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A History of Judaism: Martin Goodman, with Rakhmiel Peltz

Penn Book Center
Event organized by Penn Book Center

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Join us on Monday, April 16,
at 5 pm
for a reading and discussion with

Martin Goodman
of his book
A History of Judaism

in discussion with Rakhmiel Peltz

A sweeping history of Judaism over more than three millennia

Judaism is one of the oldest religions in the world, and it has preserved its distinctive identity despite the extraordinarily diverse forms and beliefs it has embodied over the course of more than three millennia. A History of Judaism provides the first truly comprehensive look in one volume at how this great religion came to be, how it has evolved from one age to the next, and how its various strains, sects, and traditions have related to each other.

In this magisterial and elegantly written book, Martin Goodman takes readers from Judaism's origins in the polytheistic world of the second and first millennia BCE to the temple cult at the time of Jesus. He tells the stories of the rabbis, mystics, and messiahs of the medieval and early modern periods and guides us through the many varieties of Judaism today. Goodman's compelling narrative spans the globe, from the Middle East, Europe, and America to North Africa, China, and India. He explains the institutions and ideas on which all forms of Judaism are based, and masterfully weaves together the different threads of doctrinal and philosophical debate that run throughout its history.

A History of Judaism is a spellbinding chronicle of a vibrant and multifaceted religious tradition that has shaped the spiritual heritage of humankind like no other.


Martin David Goodman, FBA, is a British historian and academic, specialising in Roman history and the history and literature of the Jews in the Roman period. Goodman was educated at Trinity College, Oxford, (B.A.) where he studied classical language and literature, ancient history and philosophy. He completed his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1980: his doctoral thesis was titled State and society in Roman Galilee, AD 132-212. In 2010 he was awarded the degree of DLitt. Goodman began his academic career as a research fellow, holding the Kaye Junior Research Fellowship at the Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies from 1976 to 1977. He was then a lecturer in ancient history at the University of Birmingham from 1977 to 1986. In 1986, Goodman was elected a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford. He was made Professor of Jewish Studies by the University of Oxford in 1996. Since 2014, he has been the President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He has edited the Journal of Roman Studies, and the Journal of Jewish Studies. He is past President of the British Association for Jewish Studies, past secretary of the European Association of Jewish Studies, and he is a fellow, governor and President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.


Rakhmiel Peltz, PhD, is a social historian of Yiddish, motivated by a life-long devotion to the survival of the culture that the Nazis attempted to destroy. He has published on language and culture planning in the Soviet Union, Yiddish cultural expression of immigrants, language and identity over the lifespan and urban neighborhood life. For thirty years, he has been researching aging and ethnicity, and has developed an expertise in designing and carrying out intergenerational ethnic educational programs. He is an accomplished researcher, who uses both historical research and ethnographic methods. His research currently focuses on pre-World War II Jewish family life in Eastern Europe and ways of educating survivors of groups that are victims of genocide about their history and culture. More recently, he was co-editor of Language Loyalty, Continuity and Change (Multilingual Matters, 2006), and served as project director and producer of the film, Toby’s Sunshine: The Life and Art of Holocaust Survivor Toby Knobel Fluek (2008). He is currently editing a volume of Uriel Weinreich’s scholarly writings on Yiddish (The Language and Culture of Jews in Eastern Europe). Arriving at Drexel in 1998, he had previously served as an Assistant Professor of Modern Foreign Languages at Boston University (1989-1991), where he also taught in the Anthropology Department, PhD Program in Applied Linguistics, and Center for Aging. From 1990-98, he was Director of Yiddish Studies at Columbia University, overseeing the PhD Program, undergraduate instruction, and the intensive summer program in Yiddish. He was Associate Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages at Columbia and also served as a visiting professor at Gratz College, Mt. Holyoke College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of Pennsylvania and Wesleyan University.