Hannah Arendt (1906−1975), 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 (1915−1990), 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 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.