Prophets of the Past is the first book to examine in depth how modern Jewish historians have interpreted Jewish history. Michael Brenner reveals that perhaps no other national or religious group has used their shared history for so many different ideological and political purposes as the Jews. He deftly 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, the interwar school of Polish-Jewish historians, and the short-lived efforts of Soviet-Jewish historians; to the work of British and American scholars such as Cecil Roth and Salo Baron; and to Zionist and post-Zionist interpretations of Jewish history. He also unravels the distortions of Jewish history writing, including antisemitic Nazi research into the "Jewish question," the Soviet portrayal of Jewish history as class struggle, and Orthodox Jewish interpretations of history as divinely inspired.
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.
|Publisher:||Princeton University Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Michael Brenner is professor of Jewish history and culture at the University of Munich. His books include A Short History of the Jews and After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany (both Princeton).
Table of Contents
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
What People are Saying About This
Sweeping, discerning, meticulous, and empathetic, Brenner's pioneering synthesis convincingly shows the writing of history to be the dominant medium of modern Jewish thought.
Ismar Schorsch, chancellor emeritus, Jewish Theological Seminary
At long last, a definitive volume on modern Jewish historiography in English. Michael Brenner here follows in the wake of his teacher, Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, by analyzing with great breadth and depth the diverse byways of Jewish historical writing. An acknowledged master of German-Jewish history, Brenner expertly charts old and new terrainin Europe, Israel, and North Americain this important and richly illuminating study.
David N. Myers, University of California, Los Angeles
Michael Brenner has produced a sweeping account of Jewish historiographical traditions, beginning with the first attempts in the early nineteenth century to write the history of the Jewish people, and carrying the story through the most recent developments in the field. Before Brenner, no one dared tackle such a vast project. Lucid and gracefully written, Prophets of the Past introduces readers not only to the historians who have brought to life the various narratives that elucidate the Jewish past, but to the very craft of history itself, its power, its consequence, its appeal.
John M. Efron, University of California, Berkeley
Prophets of the Past is a panoramic examination of the shifting paradigms in modern Jewish historical writing, ranging over three continents and from the eighteenth century to the present. In its scope it is unprecedented. Brenner has made a stellar contribution to Jewish intellectual history that should be of equal interest to all who would explore the nexus between historiography and ideology.
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Columbia University