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Baruch Spinoza Jewish Biography as History Dr. Henry Abramson

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Benjamin Disraeli: Jewish-Born Prime Minister of England (Jewish Biography as History)

Baptized at age 12 as the result of his father's dispute with a synagogue, Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) rose to prominence as a novelist and politician, serving several times as England's Prime Minister. Colorful and flamboyant, Disraeli dismissed his antisemitic critics by emphasizing, rather than downplaying, his Jewish origins.
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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 Paul of Tarsus? Jewish Biography as History Dr. Henry Abramson

Credited with the popularization of Christianity, Saul (later Paul) of Tarsus was influential in mediating Jewish ideas to an increasingly Gentile audience. Combining appealing concepts such as life after death and a personal Deity with a relaxed approach to the requirements of Rabbinic Judaism, the former Pharisee succeeded in spreading Christianity well beyond its narrow origins among a small group of Jews in Jerusalem to become a massively powerful world religion, albeit distant from its Jewish origins.Lecture delivered at the Young Israel of Bal Harbour on October 16, 2013.

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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 Joshua? Israel: The Land and its People, Part II by Dr. Henry Abramson

The Bible describes how the Jewish people, emerging from Egyptian servitude and decades of wandering in the Sinai desert, followed Joshua’s military leadership to conquer the Land of Israel and establish the ancient foundations of their Torah-centered society. This lecture will survey the archeological and historical record to understand the larger context of the Biblical account. Part II of Israel: The Land and its People.

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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.

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 Bar Kochba Jewish Biography as History Dr. Henry Abramson

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Who was Vladimir Jabotinsky? Jewish History @ J with Dr. Henry Abramson

Zionist ideologue and multi-lingual journalist, Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky was one of the most influential political thinkers of the early twentieth century. Frequently swimming against the tide of dominant Jewish movements, Jabotinsky was most effective in the opposition. He borrowed freely from many intellectual sources to craft a right-wing ideology that endures to the present day. Part of the Jewish History @ J series, more available at

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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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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.

Crash Course in Jewish History 3.Modern History

Third in a four-part series in Jewish History. Lecture delivered at the Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst on September 18, 2019.

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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Jonathan Israel: How Spinoza Was a Revolutionary Thinker- Stroum Lectures 2017

Jonathan Israel of the Institute for Advanced Study argues that Baruch Spinoza's ideas about religion were revolutionary-- and that they paved the way for the modern human rights movement.

This lecture was presented on May 21, 2017 as part of the annual Stroum Lecture series hosted by the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington, part of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.

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The Stroum Center for Jewish Studies believes that comments are a valuable source of dialogue and wants to include your thoughts as part of the conversation. To create a welcoming space for all, we publish comments that are respectful and relevant to the conversation.

Sarah, Wife of Shabbetai Tsvi (Jewish Biography as History) Dr. Henry Abramson

Orphaned by the Eastern European pogroms of 1648-49, the volatile Sarah became the spouse of the infamous messianic pretender. Her life, filled with controversy, illustrates the egalitarian elements in Shabbetai Tsvi's antinomian message.

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Who Was Nahmanides? Israel: The Land and its People

A brilliant 13th-century scholar of Rabbinic thought, Nahmanides’ defense of Judaism in a forced Church-sponsored debate earned him exile from his native Spain. An elderly sage, he emigrated to the Land of Israel, where he found a tiny Jewish community, desperately hanging onto the traditions of their ancestors. Summoning upon an immense reserve of energy, Nahmanides single-handedly resurrected the community living under Islamic rule and laid the foundation for a Jewish renaissance.
Part IX of the lecture series “ISRAEL: The Land and its People” offered during the Spring 2017 semester at the mighty Avenue J campus of Touro College. Free and open to the community. Sponsorships are available at bit.ly/thefriendsofjewishhistory.

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Who was Emma Goldman? Jewish History @ J Dr. Henry Abramson

“If I can’t dance to it, it isn’t my revolution!” A fiery orator and fearless iconoclast, Emma Goldman was one of the most notorious and controversial left-wing thinkers of turn-of-the 20th century America.

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Who Was Sigmund Freud? Jewish Biography as History

A brief biography of Sigmund Freud, with emphasis on his Jewish background and identity. Part of the Jewish Biography as History Series, more available at

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Who Was Moses Maimonides? The Life of the Mind Jewish Biography as History Dr. Henry Abramson

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (1135-1204) was a towering figure in medieval Jewish history, and continues to cast a long shadow into the Jewish present. Nevertheless, the work of the philosopher-physician endured significant controversy, including an especially sad episode in which Jews actually consigned his works to the flames. Lecture delivered at Young Israel of Bal Harbour-Surfside.

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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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