Genesis: Translation and Commentary by Robert Alter

By Robert Alter

Genesis starts with the making of heaven and earth and all existence, and ends with identical to a mummy—Joseph's—in a coffin. In among come some of the primal tales in Western tradition: Adam and Eve's expulsion from the backyard of Eden, Cain's homicide of Abel, Noah and the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham's binding of Isaac, the covenant of God and Abraham, Isaac's blessing of Jacob instead of Esau, the saga of Joseph and his brothers.

In Robert Alter's outstanding translation, those tales cohere in a strong narrative of the tortuous kinfolk among fathers and sons, husbands and better halves, eldest and more youthful brothers, God and his selected humans, the folks of Israel and their friends. Alter's translation honors the meanings and literary concepts of the traditional Hebrew and conveys them in fluent English prose. It recovers a Genesis with the continuity of topic and motif of a totally conceived and completely discovered publication. His insightful, absolutely expert statement illuminates the publication in all its dimensions.

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20 And, given the harsh anti-Is- 34 | Let My People Stay rael propaganda in the Soviet media and the less-than-flattering reports some new immigrants to Israel were giving about life there, it is not surprising that the United States seemed a more appealing destination. Most Russian émigrés saw the United States as the land of opportunity, while Israel was the land of last resort or a way station to somewhere better, since any Jew, and even non-Jewish family members, could get a visa there. The twenty-year period of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union was marked by ups and downs in the rate of emigration.

51 Some young Jews from around the world, then, are abandoning diaspora because it envisions the Jewish 22 | Introduction world hierarchically with Israel on top, “the diaspora” on bottom. Young American Jews are also questioning the links between Israeli Jews and those in other parts of the world. ”52 We suggest that a global politics that recognizes the tensions between rootedness and movement and the realness of both should guide our thinking about identities and spaces. In this book, we explore ways Jews are making home in a global, not diasporic, world.

By the 1970s, everything associated with Israel became important to Jewish communal policymakers, but not for the same reasons as in earlier generations. For American Jewish policymakers, Israel was an important way to sustain and bolster the continuity of American Jewish identities and communities. The Hebrew language was established as part of the curricula in colleges and Jewish high schools in the United States (even the Israeli pronunciation of Hebrew pushed out the once common Eastern European pronunciation taught in American Jewish schools, which is why our parents say “Yisgadal, ve’yiskadash,” while we were both trained to say “Yitgadal, ve’yitkadash”); Israel came to rival local Jewish charities as the leading recipient of Jewish donations; and a trip to Israel became an important part of a child’s Jewish education.

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