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If Famous Jewish Sports Legends is the leaflet in the punchline of a joke about “light reading” in the movie Airplane!, and Jewish Nobel Prize Winners would be a tome, Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik’s Providence and Power: Ten Portraits in Jewish Statesmanship is the golden mean. Soloveichik does not stretch the meaning of statesmanship so thin as to elevate minor league players to Hall of Fame status, but his examples of Jewish statesmen from biblical times to the twentieth century need—and receive—some justification.

The case studies are seemingly meant to speak primarily to contemporary Jews, and to provide in-depth models of leadership, with insights into becoming, for example, the next righteously wily Queen Esther, who saved the Jews from annihilation at the hands of a Persian official. Queen Esther’s careful deployment of her cousin and mentor Mordecai’s ideological purism provides a compelling example of statesmanship as something distinct from leadership, piety, or any number of other virtues. Her success has clear resonances for Jews in the West who have amassed power and influence and yet seem confused about how to wield it to the benefit of their own people without being seen as disloyal to their host nations. Soloveichik’s great strength is drawing out such resonances with passion and clarity.

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