New Book | The Jewish Journey: 4000 Years in 22 Objects

Posted in books by Editor on December 12, 2017

Distributed by ACC Publishing:

Rebecca Abrams, The Jewish Journey: 4000 Years in 22 Objects from the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2017), 232 pages, ISBN: 978 191080 7033, $20.

The 22 objects include pottery, coins, jewelry, household artifacts, sacred items, musical instruments and paintings. Together they bring to life the experiences of the real men and women who owned, made and used them, from kings, courtiers and scholars to guerrilla fighters, musicians and market stall holders. Individually and collectively, the objects vividly document dark periods of persecution and forced migration, whilst highlighting the astonishing resilience and diversity of Jewish life, revealing centuries of two-way interaction with many other cultures and religions. Through the histories of each of the objects, the reader is guided on a double journey, one leading through the galleries of the Ashmolean, the other accompanying the Jewish people across the centuries. The Jewish Journey brings to light for the first time the amazing Jewish treasures in the Ashmolean Museum, explaining their specifically Jewish significance in a direct, accessible style for the general reader.

The Jewish Journey is unique in three respects. First, it is a short, accessible, illustrated history of the Jewish people aimed at the general public. Secondly, the book is unique in highlighting Jewish objects drawn from the permanent collection of a world-renowned public museum. Jewish history is more normally confined to dedicated Jewish museums. This book breaks new ground by showing Jewish history in its wider historical, social and cultural context. In addition, it presents objects that reflect on daily life over the centuries, e.g. family, marriage, trade, travel, rather than the more common depictions of artifacts for sacred and religious use. Thirdly, the Jewish significance of these particular 22 objects has until now been overlooked. This book draws them together for the first time to highlight their specific relevance to Jewish history, revealing both distinctive features of Jewish experience and evidence of centuries of close interaction with other cultures and religions.

Rebecca Abrams is an award-winning author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her most recent book, Touching Distance, won the MJA Open Book Award and was shortlisted for the McKitterick Prize for Literature. A graduate of Newnham College, Cambridge, she is a longstanding tutor in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford, before which she was an Honorary Teaching Fellow on the Warwick University Writing Programme and 2014 Gladstone’s Library Writer-in-Residence. She has recently been appointed a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow. A regular literary critic for the Financial Times and a former columnist on The Daily Telegraph, she has written extensively for the UK national press and is the recipient of an Amnesty International Press Award.

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