Great Jewish Speeches throughout History contains thirty-seven speeches by Jewish men and women who relied on the power of the spoken word to propel them through the turbulent currents of history.
Each speech is prefaced by a brief description placing it in historical context and providing background information on the speaker. The topics and speakers represent a broad spectrum of Jewish life and history. Included are speeches by political figures such as Benjamin Disraeli, Golda Meir, and David Ben-Gurion, and speeches on Jewish identity by Louis Brandeis and Sigmund Freud.
Arranged in chronological order, the speeches in this volume range from Moses’ farewell to the Children of Israel and Elazar ben Yair’s plea to his followers on Masada to take their lives rather than submit to Roman conquest, to Theodor Herzl’s address at the first Zionist Congress and the Nobel prize acceptances of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Menachem Begin. The order of the speeches presents the reader with a special glimpse into the development of Jewish history. Stephen S. Wise’s 1933 warning against Hitler and the Nazis becomes a tragic introduction to Elie Wiesel’s 1985 appeal to President Ronald Reagan not to visit the Bitburg military cemetery in Germany.
The speeches reflect the drama of singular moments in Jewish history. According to the editors, “A book of this nature cannot possibly include every ‘great speech.’ Some are lost forever; some are too long and some are too brief for a compilation such as this. It is both ‘a blessing and a curse’ that Judaism is rich with too many speeches on such a vast multitude of issues to fill one volume of ‘great’ speeches. Furthermore, we don’t presume to be the arbiters of what is truly great and what is not. No mortal measure of objectivity allows for that.”
Ultimately, Great Jewish Speeches throughout History reflects the power and dignity of Jewish life from biblical times to the modern day with a passion and an eloquence that could only come directly from those who helped to shape it.
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