In this installment of â€œFrom the Academy,â€? Professor David Myers, Director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, tells us about some of his recent research and academic work.
I am a scholar of modern Jewish history whose main interest has been to study the way in which modern Jewish historians make use of history to work through their own personal/existential and broader ideological inclinations.
It would be rather naÃ¯ve to claim that my own work as an historian is unconnected to my own sense of self as a Jew — or my own concern about the Jewish commonweal today. Indeed, I belong to a long tradition of Jewish historians for whom this connection is evident. Perhaps my only merit is that I’m a bit more willing to admit it than most predecessors were.
My forthcoming book,
Between Jew and Arab: The Lost Voice of Simon Rawidowicz
(Brandeis University Press, 2008) pushes to the fore the connection between the past and present — and my own willing embrace of this link.
The protagonist of the book, Rawidowicz (1897-1957), was one of the last and most distinctive participants in a vibrant debate over the contours of Jewish nationalism. The uniqueness of Rawidowicz’s perspective lay in his project of “Babylon and Jerusalem” — that is, his belief that the Jewish nation could only survive by recognizing and supporting its two main components: the Jewish center in the Land of Israel and the Jewish population in the Diaspora.
Advancing one to the exclusion of the other — as most other Jewish nationalists advocated — would harm the overall well-being of the Jewish nation. The task of Between Jew and Arab is two-fold: first, to call attention to Rawidowicz’s unique and still-relevant view of Jewish nationalism; and second, to shed light on an unpublished essay of his in which he argues that the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 imposes a serious moral and political obligation on the Jews to treat with respect the Arab population of Israel — and the refugees who took leave of the country during the 1948 War.