Welcome to Stories from Jewish History
A weekly newsletter exploring Jewish thinkers, events, and artifacts, famous and obscure.
Hi. I’m Tamar. I spend a lot of time in the Middle Ages, with occasional forays into early modernity. This is exactly how a person winds up with something as practical as a doctorate in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Studies, with a focus on intellectual history. These days, I spend most of my time in the beit midrash learning halacha (Jewish law) and Gemara (Talmud), which is great, because I get to hang out with my Rishonim friends all. the. time. I like the twenty-first century, too, specifically antibiotics, education for women, and Jewish Twitter.
Why I started this newsletter
Part One: The past is never dead. It's not even past. —William Faulkner
I think Jewish history is fascinating, not as an academic exercise or as trivial pursuit, but for what it tells us about where we’ve been and how it can impact where we’re going. Knowing about the lives and dreams and challenges of the thinkers who appear “on the daf” (in the many columns of commentary surrounding classical Jewish texts)—these things help us understand Torah, and our own place in history, better.
I’ve written a bunch of academic prose, but the thing is, I think jargon is annoying and I’d rather write for everyone, not just the Ivory Tower and whoever can find a way behind the paywall. (This newsletter is, and will remain, completely free, though I may add on other offerings eventually.) That’s basically why I wound up leaving academia for the beit midrash, which you can read more about here.
Whether you have tons of background or none, learn in kollel or in translation, I hope this newsletter will bring the Jewish past to life for you in a new way that enriches your understanding and learning. Also—
Part Two: I’m a big nerd
I’m one of those people who can look at a pile of archival scraps and see a story.
(Okay, that’s actually Solomon Schechter in the first pic sorting through fragments from the Cairo genizah, so a fellow traveler, really.)
Naturally I thought it would be fun to start a weekly newsletter about arcane (but, as I hope you’ll soon agree, significant and relevant) corners of Jewish history. I also write for various outlets and, occasionally, my blog.
Part Three: I still believe in the potential of the internet
Yeah, there’s stuff that’s not great, but not since moveable type has a technology revolutionized access to knowledge like networking computers across the globe. I’m here for it. I've been on the internet since Lynx and have designed online learning experiences since 2013. I think Jewish education, across the lifespan, is the key to our future and that digital media and online platforms can expand access to it in transformative ways.
Join the crew
Sound like your kind of fun? (You’re my people.) Come grab an anachronistic coffee with a Rishon. Early Achronim occasionally invited, too.