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Book Notes: The Making of Western Jewry, 1600-1819, Lionel Kochan

Edgar Samuel

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 40, 2005 Book Notes The Making of Western Jewry, 1600-1819, Lionel Kochan (London: Palgrave Macmillan 2004) Hardback isbn 0-333-62597-8, pp. 400, £60. Professor Kochan's history of the Jews of Western Europe in the early modern period is based on a wide study of published primary and second ary literature. The Jewish communities of France, Italy, The Netherlands and England are each closely surveyed. Detailed attention is given to the Sephardi communities of the West, but the author is more comfortable in the study of the Ashkenazi majority. His demographic estimates are original and absorbing. The most impressive chapters are those devoted to the Jews of Germany, both in the Habsburg Empire and in Prussia, and to the conse quences of the French Revolution. He initiates a most interesting debate by comparing the Jewish communities of the Ancien Régime with those which received fuller civil rights from Joseph II, Napoleon and other enlightened despots. He seems slightly to prefer the communal autonomy and social and economic restrictions imposed by the Ancien Régime to the grants and responsibilities of citizenship which followed from the breakdown of the ghetto system. Thus there is a chapter on the negotiations of Rabbi Ezekiel Landau of Prague with Joseph II of Austria, and another on the compro mises ceded by Rabbi David Zinzheim at the time of Napoleon's Sanhédrin. Napoleon carried the introduction of civil rights and 'careers open to the talents' from France to the rest of Europe. Professor Kochan stresses the disadvantages which full citizenship entailed both in the loss of autonomy and in the resentment and rise in anti-Semitism which followed from Jewish emancipation. The narrative concludes with the beginnings of the Reform and Orthodox movements and of the start of Jüdische Wissenschaft, of which all modern Jewish history is a part. Edgar Samuel 253</page></plain_text>