Jews and the American Soul: Human Nature in the 20th Century by Andrew R. Heinze is a scholarly history of ideas tracing Judaism’s influence on modern thinking not only in America but also in Europe, and far beyond the boundaries of the 20th century. This ambitious work covers such topics as the synthesis of Jewish and American morality; American Humanism; the Holocaust; Hasidism; and suffering and redemption. It draws upon a wide variety of disciplines including history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and Talmudic and Rabbinic literature.
For the scholar, reading this book will be pure joy, but for the average person it may prove a daunting task. Acase in point is the chapter “Freud and Adler: The Rise of Jewish Psychoanalytic Moralism.” It is filled with detailed information about the lives of Freud and Adler and their immersion in Judaism. It locates Freud and Adler within the larger context of Jewish thought and culture and provides a history of the German and Austrian intellectual milieu in which they developed their ideas. For those who are committed to tracing the development of the foundational thinking of psychoanalysis and psychology this chapter is obligatory reading, but for the average reader the degree of detail may be burdensome.
Andrew R. Heinze is professor of American history and director of the Swig Judaic Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. He has written widely on history, religion and current events, and is the author of Adapting to Abundance.