Hillel Halkin—whose biography of 12th-century Jewish poet Yehuda Halevi is forthcoming from Nextbook Press—reviews Shlomo Sand’s much-discussed The Invention of the Jewish People in The New Republic. (Evan R. Goldstein reviewed it for Tablet Magazine.) Halkin is not a fan; specifically, he deplores Sand’s allegedly ahistorical charge that Jews only began to conceive of themselves as a coherent people in the mid-1800s. Halkin concludes his review with a mini-manifesto, about Jewish historical writing and its relation to the Jewish present, that is worth flagging:
If Israel is going to be Jewish and fully democratic, it will have to find other ways for non-Jews to become Jews, or to identify with Jews, than the forbidding Orthodox conversion that is currently their sole societal option. A revival of historical interest in how, in certain times and places in the past, non-Jews have been successfully integrated into the Jewish people in large numbers, and without too many questions asked, might be a contribution to such a process.
Indecent Proposal [TNR]