Han­nah Arendt and Lucy Daw­id­ow­icz: Zion­ism & Israel in the Minds of Two Great Intellectuals

Thursday, February 25, 2021


In part­ner­ship with Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and Natan Fund

*View a record­ing of this pro­gram on Face­book or YouTube.*

Han­nah Arendt (19061975), the Ger­man Jew­ish polit­i­cal philoso­pher, is an icon, revered by many intel­lec­tu­als in her day – and now – as well as by the pub­lic. Her writ­ings on anti­semitism, Zion­ism, total­i­tar­i­an­ism, and the Holo­caust are reg­u­lar­ly invoked. Less so the writ­ings of anoth­er major post­war female Jew­ish intel­lec­tu­al, Lucy S. Daw­id­ow­icz (19151990), whose life and work cov­ered much of the same intel­lec­tu­al ter­ri­to­ry as Arendt’s. Yet the two held adver­sar­i­al posi­tions about the most press­ing issues con­fronting Jews in the 20th cen­tu­ry, issues that are still very rel­e­vant today. Join Natan Fund, Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, and three Natan Book hon­orees, Susie Lin­field, Nan­cy Sinkoff, and James Loef­fler, in a dis­cus­sion of how these two for­mi­da­ble intel­lec­tu­als wres­tled with the mean­ing of the Holo­caust, Jew­ish polit­i­cal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, Zion­ism, and Israel.


Nan­cy Sinkoff is Pro­fes­sor of Jew­ish Stud­ies and His­to­ry and the Aca­d­e­m­ic Direc­tor of the Allen and Joan Bild­ner Cen­ter for the Study of Jew­ish Life at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty. She is author, most recent­ly, of From Left to Right: Lucy S. Daw­id­ow­icz, the New York Intel­lec­tu­als, and the Pol­i­tics of Jew­ish His­to­ry (2020), the win­ner of the fall 2020 Natan Notable Book award and the 2020 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award for Biog­ra­phy in Mem­o­ry of Sara Beren­son Stone, and the co-edit­ed vol­ume (with Rebec­ca Cypess), Sara Levy’s World: Gen­der, Judaism, and the Bach Tra­di­tion in Enlight­en­ment Berlin (2018), win­ner of the out­stand­ing book prize from the Jew­ish Stud­ies and Music Study Group of the Amer­i­can Musi­co­log­i­cal Soci­ety. Her first book, Out of the Shtetl: Mak­ing Jews Mod­ern in the Pol­ish Bor­der­lands, has recent­ly been reis­sued dig­i­tal­ly with a new pref­ace (Brown Juda­ic Stud­ies, 2020). Its pro­tag­o­nist, Mendel Lefin of Satanów, is part of the core exhib­it, Encoun­ters with Moder­ni­ty,” in Polin: Muse­um of the His­to­ry of Pol­ish Jews in War­saw, on which Pro­fes­sor Sinkoff consulted.

Pro­fes­sor Sinkoff is a recip­i­ent of numer­ous fel­low­ships, includ­ing those from the Mel­lon Foun­da­tion, the IIE Ful­bright Asso­ci­a­tion, the Amer­i­can Coun­cil of Learned Soci­eties, the Nation­al Foun­da­tion for Jew­ish Cul­ture, the Cen­ter for Advanced Juda­ic Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, Yale University’s Bei­necke Library, the Frankel Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Archives in Cincin­nati, and the USC Shoah Foun­da­tion. In 2016 – 2017, she was the Eliz­a­beth J. Dil­worth Fel­low in His­tor­i­cal Stud­ies at the Insti­tute for Advanced Study, Prince­ton, NJ.

Susie Lin­field is the author of The Cru­el Radi­ance: Pho­tog­ra­phy and Polit­i­cal Vio­lence (Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 2010), which was short-list­ed for the Nation­al Book Crit­ics Cir­cle Award in Crit­i­cism, and of The Lions’ Den: Zion­ism and the Left from Han­nah Arendt to Noam Chom­sky (Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press), which was co-win­ner of the Natan Notable Books in 2019. Her essays on cul­ture and pol­i­tics have appeared in a wide array of pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing the New York Times, the Nation, The New Repub­lic, and the New York Review of Books Dai­ly. Lin­field is an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at New York Uni­ver­si­ty, where she teach­es cul­tur­al journalism.

James Loef­fler is Jay Berkowitz Pro­fes­sor of Jew­ish His­to­ry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia, where he also serves as the Ida and Nathan Kolodiz Direc­tor of the Jew­ish Stud­ies Pro­gram. His books include Root­ed Cos­mopoli­tans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry and The Most Musi­cal Nation: Jews and Cul­ture in the Late Russ­ian Empire. He is co-edi­tor of the Asso­ci­a­tion for Jew­ish Stud­ies Review and Kogod Senior Research Fel­low at the Shalom Hart­man Insti­tute in New York City.