Jews and the Amer­i­can Soul: Human Nature in the 20th Century

Andrew R. Heinze
  • Review
By – July 26, 2012

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.

Car­ol Poll, Ph.D., is the retired Chair of the Social Sci­ences Depart­ment and Pro­fes­sor of Soci­ol­o­gy at the Fash­ion Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy of the State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. Her areas of inter­est include the soci­ol­o­gy of race and eth­nic rela­tions, the soci­ol­o­gy of mar­riage, fam­i­ly and gen­der roles and the soci­ol­o­gy of Jews.

Discussion Questions