History of the Jews in Modern Times

History of the Jews in Modern Times

History of the Jews in Modern Times

History of the Jews in Modern Times

Synopsis

Lloyd Gartner presents, in chronologically-arranged chapters, the story of the changing fortunes of the Jewish communities of the Old World (in Europe and the Middle East and beyond) and their gradual expansion into the New World of the Americas. The book starts in 1650, when there were no more than one and a quarter million Jews in the world (less than a sixth of the number at the start of the Christian era). Gartner leads us through the traditions, religious laws, communities and their interactions with their neighbours, through theEnlightenment, the French Revolution, and into Emancipation, the dark shadows of anti-Semitism, the impact of World War II, bringing us up to the twentieth century through Zionism, and the foundation of Israel. Throughout, the story is powerful and engrossing - enlivened by curious detail and vivid insights. Gartner, an expert guide and scholar on the subject, writing from within the Jewish community, remains objective and effective whilst being careful to introduce and explain Jewish terminology andJewish institutions as they appear in the text. This is a superb introductory account - authoritative, in control, lively of the central threads in one of the greatest historical tapestries of modern times.

Excerpt

It is a bold deed for an academic historian to undertake a general history of the Jews in modern times. Very few do so, for reasons which are familiar: too vast a field, lack of knowledge of large areas, too few relevant languages mastered, and so forth. Such reasons are intrinsically good, but their result is not. Besides, one must often face the skepticism of colleagues. The academic historians' inhibitions have brought about that general histories have been attempted by several popular authors who attempted a task clearly beyond them.

The accumulation of studies in modern Jewish history is overwhelming, especially during the past quarter century, in Hebrew and English. Just to master all the worthwhile writings would leave time and strength for nothing else. Yet I have thought to try, and will spare the reader further apologies.

There is the matter of ideology, a term very familiar to those brought up in Israel and in Zionist principles. The 'Jerusalem school', which has included some historians of the highest distinction, has seen the yearning for deliverance from Exile (galut) and Return as the central meaning of Jewish history. I live in Jerusalem but am unable to share this outlook. The yearning for deliverance and Return is unquestioned but it did not dominate Jewish life even when it ruled the minds of many religious, and later nationalist, intellectuals. Often deliverance and Return were forgotten or at least marginalized, and influential sectors of the Jewish people renounced them during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Return, in the secular form of Zionism towards the end of the nineteenth century, was highly controversial. At all events, this is not a book which fits the Jerusalem school.

Readers will notice considerable attention to the general historical framework into which Jewish history fits, and much space given to demography, economic, and social history, as well as the development of the Jewish community structure. In these respects I find myself following in the footstepts of my mentor, Salo Wittmayer Baron . . .

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