Modern Middle Eastern Jewish Thought: Writings on Identity, Politics, and Culture, 1893–1958

Edited by Moshe Behar and Zvi Ben-Dor Benite

Cover of "Modern Middle Eastern Jewish Thought"

This volume opens the canon of modern Jewish thought to the all too often overlooked writings of Jews from the Arab East, from the close of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th. Whether they identified as Sephardim, Mizrahim, anticolonialists or Zionists, these thinkers engaged the challenges and transformations of Middle Eastern Jewry in this decisive period.

Moshe Behar and Zvi Ben-Dor Benite present Jewish culture and politics situated within overlapping Arabic, Islamic and colonial contexts. The authors invite the reader to reconsider contemporary evocations of Levantine, Mizrahi and Arab Jewish identities against the backdrop of writings by earlier Middle Eastern Jewish intellectuals who critically assessed or contested the implications of Western presence and Western Jewish presence in the Middle East; religion and secularization; and the rise of nationalism, communism and Zionism, as well as the State of Israel.

“Moshe Behar and Zvi Ben-Dor Benite have done a great service to scholarship by bringing together sources that reflect the robust discourse among Jewish intellectuals of Middle Eastern origin. They are to be heartily commended for this important act of historical reclamation.” —David N. Myers, UCLA

“Pathbreaking and compelling, ‘Modern Middle Eastern Jewish Thought’ is a sorely needed intervention in Jewish intellectual history. This book should be taught widely in college courses on Jewish and Middle Eastern history.” —Lital Levy, Princeton University

“For complex political, historical, cultural and linguistic reasons, the sources gathered in this book are virtually unknown. The editors must be commended for their meticulous presentation and the spirit in which this essential labor has been undertaken. This landmark collection opens the floodgates to new research in many fields.” —Ammiel Alcalay, author of After Jews and Arabs

“One of the most significant contributions to the study of the transformations of identities among the vibrant communities of Middle Eastern Jewry”—Reuven Snir, University of Haifa

“The views of Sephardi and Mizrahi intellectuals on political, religious, cultural, and social issues are often missing in discussions regarding modern Jewish thought. In order to overcome this deficiency, Behar and Ben-Dor Benite chose samples from the writings of nineteen Jews (including two women) from the Arab East, written during 1893-1958 in Hebrew, English, French and Arabic (all provided in English) in order to familiarize scholars, students and interested readers in the diversity of opinion among Sephardim and Mizrahim...Presenting the views of these thinkers is an important contribution to the field of modern Jewish thought in general and to Sephardi and Mizrahi studies in particular.” —Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

About the Authors