How Liberating Europe's Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance

The first popular history of the Emancipation of Europe’s Jews in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—a transformation that was startling to those who lived through it and continues to affect the world today.

Freed from their ghettos, Jews ushered in a second renaissance. Within a century Marx, Freud, and Einstein created revolutions in politics, human science, and physics that continue to shape our world. Proust, Schoenberg, Mahler, and Kafka redefined artistic expression.

Emancipation reformed the practice of Judaism, encouraged some to imagine a modern nation of their own, and within decades led to the dream of Zionism.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 432 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439160480 | 
  • November 2009
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About the Author

Author Revealed

Michael Goldfarb
Q. how did you come to write Emancipation?

A. AS a Jew, I had always been interested in the history of Jewish life just after the ghettos were opened. Why was it that after centuries of isolation Jews were able to not only thrive in a new situation but via Marx, Freud, Einstein and artists too numerous to mention make a major contribution to Western Civilization? What price did the Jewish community pay for its rapid assimilation? But the decision to write a book came out of my work as a journalist. After the attacks of September 11th, I found myself reporting on radical Islam. My ears filled with the complaints of angry Muslims everywhere from Cairo to Tehran to just outside my front door in London. One of the young British Muslims I interviewed was involved in a grass-roots organization that held regular meetings in London's East End, once a ghetto for Jewish immigrants, now a neighborhood of Muslim immigrants mostly from Bangladesh. At these forums we debated what it meant to be a Muslim in Britain. Over and over I heard younger Muslims express anger at their experience of integration and assimilation. Their response had been to embrace the more radical interpretation of their religion. The young men grew beards, put on traditional dress and skullcaps; the young women voluntarily wore the veil and segregated themselves from the men. This was not unique to London's East End. It was happening in Amsterdam, Paris and Hamburg. When the French government began to make a fuss about Muslim girls wearing the hijab to school I knew that the laws and traditions they invoked could be traced back to statutes passed in the early days of Emancipation to hasten Jewish integration into French society. I realized following these developments it was worth going through the agony of writing a book that answered the questions "why" and "what price" because the story of Jewish Emancipation had relevance today outside the Jewish community. Not just for the developed world's immigrant Muslim communities but for other racial and ethnic minority groups in this second age of mass immigration. Because the story of Jewish Emancipation is not just about one religious minority's struggles to integrate, it is about a group regarded as an ethnic and racial minority fighting for its place in society, as well.

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