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Shuva: The Future of the Jewish Past

Brandeis University Press
Publication Year


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

“This is a carefully reasoned and powerful discourse on the interface between history and memory, on the challenge to Jews to live with both the universal and the particular. An essential message to the 21st century Jewish community that our future is based not just on recalling our past but on determining how it has shaped us and deciding how we want to mold it to help us build a strong faith and a value-based future. This is an important guide to living with tension and dissonance, not to “find an answer” but to be a people searching for who we want to become. The reader understands that it is our responsibility as Jews to wrestle with fear and love, with being and aspiring, with passivity and action, with trying to find our own thread in a complex and constantly changing tapestry. We can struggle to learn, to understand and to codify, but we must also accept the unknowable and act in the world without having all the answers.”

Ruth W. Messinger, President, American Jewish World Service

“Shuva is an important and provocative book that asks deep questions about identity, our shared past and the Jewish future. Yehuda Kurtzer has become an important guide to vital issues of memory and meaning.”

Rabbi David Wolpe

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