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Baruch Spinoza Jewish Biography as History Dr. Henry Abramson

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Baruch Spinoza Jewish Biography as History Dr. Henry Abramson

Revered by many as a pivotal figure in modern religious philosophy yet reviled by his contemporaries in the Jewish community of Amsterdam, Baruch Spinoza was placed in herem (excommunication), apparently for his public pronouncements challenging religious doctrine.

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Who was Judah Maccabee? (Jewish Biography as History) by Dr. Henry Abramson

Biography of Judah (Yehudah) Maccabee, important military commander behind the 2nd century BCE Hasmonean revolt against the Syrian-Greeks in ancient Israel. Part of the Jewish History @ Avenue J lecture series, more available at

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Who Was Heinrich Graetz? Jewish Biography as History by Dr. Henry Abramson

Heinrich Graetz (1817-1891) was the first encyclopedic historian of the Jewish people, and his massive 10-volume History of the Jews had a phenomenal impact on the way Jews saw themselves as a nation living in the diaspora.
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Who was Uriel da Costa? Jewish Biography as History Dr. Henry Abramson

Living under the Portuguese Inquisition, Uriel da Costa (1583-1640) fled with his family to Amsterdam to reclaim his Jewish heritage. Tragically, the years of attempting to reconstruct authentic Judaism under the scrutiny of a zealous Church led him, like many crypto-Jews of his generation, to basic misunderstandings about the fundamental ideas and practices of his ancestral religion. A combination of a personal struggle with mental illness and an inability to accept the discrepancy between his imagined Judaism and the way it was actually practiced led him to become an outspoken critic of Jewish leadership as he wandered between Amsterdam, Hamburg and Utrecht. He was censured with repeated excommunication, and ultimately took his own life in 1640 after penning a brief autobiographical statement cataloguing his inner spiritual conflict. His writings are brief and confused, but they had a significant impact on the work of Baruch Spinoza, whose own conflict with traditional Judaism paralleled da Costa's in many ways. Part of the Jewish History as Biography series, more available at
Image: from Henryk Berlewi's book cover to a 1931 Kultur-lige biography of da Costa.
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Who Was Salome? Jewish Biography as History Dr. Henry Abramson

Briefly but notoriously mentioned in both Josephus and the Gospels, Salome was the granddaughter of King Herod who is best known for a salacious performance that resulted in the execution of John the Baptist. Who was Salome, and does her bit part play a significant role in the representation of Jews and Judaism in medieval Christian thought? Part of the Jewish Biography as History series by Dr. Henry Abramson at

Albert Einstein: Time, Space and the Jewish People Jewish History Lecture by Dr. Henry Abramson

A presentation on Albert Einstein (1879-1955), one of the best-known Jews of the twentieth century. Although he had a complicated relationship with Judaism, he maintained a distinct pride in his Jewish identity, and once said A Jew who abandons his Judaism is like a snail that abandons its shell. It's still a snail. The lecture was delivered at the Young Israel of Bal Harbour on May 22, 2013.

Unfortunately, the powerpoint associated with this class could not be used when the lecture was delivered. Please visit the main website (jewishhistorylectures) for updates on revisions.

Judaism and Early Christianity (Essential Lectures in Jewish History) Dr. Henry Abramson

Born in turbulent times, Christianity emerged from its intensely Jewish roots to become the official religion of the Roman Empire within a remarkably brief period of time. As a daughter religion to Judaism, however, dissent between the two faiths slowly dominated the discourse as Christianity became less of a Jewish movement, and more of a choice favored by gentiles throughout the Empire.

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Sa'adia Gaon (Jewish Biography as History) Dr. Henry Abramson

Sa'adia Gaon was an important Jewish philosopher and communal leader of the 9th and 10th centuries, famous in particular for his massive Book of Beliefs and Opinions. A child prodigy to rose to the highest ranks of Jewish scholarship, his thought left an indelible imprint on the Jewish spiritual tradition.

Nicholas Donin (Jewish Biography as History) Dr. Henry Abramson

Lecture on Nicholas Donin, part of the Jewish Biography as History series. Donin, a Jewish convert to Christianity, played an important role in the denunciation of the Talmud to the Church. There isn't a lot of readily available material on his life, so much of this lecture is, in the words of one viewer, mostly talking about what happened to Jews during middle ages and throw in stupid jokes in between. Advanced students of medieval antisemitism may be disappointed, but useful as an introduction to the topic. More lectures available at

Who Was R. David Sintzheim? Jewish Biography as History Dr. Henry Abramson

Appointed as the head of Napoleon's Grand Sanhedrin, respected Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva David Sintzheim created a political modus vivendi for Jews in modern Europe.

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Who Was Avraham Maimuni? Jewish Biography as History by Dr. Henry Abramson

Lecture on the life and work of Avraham ben HaRambam, a major Jewish figure in 13th century Egypt who is perhaps best known through his illustrious father, Maimonides. Part of the Jewish Biography as History series, more available at henryabramson.com.

Crash Course in Jewish History 1. Ancient Israel Dr. Henry Abramson

Part 1 of a lightning-fast, four-lecture tour through Jewish history from earliest times to the present day. Delivered at the Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst, September 4, 2019.

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Who Was Sarra Copia Sulem? Jewish Biography as History Dr. Henry Abramson

When a bright young lover of poetry in early 17th century Venice wrote to a senior literary figure, she was ultimately drawn into a public battle over her refusal to abandon her Jewish faith. Part of the Jewish Biography as History Series, more available at

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Who Was Joseph Perl? Jewish Biography as History Lecture by Dr. Henry Abramson

One of the strongest critics of early Hasidism, Joseph Perl was a fervent advocate of the Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, in 19th century Galicia. Part of the Jewish Biography as History series by Dr. Henry Abramson, more available at

Who Was R. Yaakov Emden? Jewish Biography as History Dr. Henry Abramson

Intimidated by neither power nor position, Rabbi Yaakov Emden left a remarkable literary legacy in the form of his autobiography, Megilat Sefer. This brief lecture provides an overview of his life and work, including his epic controversy with Rabbi Yonasan Eibeschutz.

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Who Was Aaron of Lincoln? Jewish Biography as History by Dr. Henry Abramson

Reputed to be the wealthiest man in 11th century England--wealthier even than the King--Aaron of Lincoln was a hugely successful moneylender whose achievements included the financing of many cathedrals. His story, while exceptional in terms of scope, is nevertheless instructive of the Jewish experience in the medieval economy as a whole. Part of the Jewish Biography as History series by Dr. Henry Abramson (more lectures available at henryabramson.com).

Who Was Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Arizal)? Jewish Biography Lecture Dr. Henry Abramson

Emerging from the sixteenth-century Safed Circle of Jewish mystics, Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Arizal) was a pivotal figure in the history of Kabbalah. His influence on later Jewish movements, in particular Hasidism, is still felt to this day.

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American Jewish History (Essential Lectures in Jewish History) Dr. Henry Abramson

Brief overview of the history of Jewish immigration to the United States and demographic developments to the beginning of the 21st century.

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Rabbi Israel Meir Kahan, the Chofetz Chaim (Jewish Biography as History)

The Chofetz Chaim was one of the most influential Rabbinic thinkers of the late 19th and early 20th century. Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan is known principally for his dramatically creative analysis of the topic of forbidden speech (lashon ha-ra), and rose to prominence as a major scholar-leader of the Jewish people. Part of the Jewish Biography as History lecture series by Dr. Henry Abramson, more lectures available at

Origins of Modern Jewish Humor (Essential Lectures in Jewish History) Dr. Henry Abramson

This is a more-or-less scholarly discussion of the origins of modern Jewish history in Enlightenment Europe. Warning: there are a few jokes in this video, but they only start around the 15 minute mark. The rest is more theoretical and historical. Part of the Essential Lectures in Jewish History series, more available at

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