Manuel Duarte de Oliveira, "Humanity Divided: Martin Buber and the Challenges of Being Chosen" (de Gruyter, 2021)

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Throughout a hugely productive intellectual career spanning more than half a century, the Austrian-born philosopher Martin Buber returned repeatedly to the question of Israel’s divine election. Buber, who left Nazi Germany to settle in Mandatory Palestine in 1938, found in chosenness a historically enacted and contested concept that could either the world under divine kingship, or divide and alienate its different cultures and continents.

In Humanity Divided: Martin Buber and the Challenges of Being Chosen, published by De Gruyter in 2021, Manuel Oliveira of Portuguese Catholic University calls upon more than 30 years of research to explore in depth Buber’s teleological concept of chosenness, and the strands of philosophy, theology, and history that shaped it. Professor Oliveira does more than this, however: he also brings unprecedented depth and scholarly acuity to bear on how chosenness has been infused with a poisonous nationalism. The author analyzes Buber’s increasing concern over the influence of Zionism on the co ncept of chosenness, and his tireless work to ameliorate its nationalist and self-glorifying variants, by bringing to bear a vast range of sources and concepts that illuminate chosenness as, in the end, a sacred task and not an elite status.

David Gottlieb is the Director of Jewish Studies at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago. He is the author of Second Slayings: The Binding of Isaac and the Formation of Jewish Memory (Gorgias Press, 2019).

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