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What Ifs of Jewish History
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Book description

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 enduring value of counterfactual approaches emerges clearly from Gavriel Rosenfeld’s ably constructed collection of perceptive and exciting essays. The volume is a major contribution to the method as well as to Jewish history.'

Jeremy Black - University of Exeter, and author of Other Pasts, Different Presents, Alternative Futures

‘Gavriel Rosenfeld has produced a marvellously imaginative book. While it is not 'history' in the conventional sense, it is certain to be appreciated, even treasured, by scholars and all of those deeply concerned with the fate of European Jewry.’

Michael Berkowitz - University College London

‘Counterfactual thinking is implicit in Jewish culture, from the grumbling of the liberated slaves about the watermelons they would have enjoyed in Egypt to the ‘Dayenu’ song in the Passover Seder. Entertaining and educational, What Ifs of Jewish History makes explicit the main junctures in Jewish history by imagining what would have been otherwise, including a Jewish state in Africa and a Christian state in Israel, a world without Jews and history without the Holocaust.’

Aviezer Tucker - author of Our Knowledge of the Past: A Philosophy of Historiography

'So why not a counterfactual? They are essential to making causal claims, normative judgments, and identity construction. The contributors to this fascinating volume conduct a series of sophisticated and eminently plausible counterfactual experiments towards these ends. Readers will learn much about Jewish history, European and Middle Eastern history.'

Ned Lebow - King's College London

'What Ifs of Jewish History as a whole earns my recommendation. Its writing is not as dense as other counterfactual tomes I have come across and its fictional entries mean that [it] is accessible to a casual historian. Go check it out and learn a thing or two about Jewish history by visiting some different Earths.'

Matt Mitrovich Source: Amazing Stories

'Editor Gavriel Rosenfeld … makes a convincing case in his introduction that Jewish historians have, for various reasons, been largely reluctant to jump aboard the counterfactual train. This book, he contends, is the first serious counterfactual examination of Jewish history. The flavorful and abundant food for thought to be found here suggests that it’s probably about time.'

Chris Leppek Source: Intermountain Jewish News

'Given the controversial nature of counterfactuals, then, it is quite an achievement that Gavriel D. Rosenfeld has gathered fifteen scholars to contribute to What Ifs of Jewish History: From Abraham to Zionism … Some scholars will always want to know what happened, and some will always speculate. In What Ifs of Jewish History, the questions are more important than the answers. Recommended.'

Elka Weber Source: Segula: The Jewish Journey Through History

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