Jewish Lives is a major series of interpretive biographies of prominent Jews from antiquity to the present published by Yale University Press. I’m currently immersed in Peggy Guggenheim: The Shock of the Modern by Francine Prose and can’t wait to read more titles in this terrific collection.
Jewish Lives highlights Jews who have impacted our world, including politicians, musicians, philosophers, scientists, writers, and more. Each figure is paired with an exceptional author to elicit lively, informed biographies of notable Jewish people such as Groucho Marx, Mark Rothko, Emma Goldman and Ben Gurion. The books are concise, well written and accessible.
Leon Black, whose foundation has underwritten this project, started the series. He was inspired by a question put forth by one of his sons about the meaning of Jewish identity. Black saw a need for a series of books on Jewish lives that can increase our understanding of what it means to be Jewish. He felt that “there is a hunger for books that zero in on the fascinating questions at the core of the Jewish experience, whether secular or religious.” He sees this library of biography as “a powerful opportunity for Jewish families, congregations, schools, and general readers to enrich with pride their understanding of Jewish life through history. ” There are currently 25 titles in the series with more in the works.
In 2014, Jewish Lives won Book of the Year by the Jewish Book Council—the first time in its history the award was given to a series.
Jewish Lives makes a great gift, too—either as a single book or several wrapped together in a beautiful ribbon.