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The Jewish Body

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  20 ratings  ·  7 reviews
Part of the Jewish Encounter series

A history of the Jewish people from bris to burial, from “muscle Jews” to nose jobs.

Melvin Konner, a renowned doctor and anthropologist, takes the measure of the “Jewish body,” considering sex, circumcision, menstruation, and even those most elusive and controversial of microscopic markers–Jewish genes. But this is not only a book that ex
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 13th 2009 by Schocken (first published December 29th 2008)
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I really enjoyed the first quarter of this book, including discussions of what characterize the differences between Jewish and Greek approaches to the body: "As the Jews were an extension of rabbinic Judaism, the Christians became the heirs of Apollonian Greece and Rome." Then it sorta went downhill, turning into just what I'd expect from an anthropologist...with too much focus on Philip Roth as the expression par excellence of current Jewish approaches to sex and body.
“A God without a body. From the beginning, this peculiar, even crazy notion anchored the faith of the Jews and made them objects of ridicule and suspicion among their neighbors“. So are the opening words of The Jewish Body, by Melvin Konner. The book is an intriguing book, detailing so many events and issues that are relevant to the Jewish body. By body, I mean the physical and spiritual body of an individual, and the body of a people, within the all-encompassing aspects of a group of individual ...more
Amanda Wilson
Equally as interesting as it is androcentric. Entire chapter on circumcision, and all of 2 pages on menstruation. Konner does not examine why menstruation is even considered to be unclean but spends an entire chapter questioning whether or not circumcision makes men more fertile - one of the primary reasons for circumcision in Genesis. Underwhelming for feminist readers.
I was disappointed. The book was disjointed, and much of it was not on topic. I have enjoyed other books by Konner, most notably The Tangled Wing and Unsettled. I was expecting a semi-scholarly work based on anthropology and medicine, but what I got was a series of largely repetitive essays, culminating in a celebration of the state of Israel.
This was an Honorable Mention for the Sophie Brody Award for 2010. For the complete list, go to
Apr 15, 2013 Irving added it
This is a grate book. Not about sex but a history of Jews. Jewish authors,philosophy. ,
May 26, 2010 Sarah marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-buy
RUSA email, ALA 2010
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