Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century

By Peter Y. Medding | Go to book overview

History and the Social Sciences
Esther Benbassa, Hayahadut ha'otomanit bein hitma'aravut leẓiyonut 1908–1920
(Ottoman Jewry Between Westernisation and Zionism
). Jerusalem: Zalman
Shazar Center, 1996. 287 pp.

In recent years, several useful books have been published on Ottoman Jews, indicating that research has progressed beyond discussions of reputed personalities, notable events, literary works or specific issues. In 1991, Stanford J. Shaw's The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic came out. A year later, Walter F. Weiker's Ottomans, Turks and the Jewish Polity: Jews of Turkey was published. And in 1994, Avigdor Levy edited The Jews of the Ottoman Empire with numerous scholars contributing.

Esther Benbassa, a professor of history at the University of Paris, has now provided us with an in-depth study of a more limited topic, on which she is well qualified indeed to write. Herself a member of the Turkish Jewish community, she is fluent in Turkish, Hebrew, Judeo-Spanish, French and English and has successfully uncovered—and used well—numerous primary and secondary sources in these languages. Among the most important sources are the archives of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in Paris and those of the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem—representing the two poles of conflict in the Istanbul community in the period under research. Those were tumultuous years not only for the Jews, but for the population of the entire empire—a time of the Young Turk rule, the First World War and the immediate follow-up of the empire's defeat and partition.

Benbassa has previously published a book entitled Un grand rabbin sépharade en politique, 1892–1923 (1990) focused on Haim Nahoum, the grand rabbi of the Ottoman empire from 1908–1920. It is no surprise to find Nahoum starring here too. But there is much more, as indicated in the study's chapter titles: “From the Era of Reforms to the Young Turk Revolution”; “The Beginning of a New Period”; “Reorganisation of the Community”; “The Press in the Service of Political Elements”; “Pressure Groups”; “An Impossible Coexistence”; “Active Politics”; “Community Consensus”; “A Trial of Strength”; “New Circumstances and New Strategies. ”

The reader gets a detailed account of everyday internal politics in the community, which covers many aspects of Jewish life. An ongoing struggle revolved around two main foci. First was traditionalism versus modernization. Local rabbis and their supporters tried their utmost to maintain and encourage religious observance in daily practice and at school, whereas those bent on reforms—although not necessarily opposed to religion—sought to open the door to westernization (mirroring a parallel

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Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Studies in Contemporary Jewry *
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Symposium - Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century *
  • The Place of Ethnic Identity in the Development of Personal Identity: A Challenge for the Jewish Family 3
  • Notes *
  • Marriage, Americanization and American Jewish Culture, 1900–1920 27
  • Notes *
  • Making Fragmentation Familiar: Barry Levinson's Avalon 49
  • Notes *
  • The Economics of Contemporary American Jewish Family Life 65
  • Notes *
  • Children of Intermarriage: How “jewish”? 81
  • Notes *
  • What Happened to the Extended Jewish Family? Jewish Homes for the Aged in Eastern Europe 128
  • Notes *
  • Cohesion and Rupture: the Jewish Family in East European Ghettos During the Holocaust 143
  • Notes *
  • The “family-Community” Model in Haredi Society 166
  • Notes *
  • We Are All One Bereaved Family: Personal Loss and Collective Mourning in Israeli Society 178
  • Notes *
  • Essays *
  • Evangelists in a Strange Land: American Missionaries in Israel, 1948–1967 195
  • Notes *
  • Balfour's Mission to Palestine: Science, Strategy and Vision in the Inauguration of the Hebrew University 214
  • Notes 228
  • Review Essays *
  • Vichy and the Jews: A Past That is Not Past 235
  • Notes *
  • Mastering the Middle East: Israel in a Regional Context 250
  • Examining the Oslo Process: A First Cut 256
  • Notes *
  • Book Reviews *
  • Antisemitism, Holocaust and Genocide 265
  • Notes *
  • Notes *
  • History and the Social Sciences 281
  • Notes *
  • Notes *
  • Notes *
  • Language, Literature and the Arts 307
  • Notes 309
  • Notes *
  • Religion, Thought and Education 325
  • Notes *
  • Zionism, Israel and the Middle East 339
  • Notes 349
  • Recently Completed Doctoral Dissertations 351
  • Studies in Comtemporary Jewry XV 360
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