Book review of “Shalom/Salaam”

Publishers Weekly
New York, NY, October 27, 2010
Publishers Weekly

Block, a Jew, independent scholar, and “citizen-diplomat,” spent more than 10 years researching and uncovering the hidden links between the mystical systems within Islam and Judaism, expressed in Sufism and Kabbalah, respectively. In what he believes is the only book on the topic, Block demonstrates the influence of Sufism on historic and modern Kabbalah and even Judaism, assembling and juxtaposing a variety of sources. Seminal medieval figures in Kabbalah (whom Block affectionately refers to as “Jewish-Sufi” and whom he profiles throughout) looked to Sufi themes and attitudes for “innovation” in their own practice—so successfully that some hymns sung in synagogues today, among other practices, are clearly Islamic in origin. An entire chapter devoted to Spanish Jewish Kabbalists’ usage of Sufism describes the glory of the multifaith, historic Cordoba and Arab Spain of the eighth through 15th centuries, where Jews participated as equals in the Muslim-run state. Block’s evident enthusiasm for the revelation of these common roots as a way forward for Muslim-Jewish relations propels this great read.