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Dr. Ari Mermelstein’s Book on Power and Emotion

Dr. Ari Mermelstein is associate professor of Bible and Second Temple Literature and chair of the Department of Bible, Hebrew, and Near Eastern Studies. He is also assistant director of the YU Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization and the Israeli Supreme Court Project, both located at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Book cover of Power and Emotion in Ancient JudaismIn June 2021, he published Power and Emotion in Ancient Judaism: Community and Identity in Formation (Cambridge University Press).

In this book, Dr. Mermelstein examines the mutually-reinforcing relationship between power and emotion in ancient Judaism. Ancient Jewish writers in both Palestine and the diaspora contended that Jewish identity entails not simply allegiance to God and performance of the commandments but also the acquisition of specific emotional norms. These rules regarding feeling were both shaped by and responses to networks of power—God, the foreign empire, and other groups of Jews—which threatened Jews' sense of agency. According to these writers, emotional communities that felt Jewish would succeed in neutralizing the power wielded over them by others and, depending on the circumstances, restore their power to acculturate, maintain their Jewish identity and achieve redemption. An important contribution to the history of emotions, this book argues that power relations are the basis for historical changes in emotion discourse.