"At Home in Exile" Book Release Event

Boisi event image

Alan Wolfe
Boston College

Date: October 28, 2014

Location: Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass.


Many Jewish thinkers have considered it close to heresy to validate life in the Diaspora. But what if the Diaspora is a blessing in disguise? In At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews, Alan Wolfe, writing for the first time about his Jewish heritage, makes an impassioned, eloquent and controversial argument that Jews should take pride in their Diasporic tradition. It is true that Jews have experienced more than their fair share of discrimination and destruction in exile, and there can be no doubt that anti-Semitism persists throughout the world. Yet for the first time in history, Wolfe shows, it is possible for Jews to lead vibrant, successful and, above all else, secure lives in states in which they are a minority. Wolfe argues the Diaspora can be good for the Jews no matter where they live, Israel very much included—as well as for the non-Jews with whom they live, Israel once again included. Not only can the Diaspora offer Jews the opportunity to reach a deep appreciation of pluralism and a commitment to fighting prejudice, but in an era of rising inequalities and global instability, the whole world can benefit from Jews’ passion for justice and human dignity. At Home in Exile is an inspiring call for a Judaism that isn’t defensive and insecure but is instead open and inquiring.

Speaker Bio

Alan Wolfe

Alan Wolfe is the founding director of the Boisi Center and professor of political science at Boston College. He is the author and editor of more than twenty books, including, most recently, At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews (2014), Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It (2011), The Future of Liberalism (2009), Does American Democracy Still Work? (2006), Return to Greatness (2005), The Transformation of American Religion: How We actually Practice our Faith (2003), Moral Freedom (2001) and One Nation After All (1999). Widely considered one of the nation's most prominent public intellectuals, he is a frequent contributor to the New York TimesWashington Post, and Atlantic, and has delivered lectures across the United States and Europe.

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Further Reading

Works by Author

Alan Wolfe, "Giving Diaspora Its Due," excerpt of At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the JewsChronicle of Higher Education, September 8, 2014.

Alan Wolfe, The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live our Faith (New York: Free Press, 2003).

Alan Wolfe, “Israel’s Moral Peril,” Chronicle of Higher Education, March 25, 2012.

Alan Wolfe, “Free Speech, Israel, and Jewish Illiberalism,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 17, 2006.

Reviews of At Home in Exile

Peter Beinart, "'At Home in Exile' and 'The Pious Ones," New York Times, November 6, 2014.

Rabbi Dan Dorsch, "Innovation Is Key to Jewish Diaspora's Survival," Haaretz, December 7, 2014.

Jane Eisner, "Is Exile Good for the Jews?Forward, November 17, 2014.

Michael S. Roth, "A Shared Blessing for a Far-Flung People," New York Times, October 26, 2014.

Other Related Works

"A Portrait of Jewish Americans: Findings from a Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews," Pew Research Center (October 1, 2013).

Caryn Aviv and David Shneer, New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora (New York: New York University Press, 2005).

Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997).

Peter Beinart, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” The New York Review of Books (May 2010).

David Biale, Michael Galchinsky, and Susannah Heschel, eds., Insider/Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998).

Daniel Boyarin and Jonathan Boyarin, “Diaspora: Generation and the Ground of Jewish Identity,” Critical Inquiry 19 (Summer 1993).

Stéphane Dufoix, La dispersion: Une histoire des usages du mot diaspora (Paris: Editions Amsterdam, 2011).

Laurie Goodstein, "Poll Shows Major Shift in Identity of U.S. Jews," New York Times, October 1, 2013.

Jordan Chandler Hirsch, “Diaspora Divided,” review of Peter Beinart’s The Crisis of ZionismJewish Review of Books (Spring 2012).

Alan Dershowitz, The Vanishing American Jew: In Search of Jewish Identity for the Next Century (Boston: Little Brown, 1997).

Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jews, and Other Essays (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968).

Marc Gellman, “Joe Lieberman as Rorschach Test,” First Things (December 2000).

Zvi Gitelman, “The Decline of the Diaspora Jewish Nation: Boundaries, Content, and Jewish Identity,” Jewish Social Studies, New Series, 4.2 (Winter 1998).

Dana Evan Kaplan, Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).

Kevin Kenny, Diaspora: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Irving Kristol, “Why Religion is Good for the Jews,” Commentary (August 1994).

Dan Lainer-Vos, “Manufacturing national attachments: gift-giving, market exchange and the construction of Irish and Zionist diaspora bonds,” Theor Soc (published online: 16 October 2011).

Shaul Magid, American Post-Judaism: Identity and Renewal in a Postethnic Society, 2nd ed. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2013).

Allan Arkush, “All-American, Post-Everything,” review of Shaul Magid’s American Post-JudaismJewish Review of Books (Fall 2013).

Yehuda Mirsky, “Do Israeli and American Jews Need Each Other?” review of Shmuel Rosner’s Shtetl, Bagel, Baseball, JewishIdeasDaily.com.

Paul Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz, The Jew in the Modern World, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Jacob Neusner, Stranger at Home: “The Holocaust,” Zionism, and American Judaism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).

Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005).

Gabriel Sheffer, Diaspora Politics: At Home Abroad (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Leo Strauss, Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity: Essays and Lectures in Modern Jewish Thought, edited by Kenneth Hart Green (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997).

David Vital, A People Apart: The Jews in Europe, 1789–1939 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Jack Wertheimer, “Whatever Happened to the Jewish People,” Commentary (June 2006).

Ruth Wisse, Jews and Power (New York: Schocken, 2007).