Saturday, October 22, 2016

Rosenfeld (ed.), What Ifs of Jewish History

What Ifs of Jewish History
From Abraham to Zionism

EDITOR: Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, Fairfield University, Connecticut
DATE PUBLISHED: September 2016
FORMAT: Hardback
ISBN: 9781107037625

What if the Exodus had never happened? What if the Jews of Spain had not been expelled in 1492? What if Eastern European Jews had never been confined to the Russian Pale of Settlement? What if Adolf Hitler had been assassinated in 1939? What if a Jewish state had been established in Uganda instead of Palestine? Gavriel D. Rosenfeld's pioneering anthology examines how these and other counterfactual questions would have affected the course of Jewish history. Featuring essays by sixteen distinguished scholars in the field of Jewish Studies, What Ifs of Jewish History is the first volume to systematically apply counterfactual reasoning to the Jewish past. Written in a variety of narrative styles, ranging from the analytical to the literary, the essays cover three thousand years of dramatic events and invite readers to indulge their imaginations and explore how the course of Jewish history might have been different.

• The first major scholarly study to systematically apply counterfactual reasoning to the Jewish past
• Spans three thousand years of Jewish history, ranging from the Exodus to the founding of the modern State of Israel
• Contributions range from analytical essays to entertaining works of literary fiction
Two of the essays are relevant to ancient Judaism:
1. What if the Exodus had never happened? Steven Weitzman
2. What if the temple of Jerusalem had not been destroyed by the Romans? René Bloch
Regarding the first, I'm not sure that the Exodus did happen, at least as anything like what is described in the Book of Exodus. But this is a mainstream view and I'm sure the author of the essay took account of it.

I have done some work on counterfactual history, including a published article that dealt with the Dead Sea Scrolls. See this post for some relevant discussion, as well as bibliography and links to a couple of my draft essays online.