Modern Jewish History - Maurice Harris

This volume of Modern Jewish history covers the Reformation era to the early 20th century. It tells the story of the Jewish community of Holland including the trials of Spinoza, and the German Jews of the 18th century, including Mendelssohn. The effects of the French Revolution and liberal democracies on Jewish and minority rights and the activities of Jews in the United States are also covered.

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[Cover] from Modern Jewish History by Maurice Harris
[Title Page] from Modern Jewish History by Maurice Harris
[Dedication] from Modern Jewish History by Maurice Harris

Preface to the New Edition

This volume completes the author's history of the Jews. The series was commenced in 1897 with a Biblical history styled "People of the Book" in three volumes. The first covered the patriarchal period and the Mosaic Law (The Pentateuch); the second, the Israelitish Monarchy; the third, the Epoch of the Prophets, closing with the Restoration of Judah after the Exile.

This was followed by "A Thousand Years of Jewish History"—from the close of the Persian era to the entrance of the Mohammedans into Europe. Next in the series was the "History of the Mediaeval Jews" covering the Middle Ages, the entire Spanish era and closing with the discovery of America.

The present volume is styled "Modern" though beginning with the Sixteenth Century; for that century witnessed the rise of such movements as the Renaissance, the Christian Reformation and the extension of political rights—all of which tended to shape the modern world. The first edition carried the story down to the Russian exodus. The author gratefully recalls the fact that the manuscript of this earlier edition was read by Dr. Henry Berkowitz and Dr. Martin A. Meyer.

This modern history has now been recast and enlarged after a period of twelve years. New illustrations have been added. It covers the history down to the present year, 1922.

The text is briefer and the notes fuller than in previous volumes, as it will be put in the hands of advanced students who will be enabled by the many references to carry the study further.

In order to encourage the study of different phases of Jewish questions, the Index has been compiled to group under special heads data scattered throughout the volume. Among these may be mentioned: Gentile Appreciation of the Jew; Jews as Statesmen; Jews in Science and Letters; Orthodox and Reform Judaism; The Bible and Modern Life; America; The World War.

In our survey of the entire history of the Jew from Bible times, we see that every age has brought him face to face with a different problem. The Jew of today must now re-interpret his function in the world and thereby help shape the destiny of the Jew of tomorrow.

Some abbreviations: J. Q. R., Jewish Quarterly Review; T. Y., A Thousand Years of Jewish History; H. M. J., History of the Mediaeval Jews; J. E., Jewish Encyclopaedia; J.P.S.A., Jewish Publication Society of America Publications.

[Contents] from Modern Jewish History by Maurice Harris
[Contents] from Modern Jewish History by Maurice Harris
[Contents] from Modern Jewish History by Maurice Harris
[Contents] from Modern Jewish History by Maurice Harris

Themes for Discussion

I. a. Why did the rise of Protestantism create a new attitude of Christianity towards Judaism?

I. b. On what did Reuchlin base his statement that Kabala favored Christianity?

II. Elaborate — the good and the evil of imposing specific ceremonial obligations for every occasion of daily life.

III. Contrast the Jew with the Puritan.

IV. a. Should the Synagogue still claim Spinoza as Jew?

IV. b. Discuss the versatility of Jewish character and genius as demonstrated in the contemporaries Sabbethai Zevi the Messianic adventurer and Spinoza the philosopher.

V. Show the influence of environment on religion in the kinds of Judaism developed in Turkey, in Poland and in the latter day Orient.

VI. a. Has Judaism dogmas? What is the distinction between a creed, a doctrine and a dogma? Show how Judaism diverges from Christianity in its attitude towards dogma,

VI. b. Discuss the story of the "Three Rings" in Lessing's Xathan der YYeise.

VII. a. Give some examples of Reform by exclusion and by simplification.

VII. b. Was the opening of the "Ghetto" gate a loss to the Jew or a gain?

VIII. a. Zunz belonged to the rational school of Bible critics; why then was he not a Reform Jew?

VIII. b. What is common between Humanism in general and Jewish Humanism?

IX. a. Was Napoleon a genuine advocate of Jewish rights?

IX. b. Has anti-Semitism any justification?

X. Develop the subject — the better the Jew the better the American.

XI. a. Contrast bigotry against the Jew in the Middle Ages with anti-Semitism of modern times,

XI. b. Show how American democracy has influenced the Synagogue .

XII. Did Judaism and Christianity do their share in seeking to prevent the World War?