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The Crucible of Modern Europe and the Jews, 1600-1950

Time: Tuesday Thursday 10:30-11:45
Location: Hugh Gillis Hall 217


Between the 15th to 19th centuries, Jewish life in Eastern and Western Europe underwent profound transformations that would trigger deep and abiding crises and remake Jewish life and culture. European economic shifts, Jewish migration, the enlightenment, political emancipation and the emergence of new economic, social, and political opened a seemingly bright and prosperous future for Jews after centuries of relative economic, political and social isolation. Yet it also brought powerful threats both externally and internally which might well have destroyed this ancient religious culture. While many Jews welcomed the larger processes of societal modernization and assimilation, others questioned this "Jewish emancipation," struggling against the perceived dangerous assaults on the rich religious, linguistic, and cultural traditions of this people and their communal identity. The course will examine the ways in which Jews and non-Jews debated, engaged and reacted to the many challenges posed by the rapid changes of this period that resulted in the tumultuous events of the 20th century. We will begin with the challenge of Jewish enlightenment and emancipation, considering such topics as antisemitism, assimilation, Zionism, religious and communal reform, Hasidism, Jewish culture, the Holocaust, and the founding of the State of Israel. This class will use its attention on European Jewry to focus the broader issues of modern European history including the heightened awareness of ethnic and national identities, the rise of mass politics, the growth of the nation state and its consolidation of power, the shift in the balance of economic structures and the revolutionary reactions to these political, social and economic forces.

The Crucible of Modern Europe and the Jews, 1600-1950

Required: Howard Sachar, A History of the Jews in the Modern World, (2005). Paul Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz (eds.) The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History, (1995). Online Readings as assigned in the class schedule John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, vol.2, From the French Revolution to the Present, (3rd ed.), (2010).