A Short History of the Jewish People: From Legendary Times to Modern Statehood

ISBN 10: 0028625862 / ISBN 13: 9780028625867
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Synopsis: A Short History of the Jewish People fills a gap in the literature by providing a concise, popularly written narrative account that introduces readers to all of the major political events, wanderings, cultural environments, and individuals to contribute to the shaping of the Jewish people into who they are today. Organized chronologically, the book covers the entire sweep of the Jewish experience from legendary times to the peace agreements now being negotiated in the Middle East. Each chapter covers one of the chronological units generally accepted among historians (The First Commonwealth, The Second Commonwealth, The Jews in the Age of Islamic Ascendancy, etc.). Maps, illustrations, and sidebars with entertaining stories enliven the very readable text. For general readers and students alike, A Short History of the Jewish People will satisfy the broad audience in need of a definitive history to be read in one or two enjoyable, informative sittings.

Review: "Jewish history is often told not as a narrative of real people with human problems and interests but as an idealized national myth," writes Raymond Scheinlin, in the introduction to his excellent A Short History of the Jewish People. Scheinlin is an observant Jew, but his book is not a history of the Jewish religion. It is a history of Jewish tribes around the world and the ways "they have interacted with the nations and cultures among whom they have lived, adapting to their environment while retaining a variety of continuities." The book's brevity precludes exhaustiveness, but its focus on particular Jewish communities and its disciplined analysis of their political successes and foibles give readers a firm grasp on the movements in Jewish history that have shaped the Middle East, Europe, and America. Amply illustrated with maps and photographs, the fluid prose of Scheinlin's History make this book a useful starting point for anyone seeking a secular history of Judaism that is neither skeptical nor hostile to religion. --Michael Joseph Gross

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