A Century of Jewish Life

A Century of Jewish Life

A Century of Jewish Life

A Century of Jewish Life

Excerpt

A full century has been added to the past from the point at which Graetz closed his account of Jewish history, a century as eventful, revolutionary and explo- sive as any in human annals. Never before has the world undergone such profound alteration in so short a span. Not only have great technical changes transformed human life, but the unchaining of cultural revolutions and nation alist passions have been factors even more potent. In politics and economics, in religion and society, no insti- tution has remained unaffected by upheaval.

Jews had always been exposed to the storms of world history, and now they were tossed about by the buffeting of the age with particular violence. They were wrenched out of their isolation and drawn into Western civiliza- tion. More markedly than in any previous period their lives were bound up with those of the people among whom they lived. World history forms the background against which the particular episode of Jewish fate is enacted. The drama is one of a peculiar struggle for self-assertion, amongst the Jews themselves and in relation to the world at large.

Emancipation, the main Jewish problem during the whole of the 19th century, was not achieved by a single revolutionary act but was the outcome of a historic evolution. Capitalist economy from the 17th century on had brought Jewish industrialists into touch with leading Christian entrepreneurs or administrators, and their cooperation had created a friendly atmosphere. The individual Jew whom the Christians now met was not the bogey they had imagined. The Enlightenment . . .

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