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A History of the Jews in the Modern World

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A History of the Jews in the Modern World
By Howard M. Sachar. ( Alfred A. Knopf, NY: 2005. Pg. 831.) ISBN: 0-375-41497-5

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - October 24, 2005

Howard M. Sachar is a renowned historian and scholar who has written numerous works on Jewish history and civilization. He was the editor of the 39 volume The Rise of Israel: A Documentary History and he is the author of such ground breaking books as Farewell España: The World of the Sephardim Remembered, Dreamland: Europeans and Jews in the Aftermath of the Great War, and A History of the Jews in America. He is also a Professor of Modern History Emeritus at George Washington University. A History of the Jews in the Modern World offers readers a concise, readable, and authoritative account of modern Jewish history. Suitable for both scholars and general readers, this book is an outstanding work of scholarship and serves as a general, comprehensive reference guide on Jewish history from the late 1700's through 2004.

Throughout this work, Sachar not only discusses western Jewish history, but also the history of Jewish communities around the world, including those in the Middle East and the Americas, as well as both Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities. Written in a flowing narrative style, this text brings to life the vibrancy and uniqueness of these various communities. He also chronicles their relationships with their gentile neighbors - both the good, and the bad. By historical necessity, a large chunk of this book is devoted to antisemitism, the Holocaust and the years preceding and following this tragic period, as well as the development of Zionism and the history of modern Israel. Brief biographies of leading figures in Jewish history, from the Ba'al Shem Tov and Theodor Herzl to David Ben-Gurion and Sholem Aleichem are also interwoven into the narrative. Biographies of integral non-Jews, such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Gamal Abd al-Nasser are also included.

A quick glimpse at a sampling of the chapter titles in this book will give you a general overview of the breadth of material covered in this monumental work.
  • The Jews as Non-European
  • Incarceration: The Jews of Tsarist Russia
  • The Impact of Western Culture on Jewish Life
  • A Sephardic-Oriental Diaspora
  • The Rise of Jewish Life in America
  • A Migration of East European Jewry: 1881-1914
  • The Onset of Modern Antisemitism
  • The Rise of Zionism
  • The Balfour Declaration and the Jewish National Home
  • The Triumph of East European Fascism
  • The Holocaust of European Jewry
  • The Birth of Israel
  • A Latin Israel in the Southern Hemisphere
  • Israel, The united States, and the Struggle for Soviet Jewry

    In all, there are thirty-six chapters in this book, followed by an author's afterword in which Sachar presents his opinions on the current state of Jewry and what may lay ahead.

    A History of the Jews in the Modern World is a sweeping narrative which is both fascinating and informative to read. Sachar's account is accurate and free of any religious or cultural biases. The text can be read straight through, or broken into smaller sections that best suit the interests of the reader. The text is well indexed, and an up-to-date bibliography, organized by chapter is also included. This bibliography is well suited as a guide for those interested in studying Jewish history in more depth. I highly recommend this A History of the Jews in the Modern World for high school and college level classroom use, as well as for general readers with an interest in Jewish history.

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