JTS Book Talk to Feature Author of Hope in a Democratic Age

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950
Email: nijacobson@jtsa.edu

January 29, 2010, New York, NY

amNew York, NY February 8, 2010—Dr. Alan Mittleman, professor of Jewish Thought and director of the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies and the Tikvah Institute for Jewish Thought of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), will discuss his new book, Hope in a Democratic Age (Oxford University Press, 2009), at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 23, at JTS, 3080 Broadway (at 122nd Street), New York City.

In Hope in a Democratic Age, Dr. Mittleman offers a philosophical exploration, contending that a modern construction of hope as an emotion is deficient. He revives the medieval understanding of hope as a virtue, reconstructing it in a contemporary philosophical idiom. In this framework, hope is less a spontaneous reaction than it is a choice against despair; a decision to live with confidence and expectation, based on a rational assessment of possibility and faith in the underlying goodness of life.

In cultures shaped by biblical teaching, hope is thought praiseworthy. Dr. Mittleman explores the religious origins of the concept of hope in the Hebrew Scriptures, New Testament, rabbinic literature, and Augustine. He traces the roots of both the praise of hope in Jewish and Christian thought, and the criticism of hope in Greco-Roman thought and in the tradition of philosophical pessimism. Arguing on behalf of a straightened, sober form of hope, he relates hope as a virtue to the tasks of democratic citizenship.

In addition to Hope in a Democratic Age, Dr. Mittleman has published three other books: Between Kant and Kabbalah (SUNY Press, 1990), The Politics of Torah (SUNY Press, 1996), and The Scepter Shall Not Depart from Judah (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000); he is also the editor of four books. Dr. Mittleman’s many articles and reviews have appeared in such scholarly journals as Harvard Theological Review, Heythrop Journal, Modern Judaism, Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy, Jewish Political Studies Review, and the Journal of Religion.

From 2000 to 2004, Dr. Mittleman served as director of “Jews and the American Public Square,” a major research project initiated by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Under his direction, the project produced two national surveys of Jewish attitudes on public affairs, three volumes comprising forty scholarly essays, and fifteen conferences around the United States. During the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, he spoke on the meaning of religious liberty for American Jews in the chambers of the U.S. Senate.

This event is sponsored by The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr. David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, will serve as moderator.

The talk is open to the community at no charge; reservations are required. For further information and to RSVP, please contact Hector Guzman at (212) 678-8075 or email heguzman@jtsa.edu.

Visit the JTS website at www.jtsa.edu.