?

    The second looks so straight, too simplified, isn’t live wiggly? Weren’t their great spiritual people afterwards? When this reflects spirituell authority, wasn’t the knowledge written down and spread increasing? How shall this be reflected in Jewish live?

    Looking forward to more lectures!

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