Library Book Talk: Dr. Ari Mermelstein

By Marlene Schiffman
Catalog Librarian
Mendel Gottesman Library

Power and Emotion in Ancient Judaism: Community and Identity in Formation

Dr. Ari Mermelstein shared insights from his new book, Power and Emotion in Ancient Judaism: Community and Identity in Formation, about Jewish identity and emotional norms.On Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, Dr. Ari Mermelstein shared insights from his new book, Power and Emotion in Ancient Judaism: Community and Identity in Formation (Cambridge University Press, 2021). Ancient Jewish writers contend that Jewish identity entails not only allegiance to G-d and performance of the commandments, but also acquisition of specific emotional norms. These norms were both shaped by and responses to networks of power—G-d, foreign empires, and other groups of Jews—which threatened Jews’ sense of agency.

According to these writers, “emotional communities” that “felt Jewish” would succeed in neutralizing the power wielded over them by others and, depending on the circumstances, restore their power to acculturate, maintain Jewish identity, and achieve redemption.

An important contribution to the history of emotions, this book argues that power relations are the basis for historical changes in emotion discourse.

During the event, Dr. Mermelstein laid out the basics of his book’s arguments and took questions from the audience.

(Watch the talk on YouTube.)