Milton Himmelfarb, perhaps best known for his quip about American Jews – who live like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans – was the author of essays that were profound, provocative, and witty to boot. This important collection brings together the most memorable of those essays, ranging from social and political commentaries to historical and theological subjects. From Leo Strauss and Spinoza to Hitler, Israel, and the place of religion in the public square, the sixteen essays in Jews and Gentiles offer a literary feast that is also an intellectual revelation.
These finely crafted essays, most of which appeared in Commentary magazine, establish Milton Himmelfarb as one of the most original and significant Jewish thinkers of our time. As his sister, the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, notes in her introduction, “If they remain as pertinent today as when they were published, it is because they transcend the immediate occasions that called them into being, revealing a remarkable prescience and consistency.”
It is a rich and eclectic combination of sources that Himmelfarb drew upon in each of these essays: facts and figures, authorities ancient and modern, texts secular and religious, all presented with uncommon good sense and innate wisdom, and fortified by personal experiences, reminiscences, and deeply felt sentiments which are as moving as they are enlightening.