Modern French Jewish Thought: Writings on Religion and Politics

Sarah Hammerschlag, editor

cover of "Modern French Jewish Thought: Writings on Religion and Politics."An illuminating anthology that traces the trajectory of Jewish thought in twentieth-century France

“Modern Jewish thought” is often defined as a German affair, with interventions from Eastern European, American and Israeli philosophers. The story of France’s development of its own schools of thought has not been substantially treated outside the French milieu.

This anthology of modern French Jewish writing offers the first look at how this significant and diverse body of work developed within the historical and intellectual contexts of France and Europe. Translated into English, these documents speak to two critical axes—the first between Jewish universalism and particularism, and the second between the identification and disidentification of French Jews with France as a nation. Offering key works from Simone Weil, Vladimir Jankélévitch, Emmanuel Levinas, Albert Memmi, Hélène Cixous, Jacques Derrida and many others, this volume is organized in roughly chronological order, to highlight the connections linking religion, politics and history, as they coalesce around a Judaism that is unique to France.

“The well-chosen texts in this carefully edited volume highlight the uniqueness of the French Jewish experience. At the same time, they make a powerful case for the centrality of French writers to the evolution of modern Jewish thought.” —Maurice Samuels, author of The Right to Difference: French Universalism and the Jews

“In this splendid volume, Hammerschlag makes it possible, for the first time, to understand French Jewish thought as an important intellectual tradition in its own right, one with much to say about the key issues that still animate passionate debates in France and across the diaspora today.” —Lisa Moses Leff, American University

“This is much more than an anthology. Brilliantly composed and introduced by one of the most learned and astute scholars in the field, it is a treasure trove of insights into contemporary debates about identity and belonging, particularism and universality, and the intertwined fates of politics and religion.” —Vivian Liska, author of German-Jewish Thought and its Afterlife: A Tenuous Legacy

“This volume offers the thoughts of an array of stellar and passionate thinkers on dilemmas of Jewish continuity in republican and secular modernity. Those dilemmas, never fully resolved, remain urgently relevant to Jewish politics and identity today.” —Jonathan Boyarin, Cornell University

“Hammerschlag’s introduction is a beautiful piece of scholarship which looks at the historical discourse from the vantage point of theoretical attempts at making sense of a diasporic experience which indeed sheds light not only on the precarious situation of Jews in France’s history but also, by an extension offered in many a reflection presented in the volume) on the predicaments of minorities in contemporary Europe in general.” —Thomas Nolden, EuropeNow

"In this anthology, Sarah Hammerschlag offers readers a dive into the deep reservoir of modern French Jewish thought. Her brilliantly curated book is presented in roughly chronological order, exploring Jewish philosophy and theology as a response to shifting contexts.... a fabulously rendered anthology that can launch readers into the brilliance of modern French Jewish thought, where a captivating universe of new thinkers remains to be discovered for many English readers, students, and more seasoned scholars alike." —Jonathan Judaken, H-Judaic

Sarah Hammerschlag is Professor of religion and literature in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. She is the author of The Figural Jew: Politics and Identity in Postwar French Thought and Broken Tablets: Levinas, Derrida, and the Literary Afterlife of Religion.