Turning Points in Jewish History


Turning Points in Jewish History

Marc J. Rosenstein

480 pages
2 genealogies, 5 maps, index


July 2018


$32.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2018


$32.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

"This book offers an articulate, readable, balanced introduction to Jewish history, one that could be utilized in the classroom or for individual enrichment."—Marie Nuar, Reading Religion

Examining the entire span of Jewish history by focusing on thirty pivotal moments in the Jewish people’s experience from biblical times through the present—essentially the most important events in the life of the Jewish people—Turning Points in Jewish History provides “the big picture”: both a broad and a deep understanding of the Jewish historical experience.

Zeroing in on eight turning points in the biblical period, four in Hellenistic-Roman times, five in the Middle Ages, and thirteen in modernity, Marc J. Rosenstein elucidates each formative event with a focused history, a timeline, a primary text with commentary as an intimate window into the period, and a discussion of its legacy for subsequent generations. Along the way he candidly analyzes various controversies and schisms arising from Judaism’s encounters with power, powerlessness, exile, messianism, rationalism, mysticism, catastrophe, modernity, nationalism, feminism, and more.

The book’s thirty distinct and logically connected events lend themselves to a full course or to customized classes on specific turning points. Discussion questions for every chapter (some in print, more online) facilitate reflection and continuing conversation.

Author Bio

Marc J. Rosenstein is the former director of both the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion’s Israel Rabbinical Program and the Galilee Foundation for Value Education. He is the author of Galilee Diary and the coauthor of Our Place in the Universe: Judaism and the Environment.


"Surveying more than three millennia—from the Call to Abraham in roughly 1500 B.C.E. to the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989—Rosenstein . . . highlights 30 events that have shaped Jewish life. The author effectively captures the essence of each turning point, providing both a timeline and a salient primary text explaining the Jewish understanding of each event. . . . From the beginning, Rosenstein insists that Judaism is a combination of nation, culture, and religion, a fact that will be debated for some time to come. Fortunately, he provides us with the fascinating basics to understand that debate. . . . Each chapter is supremely readable, understandable, and enlightening, making the book a valuable addition to any library."—Kirkus, starred review

"With strong overviews of foundational developments throughout Judaism—the exodus from Egypt, the destruction of the first and second temples, the expulsion of Iberian Jewry, the Holocaust, and the founding of the modern state of Israel—readers will appreciate Rosenstein's evenhanded treatment."—Publishers Weekly

"Particularly helpful for high school students of Jewish history as well as adult learners, in addition to members of other faiths looking for an accessible and yet substantive introduction to the topic, Turning Points in Jewish History is reflective of an experienced educator's passion for historical material alongside its contemporary relevance."—Stu Halpern, Jewish Book Council

"This book offers an articulate, readable, balanced introduction to Jewish history, one that could be utilized in the classroom or for individual enrichment."—Marie Nuar, Reading Religion

"Now Jews and non-Jews in the English-speaking world have a superb new book which enables them to learn Jewish history in a comprehensive and innovative way. . . . Written by a master Jewish educator and erudite Jewish historian, this book will be invaluable for rabbis, educators, and Jewish history professors who are looking for a great new resource for their adult education, high school and university classes. . . . [Turning Points in Jewish History] offers us a sweeping view of Jewish history, one that is totally relevant and related to the complex times in which we live."—Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish, Times of Israel

“The history of the Jewish people is remarkable but very difficult to teach. Here, impressively, Marc Rosenstein conveys the drama and complexity of Jewish history in a single accessible volume. This will be an ideal tool for adult and teen synagogue education as well as university courses.”—Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president emeritus, Union for Reform Judaism

“Rosenstein presents thirty pivotal moments in Jewish history with verve, insight, and pedagogical genius. This book evidences balance, deep knowledge, and a capacious view of the Jewish experience. The primary texts, time lines, and bibliographies are consistently well chosen; the side commentaries reliably guide the reader; and the texts for further discussion hit the sweet spot between canonical and provocative.”—Alan Levenson, Schusterman/Josey Chair in Judaic History at the University of Oklahoma and author of Joseph: Portraits through the Ages

“Fantastic book! An extraordinarily accessible one-volume story of the Jewish people.”—Ron Wolfson, Fingerhut Professor of Education at American Jewish University and author of Relational Judaism​​

Table of Contents

List of Maps
Additional Notes on Biblical Texts
1. Imagining the Beginning: The Call to Abraham, ~1500 BCE?
2. Liberation from Slavery: The Exodus from Egypt, ~1200 BCE?
3. The Covenant: Revelation at Sinai, ~1200 BCE?
4. Entering the Promised Land: Crossing the Jordan, ~1200 BCE?
5. Establishing a State: “Give Us a King!” ~1000 BCE
6. The Fall of Israel: Exile of the Ten Tribes, 722 BCE
7. The Babylonian Exile: The Destruction of the First Temple, 586 BCE
8. The Second Temple: Return to Zion, 538 BCE
9. Confronting the Challenge of Hellenism: The Hasmonean Revolt, 167 BCE
10. Roman Rule: The Great Revolt and Destruction of the Second Temple, 70 CE
11. Finding a Messianic Equilibrium: The Bar Kokhba Revolt, 132–135 CE
12. The Oral Law Becomes Literature: The Mishnah, ~200 CE
13. The Golden Age of Iberian Jewry: Maimonides, 700–1100 CE
14. The Rise of Eastern European Jewry: The Crusades, 1100–1300 CE
15. Kabbalah Enters the Mainstream: Nahmanides, ~1300 CE
16. The End of Iberian Jewry: Conversion, Expulsion, Diaspora, 1300–1600 CE
17. The Rise and Collapse of Polish Jewry: The Cossack Revolt, 1648 CE
18. The Rise of Hasidism: The Baal Shem Tov and His Disciples, ~1750 CE
19. The Challenge of Emancipation: The Napoleonic Sanhedrin, ~1780–1880 CE
20. Reform and Reaction: The Hamburg Temple, 1818 CE
21. The Rise of North American Jewry: The Great Migration, 1881–1924 CE
22. Jewish Nationalism: Theodor Herzl, 1896 CE
23. The Secular Zionist Revolution: Ahad Ha’am, ~1900 CE
24. Zionist Settlement of the Land of Israel: First and Second Aliyot, 1882–1914 CE
25. The Destruction of European Jewry: The Holocaust, 1933–45 CE
26. The Jewish State: Proclaiming and Defending Independence, 1948 CE
27. East Meets West: The Mass Aliyah from North Africa and the Mideast, 1949–64 CE
28. Benefits and Costs of Military Power: The Six-Day War, 1967 CE
29. The Feminist Revolution: The Ordination of Women, 1972 CE
30. The Fall of the Iron Curtain: The Liberation of Soviet Jewry, 1989 CE

Also of Interest