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Prophets of the Past
Interpreters of Jewish History


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Prophets of the Past
Interpreters of Jewish History

by Michael Brenner (Author)
Steven Rendall (Translator)



ISBN: 9780691139289


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Examines how modern Jewish historians have interpreted Jewish history. This book traces the master narratives of Jewish history from the beginnings of the scholarly study of Jews and Judaism in nineteenth-century Germany; to eastern European approaches by Simon Dubnow and the interwar school of Polish-Jewish historians.

History proved to be a uniquely powerful weapon for modern Jewish scholars during a period when they had no nation or army to fight for their ideological and political objectives, whether the goal was Jewish emancipation, diasporic autonomy, or the creation of a Jewish state. As Brenner demonstrates in this illuminating and incisive book, these historians often found legitimacy for these struggles in the Jewish past.


ISBN 691139288
ISBN13 9780691139289
Publisher Princeton University Press
Format Hardback
Publication date 02/08/2010
Pages 320
Weight (grammes) 571
Published in United States
Height (mm) 229
Width (mm) 152

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction: Viewpoints on Jewish History 1
Objectivity and Partiality 2
Remembering and Forgetting 4
Nation and Religion 6
Scholarship and Ideology 9
Heroes and Eras 12

Chapter 1: Jewish History as History of Religion
Wissenschaft des Judentums in the Service
of Reform and Emancipation 17
Christian Beginnings 18
Traditional Reverberations 21
In the Service of Religious Reform 24
In the Battle for Political Emancipation 27
Jewish Religious History as Counterhistory 36
One Religion among Numerous Nations 42

Chapter 2: Between Religion and Nation
Graetz and His Construction of Jewish History 53
The Battle against Reform and Assimilation 57
Only a History of Suffering and Learning? 60
The Debate with Christianity and Germanness 64
Rationalism and Mysticism 68
Translations and New Interpretations 73
External Opinions on Jewish History 82

Chapter 3: The Nationalization of Jewish History The View from the East 93
Dubnow: Diaspora Nationalism as a Historical Concept 93
Polish Jewish Historiography between the Wars 106
Under the Soviet Star: Jewish History as Class History 114

Chapter 4: Jewish History without Tears?
New Perspectives in the West 121
Baron in New York: Against the Lachrymose Version of Jewish History 123
Roth in Oxford: More Than a History of Victims 131
From the Salon to the Academy: The Beginnings of Jewish Women's History 136
The Return of Tears: Jewish History versus the History of the "Jewish Question" 144
A Signal in Dark Times: The "Jewish Contribution" to Civilization 151

Chapter 5: The Return of the Nation to Its Land Zionist Narrative Perspectives 157
The Revolt against the Father: The Break with Wissenschaft des Judentums 158
Patricide: Scholem's Metaphorics of Death 163
New Fathers: The "Jerusalem School" under Baer and Dinur 171
New Sons: Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson, Shmuel Ettinger, and Jacob Katz 183
The Revolt of the Grandchildren: The New Historians 192

Chapter 6: Postmodern Influences A New Subjectivity 197
From One Jewish Community to Many Jewish Cultures 204
Epilogue 217
Notes 221
References 265
Index 297