Celebration of two new Jewish Studies books Nov. 13

book covers by UCSC humanities faculty

UCSC’s Center for Jewish Studies and University Library will present a celebration of two new books on Jewish Studies--featuring emeritus history professor Peter Kenez; professor of English and comparative literature Murray Baumgarten; and librarian Lee Jaffe--on Wednesday, November 13, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at UCSC’s Stevenson College (Silverman Conference Room)

The authors and editors will discuss their recently published books: The Coming of the Holocaust: From Anti-Semitism to Genocide by Peter Kenez, and The Jewish Street: The City and Modern Jewish Writing by Murray Baumgarten and Lee Jaffe

Admission is free, and refreshments will be served.

Featuring more than 40 stories highlighting the complex relationship Jews have forged with city life, The Jewish Street: The City and Modern Jewish Writing addresses the diversity and creativity of Jewish urban experience over nearly five centuries--from India to Odessa, South Africa to Los Angeles, and points between.

"It's an anthology with an international reach, bringing writers from five continents and many languages together under one cover,” said Baumgarten, who edited the collection with Jaffe.

“It's the first fully global Jewish writing collection -- with wonderful classic and riveting modern tales,” he added.

Jaffe noted that the idea for the anthology came about when Baumgarten was looking for an anthology he could use for a modern Jewish writing class he was preparing.

“Murray’s preferred collection was out-of-print,” said Jaffe. “After researching available collections for him, without finding anything that suited his teaching needs, he told me, ‘You and I should write our own anthology.’ I didn't know Murray well enough at that point to realize he was serious. Three years later, here we are, with a brand new book.”

Jaffe added that the collection mixes well-known authors and works with some hidden gems by lesser-known writers, some never before collected in an anthology of Jewish writers. Baumgarten and Jaffe co-authored the introduction and Jaffe contributed a bibliographic study of Jewish anthologies to the appendix.

The Coming of the Holocaust:
 From Antisemitism to Genocide by Peter Kenez-- a Holocaust survivor and native of Hungary--is a comparative study of the prerequisites for mass murder in countries occupied by the Nazis during the second world war.

Kenez demonstrates that the Holocaust was not predetermined as a result of modern history, but instead was the result of contingencies.

He shows that three preconditions had to exist for the genocide to take place: modern anti-Semitism, meaning Jews had to become economically and culturally successful in the post-French Revolution world to arouse fear rather than contempt; an extremist group possessing a deeply held, irrational, and profoundly inhumane worldview had to take control of the machinery of a powerful modern state; and the context of a major war with mass killings.

The book also discusses the correlations between social and historical differences in individual countries regarding the success of the Germans in their effort to exterminate Jews.

As Stanford University’s Norman M. Naimark notes:

“The distinguished UC Santa Cruz historian Peter Kenez has taken on the daunting and complex task of explaining the origins of the 'Final Solution'. He does so with deep erudition, perfect moral balance, patient reasoning, and crystal-clear prose. The Coming of the Holocaust will surely become the standard introduction to this painful and important subject.”