This is the first comprehensive history of the pietistic movement that shaped modern Judaism. The book’s unique blend of intellectual, religious, and social history offers perspectives on the movement’s leaders as well as its followers, and demonstrates that, far from being a throwback to the Middle Ages, Hasidism is a product of modernity that forged its identity as a radical alternative to the secular world.
Hasidism originated in southeastern Poland, in mystical circles centered on the figure of Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, but it was only after his death in 1760 that a movement began to spread. Challenging the notion that Hasidism ceased to be a creative movement after the eighteenth century, this book argues that its first golden age was in the nineteenth century, when it conquered new territory, won a mass following, and became a mainstay of Jewish Orthodoxy. World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the Holocaust decimated eastern European Hasidism. But following World War II, the movement enjoyed a second golden age, growing exponentially. Today, it is witnessing a remarkable renaissance in Israel, the United States, and other countries around the world.
Written by an international team of scholars, Hasidism is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand this vibrant and influential modern Jewish movement.
Awards and Recognition
- One of Choice Reviews' Outstanding Academic Titles of 2018
David Biale is the Emanuel Ringelblum Distinguished Professor of Jewish History at the University of California, Davis. David Assaf is professor of Jewish history at Tel Aviv University. Benjamin Brown is professor of Jewish thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Uriel Gellman is lecturer in Jewish history at Bar-Ilan University. Samuel Heilman is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Moshe Rosman is professor of Jewish history at Bar-Ilan University. Gadi Sagiv is senior lecturer in Jewish history at the Open University of Israel. Marcin Wodziński is professor of Jewish studies at the University of Wrocław.
"Hasidism . . . is a tremendous work of research."—Shalom Auslander, Times Literary Supplement
"Hasidism: A New History . . . is a monumental scholarly achievement and a great contribution to the understanding of one of the most important movements in Jewish life in the modern period."—Moshe Halbertal, New York Review of Books
"For this remarkably well-researched and expansive history of Hasidism, a team of scholars has collaborated to produce an intelligent and eminently readable exploration of a branch of Judaism that has made an extraordinary mark on Jewish life. . . . This effort is rich with detail and insight, and captures the vibrancy and innovation of a thriving, multifaceted movement. It belongs on the bookshelf of any serious student of Jewish history."—Publishers Weekly
"The book is notable for smashing various well-worn myths about Hasidism, and presenting new insights that place the movement at the center of European Jewish history, a major shaper of that history rather than a marginal aberration."—Sue Fishkoff, Jweekly
"These eight modern sages managed to produce a fascinating book that embodies their collective wisdom and style in a seamless and highly illuminating work of authorship. This, too, strikes me as something of a miracle."—Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal
"Enormously informative, monumental volume."—George Prochnik, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Likely to be the definitive work on Judaism’s equivalent of charismatic Protestantism."—Marvin Olasky, World
"Hasidic Jews are among the most highly visible and fastest growing of all the world's Jewish subcultures. They are also among the least understood and enigmatic of Jewish communities. The veil of obscurity has been lifted thanks to this volume, which represents the very latest and best scholarship on Hasidism’s history and culture. A cause for celebration, Hasidism is a magnificent achievement."—John M. Efron, author of German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic
"The world of Hasidism can be enthralling with just the double edge that the word implies. But how did it come into being and how has it survived, this uncanny Jewish cousin of European modernity itself? Hasidism answers that compelling question better than it has ever been answered before."—Jack Miles, general editor of The Norton Anthology of World Religions
"A landmark book—the only one that treats the entire history of Hasidism."—Gershon David Hundert, author of Jews in Poland-Lithuania in the Eighteenth Century
"This extensive and authoritative volume is unprecedented in its scope, breadth, and depth. It provides the first real comprehensive history of Hasidism that spans the entire movement from its beginnings to the present."—Shaul Magid, author of Hasidism Incarnate: Hasidism, Christianity, and the Construction of Modern Judaism