An extraordinary collection of 43 portraits of leading Jewish scholars artists, writers, historical figures and public intellectuals is being published today: Makers of Jewish Modernity: Thinkers, Artists, Leaders, and the World They Made, published by Princeton University Press. The essays are remarkable pieces of original scholarship, worth reading and reflecting upon, even though some of them are (in my view) not entirely right. Overall this is a volume that belongs in every library.
Here is the publisher's summary of the volume:
This superb collection presents more than forty incisive portraits of leading Jewish thinkers, artists, scientists, and other public figures of the last hundred years who, in their own unique ways, engaged with and helped shape the modern world.
Makers of Jewish Modernity features entries on political figures such as Walther Rathenau, Rosa Luxemburg, and David Ben-Gurion; philosophers and critics such as Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler; and artists such as Mark Rothko. The book provides fresh insights into the lives and careers of novelists like Franz Kafka, Saul Bellow, and Philip Roth; the filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen; social scientists such as Sigmund Freud; religious leaders and thinkers such as Avraham Kook and Martin Buber; and many others. Written by a diverse group of leading contemporary scholars from around the world, these vibrant and frequently surprising portraits offer a global perspective that highlights the multiplicity of Jewish experience and thought.
A reference book like no other, Makers of Jewish Modernity includes an informative general introduction that situates its subjects within the broader context of Jewish modernity as well as a rich selection of photos.