What is the significance of Jew? How has this word come to have such varied and charged meanings? Who has (and has not) used...

What is the significance of Jew? How has this word come to have such varied and charged meanings? Who has (and has not) used it, and why? Cynthia Baker explores these questions and more in her new book Jew, part of the “Key Words in Jewish Studies” series at Rutgers University Press.

In a set of absorbing case studies, Baker tracks the history of the word Jew from antiquity to the present. Among other topics, she writes about the debates concerning the terms Jews, Ioudaioi, and Judeans; the uses of yid in Yiddish; the emerging discourses about new Jews; and the genealogics of the twentiethcentury. In the course of her study, Baker exposes a number of problems that pertain to this key word, including the troubled relation between ethnicity and religion, the implications and impasses of translation, and the responsibility of the scholar in the face of the complex and often painful history of Jew. A compelling intervention in Jewish Studies, the book also opens provocative new avenues for research across the humanities and social sciences.

For more information about Jew, a collection of fascinating responses can be read in the Marginalia Forum organized by Shaul Magid and Annette Yoshiko Reed for the LA Review of Books.

Cynthia M. Baker is Professor of Religious Studies at Bates College, where she is also Chair of the Religious Studies Department. In addition to Jew, she is the author of Rebuilding the House of Israel: Architectures of Gender in Jewish Antiquity (Stanford University Press, 2002).


Mendel Kranz is a PhD student in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Matthew Johnson is a PhD student in Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago

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