Eliot Circular

Professor Leibman Wins National Jewish Book Award

Leibman book

Leibman photoDuring the pogroms of the 1880s, many Russian Jews passed through Amsterdam and established shuln such as this one. Explore more images from the Jewish Atlantic World Database.
Photo by Laura Leibman

Professor Laura Leibman [English 1995–] won a National Jewish Book Award for Messianism, Secrecy and Mysticism: A New Interpretation of Early American Jewish Life (Vallentine Mitchell, 2012). 

Leibman’s portrait offers a complex understanding of Jewish life in the 17th and 18th centuries. Her book expands the history of early American religion and restores the importance of mysticism to American Jewish history. She writes about the culture, beliefs, spaces, and objects embraced by the Jewish people of the Atlantic world and weaves together conversos’ ideas about redemption, Kabbalah, and messianism while resuming their lives as Jews as they build economic and religious worlds. 

Reed students helped with archival work and photographing material culture in Newport, Rhode Island; Amsterdam; and the Caribbean.

“I am honored by the award but also deeply aware of how much writing the book was a collaborative process. In addition to students who worked in the field, colleagues in my writing group patiently read and reread chapter drafts, and college librarians, technology staff, and students helped create the database of images that accompanied the book and made much of my analysis possible. The life of the mind need not be a solitary venture,” said Leibman.