Broadening Jewish History

Broadening Jewish History

Todd M. Endelman

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781904113010

Publisher: Liverpool University Press

Abstract

This book seeks to expand the horizons of modern Jewish historiography by focusing on 'ordinary' rather than exceptional Jews, arguing that what ordinary people did or felt can do more to deepen our understanding of Jewish history than what a few exceptional individuals thought and wrote. The book makes a strong case for comparative history, showing convincingly that only a comparison across national borders can identify the Germanness of German Jewish history or the Englishness of English Jewish history, and thereby reveal what is unique about each. The book redefines the area under consideration and deftly restates the need for Jewish social history to counterbalance the current focus on cultural studies. The book offers an important examination of the major trends in the writing of modern Jewish history and the assumptions that have guided historians in their narration of the Jewish past. It shows in particular how the two watershed events of twentieth-century Jewish history — the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel — influenced Jewish historiography for decades thereafter. It also demonstrates how progressive integration into the scholarly framework of American academia has shaped both the form and the content of Jewish historical research. Each of the case studies focuses on a largely unknown figure whose career illustrates the often tortuous paths of integration and acceptance that Jews faced. Some achieved fleeting fame but many of the people who populate the volume remain altogether unknown, their histories recoverable only as statistics.