Moses Mendelssohn’s Living Script

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My first book, Moses Mendelssohn’s Living Script: Philosophy, Practice, History, Judaism, was published by Indiana University Press in 2017. The book explores the account of Jewish practice developed by Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), the German-Jewish philosopher generally seen as the founder of modern Jewish thought. Reading Mendelssohn’s well-known German works alongside his neglected Hebrew writings, I call for a far-reaching reassessment of this influential figure, recovering previously unrecognized arguments by Mendelssohn about philosophy, citizenship, and religious authority, and showing that his thought has much to offer broader conversations about modernity and religion. Arguing that a concern with history stands at the center of his approach to topics ranging from science to politics to exegesis, I suggest that his writings not only shed light on a foundational moment in Jewish modernity, but also open up new ways of thinking about ritual practice, the development of traditions, and the role of religion in society.

Copies are available here (Amazon) and here (IUP).

You can listen to an interview about the book on the New Books in Jewish Studies podcast here.

You can find a recent review of the book in the Journal of Religion here.

You can find my reflections on the relevance of Mendelssohn’s Hebrew writings in post-2016 America at the Oxford University Press blog here.

I am currently working on a second book, Nachman Krochmal and the Struggle for Modern Jewish Politics, on Nachman Krochmal (1785-1840), one of modernity’s first Eastern Europe’s Jewish philosophers. A businessman, teacher, and communal leader born in what is now Ukraine, he is often described as central to Judaism’s encounter with developments such as historicism, biblical criticism, and German Idealism. However, his work is rarely subject to scrutiny, especially in North America, and his unfinished Hebrew magnum opus—published posthumously as The Guide of the Perplexed of the Time—remains largely unavailable in English. My book seeks to recover Krochmal’s thought for contemporary readers, proposing a far-reaching reinterpretation of his philosophical goals and drawing on his work to rethink the emergence and contours of Jewish modernity.