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A Short History of the Jews

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Overview

This is a sweeping and powerful narrative history of the Jewish people from biblical times to today. Based on the latest scholarship and richly illustrated, it is the most authoritative and accessible chronicle of the Jewish experience available. Michael Brenner tells a dramatic story of change and migration deeply rooted in tradition, taking readers from the mythic wanderings of Moses to the unspeakable atrocities of the Holocaust; from the Babylonian exile to the founding of the modern state of Israel; and from the Sephardic communities under medieval Islam to the shtetls of eastern Europe and the Hasidic enclaves of modern-day Brooklyn. The book is full of fascinating personal stories of exodus and return, from that told about Abraham, who brought his newfound faith into Canaan, to that of Holocaust survivor Esther Barkai, who lived on a kibbutz established on a German estate seized from the Nazi Julius Streicher as she awaited resettlement in Israel. Describing the events and people that have shaped Jewish history, and highlighting the important contributions Jews have made to the arts, politics, religion, and science, A Short History of the Jews is a compelling blend of storytelling and scholarship that brings the Jewish past marvelously to life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this concise but all-encompassing account of the Jews, Brenner (After the Holocaust) does a remarkable job of escorting readers from the biblical narrative of Abraham's journey from Ur and idolatry through the treacherous, monotheistic course of Jewish history, concluding with modern-day Israeli society. A professor of Jewish history at the University of Munich, Brenner treats much of the biblical narrative as lore, accepting as fact only those stories and time lines corroborated by extra-biblical evidence. Wandering, tradition, and tragedy emerge as themes as the Jews, once exiled from their biblical homeland of Israel, spend much of history defending their religion, being coerced to forsake it, and yearning for the re-establishment of the Temple. Tragedies have followed the Jews: Crusades, expulsions, book burnings, the Holocaust; yet there have also been periods of efflorescence and development during which the Jews have thrived and produced works of great scholarship and innovation. Brenner's work successfully conveys, in a comprehensive and comprehensible fashion, the enduring history of the Jewish people.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
H-Net Reviews
This is an excellent overview of Jewish history—a well-written, up-to-date survey for college students and the general reader. Considering the scope of the coverage, the book is remarkably concise. The explanations under the attractive illustrations aptly point to their relevance in the period being discussed.
— Robert Seltzer
Jewish Book World
Brenner offers a digestible, interesting, complex history, in an accessible format.
Denton Record-Chronicle
A Short History of the Jews is well-written and Jeremiah Riemer's translation from the German is quite readable. All in all, an excellent source for the reader, Jewish or otherwise.
— Ed Sizemore
Choice
This elegantly produced, generously illustrated text attempts the impossible—the telling of 3,000 years of Jewish history in less than 400 pages.
Canadian Jewish News
Michael Brenner's lavishly illustrated and authoritative A Short History of the Jews is not exactly short, given its 421 pages with the index. But since he is dealing with about 3,000 years, Brenner's feat of condensation is commendable.
— Sheldon Kirshner
Canadian Journal of History
[A]n interesting survey and good place to start for any reader curious about the history of the Jewish people in their societies.
— Jay Howard Geller
Booklist - Jay Freeman
As the title indicates, this is a compact survey of Jewish history, an introduction for general readers. Still, Professor Brenner manages to cover a great deal of ground while effectively explaining many of the key elements of the Jewish experience. From biblical times to the present, Brenner asserts, a recurring theme of Jewish history is migration, yet it is migration that constantly kept the land of Israel as the focus of Jewish emotions and aspirations. . . . On the whole, this work serves as an excellent introduction.
H-Net Reviews - Robert Seltzer
This is an excellent overview of Jewish history—a well-written, up-to-date survey for college students and the general reader. Considering the scope of the coverage, the book is remarkably concise. The explanations under the attractive illustrations aptly point to their relevance in the period being discussed.
Denton Record-Chronicle - Ed Sizemore
A Short History of the Jews is well-written and Jeremiah Riemer's translation from the German is quite readable. All in all, an excellent source for the reader, Jewish or otherwise.
Canadian Jewish News - Sheldon Kirshner
Michael Brenner's lavishly illustrated and authoritative A Short History of the Jews is not exactly short, given its 421 pages with the index. But since he is dealing with about 3,000 years, Brenner's feat of condensation is commendable.
Canadian Journal of History - Jay Howard Geller
[A]n interesting survey and good place to start for any reader curious about the history of the Jewish people in their societies.
From the Publisher

"As the title indicates, this is a compact survey of Jewish history, an introduction for general readers. Still, Professor Brenner manages to cover a great deal of ground while effectively explaining many of the key elements of the Jewish experience. From biblical times to the present, Brenner asserts, a recurring theme of Jewish history is migration, yet it is migration that constantly kept the land of Israel as the focus of Jewish emotions and aspirations. . . . On the whole, this work serves as an excellent introduction."--Jay Freeman, Booklist

"In this concise but all-encompassing account of the Jews, Brenner (After the Holocaust) does a remarkable job of escorting readers from the biblical narrative of Abraham's journey from Ur and idolatry through the treacherous, monotheistic course of Jewish history, concluding with modern-day Israeli society."--Publishers Weekly Religion Book Line

"This is an excellent overview of Jewish history--a well-written, up-to-date survey for college students and the general reader. Considering the scope of the coverage, the book is remarkably concise. The explanations under the attractive illustrations aptly point to their relevance in the period being discussed."--Robert Seltzer, H-Net Reviews

"Brenner offers a digestible, interesting, complex history, in an accessible format."--Jewish Book World

"Recommended."--Sandra Collins, Library Journal

"A Short History of the Jews is well-written and Jeremiah Riemer's translation from the German is quite readable. All in all, an excellent source for the reader, Jewish or otherwise."--Ed Sizemore, Denton Record-Chronicle

"This elegantly produced, generously illustrated text attempts the impossible--the telling of 3,000 years of Jewish history in less than 400 pages."--Choice

"Michael Brenner's lavishly illustrated and authoritative A Short History of the Jews is not exactly short, given its 421 pages with the index. But since he is dealing with about 3,000 years, Brenner's feat of condensation is commendable."--Sheldon Kirshner, Canadian Jewish News

"[A]n interesting survey and good place to start for any reader curious about the history of the Jewish people in their societies."--Jay Howard Geller, Canadian Journal of History

Booklist
As the title indicates, this is a compact survey of Jewish history, an introduction for general readers. Still, Professor Brenner manages to cover a great deal of ground while effectively explaining many of the key elements of the Jewish experience. From biblical times to the present, Brenner asserts, a recurring theme of Jewish history is migration, yet it is migration that constantly kept the land of Israel as the focus of Jewish emotions and aspirations. . . . On the whole, this work serves as an excellent introduction.
— Jay Freeman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691143514
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 6/10/2010
  • Pages: 472
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Michael Brenner is professor of Jewish history and culture at the University of Munich. His books include "Zionism: A Brief History" and "After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany" (Princeton).
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: From Ur to Canaan
A Wandering People 1
Chapter 2: From Exile Back Home
Priests and Prophets 19
Chapter 3: From Hebrew into Greek
Disdain and Admiration 31
Chapter 4: From Modiin to Jerusalem
A Jewish State Stands and Falls 39
Chapter 5: From Jerusalem to Yavneh
The Diaspora Legitimates Itself 55

Chapter 6: From Medina to Baghdad
Under Islamic Rule 69
Chapter 7: From Sura to Cordoba
Sepharad--Jewish Culture on the Iberian Peninsula 83
Chapter 8: From Lucca to Mainz
Ashkenaz--The Roots of Central European Jewry 95
Chapter 9: From Lisbon to Venice
Expulsions and Their Aftermath 117
Chapter 10: From Khaybar to Rome
Messianic and Mystical Movements 137

Chapter 11: From West to East
A New Center in Poland 151
Chapter 12: From Dessau to Berlin
Rural Jews, Court Jews, and Enlightenment Philosophers 167
Chapter 13: From the Ghetto to Civil Society
Political Emancipation and Religious Reform 189
Chapter 14: From Posen to New Orleans
Starting Over in America 209
Chapter 15: From the Shtetl to the Lower East Side
East European Jewish Dreams and American Realities 223

Chapter 16: From Budapest to Tel Aviv
An "Old New Land" in Zion 255
Chapter 17: From Tétouan to Teheran
The Europeanization of Jews in the Islamic World 273
Chapter 18: From Czernowitz to Cerna?ut,i
Political Crisis and Cultural
Florescence between the Wars 287
Chapter 19: From Everywhere to Auschwitz
Annihilation 319
Chapter 20: From Julius Streicher's Farm to the Kibbutz
The Jewish World after the Holocaust 349

Appendix: Jewish History in Numbers 389
Further Reading 393
Picture Credits 401
Index of Names 405
Index of Place Names 415

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