In his book The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel famously posits that Jews should build sanctuaries in time, so to speak, instead of focusing so much energy on physical structures. In their new book Jews and Words, novelist Amos Oz and his daughter, historian Fania Oz-Salzberger, pose another Heschelian alternative to physical structures: words.
In an NPR interview, Oz says: “For thousands of years, we Jews had nothing but books. We had no lands, we had no holy sites, we had no magnificent architecture, we had no heroes.” This particular book is a dynamic conversation about Bible stories, irreverence, and the ways that an age-old Jewish textual tradition can feed a rich contemporary secular Jewish heritage.
Jews and Words’ particular take on being ‘the people of the book’ adds something fresh to the existing conversation: it’s colored both by the authors’ staunchly non-religious Jewish identities and their simultaneous excitement and deep knowledge about religious Jewish scripture. They argue that Jewish heritage is “not a bloodline but a textline” and that the very survival of the Jewish people is contingent on engaging with and enjoying these texts.