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Emancipation: How Liberating Europe's Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissanceby Michael Goldfarb
Synopses & Reviews
For almost 500 years the Jews of Europe were kept apart, confined to ghettos or tiny villages in the countryside. Then, in one extraordinary moment in the French Revolution, the Jews of France were emancipated. Soon the ghetto gates were opened all over Europe. The era of Emancipation had begun. What happened next would change the course of history.
Emancipation tells the story of how this isolated minority emerged from the ghetto and against terrible odds very quickly established themselves as shapers of history, as writers, revolutionaries, social thinkers, and artists. Their struggle to create a place for themselves in Western European life led to revolutions and nothing less than a second renaissance in Western culture.
The book spans the era from the French Revolution to the beginning of the twentieth century. The story is told through the lives of the people who lived through this momentous change. Some are well-known: Marx, Freud, Mahler, Proust, and Einstein; many more have been forgotten. Michael Goldfarb brings them all to life.
This is an epic story, and Goldfarb tells it with the skill and eye for detail of a novelist. He brings the empathy and understanding that has marked his two decades as a reporter in public radio to making the characters come alive. It is a tale full of hope, struggle, triumph, and, waiting at the end, a great tragedy.
This is a book that will have meaning for anyone interested in the struggle of immigrants and minorities to succeed. We live in a world where vast numbers are on the move, where religions and races are grinding against each other in new combinations; Emancipation is a book of history for our time.
"French Jews gained full citizenship during the Revolution, and as Napoleon conquered territories across Europe, ghetto gates were thrown open and Jewish emancipation became an unstoppable force, writes NPR correspondent Goldfarb. Emancipation set off an explosion of Jewish achievement, and Jews played an increasingly important if still conflicted role in Europe. For instance, Heinrich Heine, who converted to Christianity in 1825 to further a law career, worked out his Jewish identity crisis through poems that mirrored the national identity crisis of his young German contemporaries. When Damascus Jews were tortured during an 1840 blood libel, the Rothschilds successfully interceded, involving the British Parliament and forcing a French prime minister to resign. The forced baptism and abduction of the Bolognese Jewish child Edgardo Mortara helped catalyze the movement for Italian unity, while the Dreyfus affair ultimately led to the creation of Israel. Goldfarb's history of European Jewish persecution and assimilation (after Ahmad's War, Ahmad's Peace) is lively and perceptive, but also becomes unfocused and uneven, biting off more than it can chew as he tries to fathom the meaning of emancipation, its causes and its price. 8 pages of b&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Goldfarb offers a popular history of the Emancipation of Europe's Jews in the 18th and 19th centuries--a transformation that was startling to those who lived through it and continues to affect the world today.
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