A collection of essays that explore the effects of modernization on Jewish self-understanding. Over the last three centurles, the Jewish experience has been profoundly affected by modernity, which Meyer defines as not only technological advance, cultural innovation, and reliance upon human reason but also as the adaptation of Jews to a modern framework within non-Jewish economies, societies, and cultures. Judaism within Modernity begins with an exploration of Jewish historiography and the problems of periodization in modern Jewish history. In these beginning essays we see the range of Meyer's thinking about what constitutes modernization and how to determine its beginning. He discusses the role of history in defining identity among Jews and suggests that finding an adequate paradigm of continuity is essential to the historian's task. The essays in the second section focus on the Jews of Germany. Here Meyer writes about the influence of German Jews on Jews in the United States, comparing the historical experience of the two communities. These essays also address the intersection of religion, scholarship, and history with politics in nineteenth- and twentiety-century Germany. A third section deals with the European Reform movement, which brought a liberal Judaism to the majority of German Jews. Here Meyer likewise presents a fresh perspective on the way the Reform movement was viewed by those outside of it, especially by non-Jews. The essays in the final section explore Judaism in the United States. In particular, they show how reform Judaism and Zionism were able to recondle their initial differences. Judaism within Modernity is an impressive collection of essays written by a renowned Jewish historian and will be a standard volume for students and scholars of the modern Jewish experience.
Michael A. Meyer is the Adolph S. Ochs professor of Jewish History at Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati. He is the author of The Origins of the Modern Jew: Jewish Identity and European Culture in Germany, 1749-1824 (Wayne State University Press, 1967), Jewish Identity in the Modern World (University of Washington Press, 1990), and Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (Wayne State University Press, 1994), which won the National Jewish Book Award in the area of Jewish history.