In his new book, Kurtzer has tried to advance an almost theological approach with regard to “how Jews in the past take things historically very real to them and still craft a system where they could take what they needed from the past and leave what they didn’t need behind, in some ways transcending history… If it going to matter to Jews about the past, it has to not be about historic memory but about mythic meaning.”
offers a roadmap for revitalizing the connection between the Jewish people and the Jewish past. Modern Jews tend to relate to the past through “history,” which relies on empirical demonstration and rational thought, rather than through “memory,” which relies on the non-rational architectures of mythology. By now “history” has surpassed “memory” as a means of relating to the past – a development that falls short in building identity and creates disconnection between Jews and their collective history. Kurtzer seeks to mend this breach. Drawing on key classical texts, he shows that “history” and “memory” are not exclusive and that the perceived dissonance between them can be healed by a selective reclamation of the past and a translation of that past into purposefulness.
“Shuva is a book of rare academic and spiritual depth. In its pages, Yehuda Kurtzer draws effortlessly and brilliantly upon Jewish and western intellectual and religious traditions to create a work of constructive Jewish thought at its best. Shuva should be read and considered by all who are interested in charting a course for a Judaism that is intellectually compelling and religiously vibrant now and in the future.” – Rabbi David Ellenson, President, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion