The Jews of France

The Jews of France : A History from Antiquity to the Present

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In the first English-language edition of a general, synthetic history of French Jewry from antiquity to the present, Esther Benbassa tells the intriguing tale of the social, economic, and cultural vicissitudes of a people in diaspora. With verve and insight, she reveals the diversity of Jewish life throughout France's regions, while showing how Jewish identity has constantly redefined itself in a country known for both the Rights of Man and the Dreyfus affair. Beginning with late antiquity, she charts the migrations of Jews into France and traces their fortunes through the making of the French kingdom, the Revolution, the rise of modern anti-Semitism, and the current renewal of interest in Judaism. As early as the fourth century, Jews inhabited Roman Gaul, and by the reign of Charlemagne, some figured prominently at court. The perception of Jewish influence on France's rulers contributed to a clash between church and monarchy that would culminate in the mass expulsion of Jews in the fourteenth century.
The book examines the re-entry of small numbers of Jews as New Christians in the Southwest and the emergence of a new French Jewish population with the country's acquisition of Alsace and Lorraine. The saga of modernity comes next, beginning with the French Revolution and the granting of citizenship to French Jews. Detailed yet quick-paced discussions of key episodes follow: progress made toward social and political integration, the shifting social and demographic profiles of Jews in the 1800s, Jewish participation in the economy and the arts, the mass migrations from Eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, the Dreyfus affair, persecution under Vichy, the Holocaust, and the postwar arrival of North African Jews. Reinterpreting such themes as assimilation, acculturation, and pluralism, Benbassa finds that French Jews have integrated successfully without always risking loss of identity. Published to great acclaim in France, this book brings important current issues to bear on the study of Judaism in general, while making for dramatic reading.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 155.4 x 234.2 x 19.3mm | 472.77g
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0691090149
  • 9780691090146
  • 737,079

Review quote

"Here is a masterful synthesis of all the studies published to date on Jews in France. From Roman Gaul to contemporary France, Esther Benbassa retraces in this new work the vicissitudes of a very ancient presence in a land that has not always been hospitable but that was the first to proclaim the emancipation of the Jews."--Lire "In the imaginary of its Jewish citizens, as well as in that of members of other diasporas, France functions as a paradigm: it represents liberty and the Rights of Man; in their memory it is also associated with the Dreyfus affair, Vichy, as well as with fits of xenophobia and anti-Semitism. This double image, an often confusing one, is reconstructed in the work of Esther Benbassa with clearness and distinction."--Liberation "Since studies on the history of Jewish groups in France have multiplied over the last years, a synthesis is in order. Here it is, and it is remarkable... Esther Benbassa studies Jewish reality in France over the long run, noting the interactions observed between the history of the country and that of the Jews, as well as local developments... Fueled by the most recent research, this synthesis is never reductionist: each period (especially the Middle Ages, which is discussed in several admirable chapters) is treated in fine detail."--L'Histoire "Esther Benbassa writes with a sense of mission. In her present book she provides a masterful, concise synthesis of the Jewish presence in France. . and describes the latest developments and ideas of the new generation."--Alexander Zvielli, The Jerusalem Post "An impressively succinct and informative history."--David A. Bell, The New Republic "Not only does The Jews of France provide an excellent overview of their history from ancient times to the present, but it also offers a fresh interpretation of French-Jewish history, which itself will inevitably shape the future scholarship in the field... This is a first-rate survey."--Vicki Caron, Times Literary Supplement "Benbassa's clear, cogent, and concise synthesis of the history of the Jews of France is a most welcome addition to the increasing number of more specialized studies of French Jewry."--Choice "An excellent overview of their history from ancient times to present ... [and] a fresh interpretation of French-Jewish history... [It] will inevitably shape future scholarship in the field... [Benbassa] presents her account with considerable clarity and flair... A first-rate survey."--Vicki Caron, Times Literary Supplement "Benbassa writes with a sense of mission... She provides a masterful, concise synthesis of the Jewish presence in France."--Alexander Zvielli, Jerusalem Post
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About Esther Benbassa

Esther Benbassa teaches Jewish History at the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne, and is Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Among her books translated into English are Haim Nahum: A Sephardic Chief Rabbi in Politics, 1892-1923, and, with Aron Rodrigue, The Jews of the Balkans and A Sephardi Life in Southeastern Europe.
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Table of contents

Translator's Note xi Note to the French Edition xiii Preface xv Foreword, by Aron Rodrique xxi Chapter 1. The Origins of the Jewish Presence in Gaul 3 During the Roman Conquest 3 Under the Franks 5 The Church and the Jews 5 The Carolingian "Golden Age" 7 Toward Royal Alliance 8 Ecclesiastical Reaction 9 Economy and Culture 11 Chapter 2. Nobles' Jews, Kings' Jews 13 In the Seigneuries 13 Kings' Jews 15 The Religious Zeal of Saint Louis 17 Between Church and Temporal Power is Conditional Liberty 20 The Era of Crises 21 Another Return 22 North/South 24 Chapter 3. Jewish Life in the Middle Ages 26 Communal Space 26 Cultural Space 33 Chapter 4. The Jews of the South 41 The Comtat Venaissin and Avignon 41 New Christians and Jews. Spanish and Portuguese in France 47 Chapter 5. The Jews of the East and of Paris 58 Metz and Lorraine 58 Alsace 64 Paris 70 Chapter 6. On the Way to Emancipation 73 The Enlightenment and the Jews 73 A Policy of Emancipation? 79 Chapter 7. New Perspectives 84 The Terror 85 Under Napoleon 86 The Grand Sanhedrin 89 The Consistories 90 Internal Divisions 92 In a Secular State 94 Chapter 8. Entry into French Society 96 A Spectacular Integration 97 From Tradition to Integration 99 Paris. The Nerve Center 103 Socioeconomic Profile 106 Demography 110 Chapter 9. Advancement and Identity 114 Advancement through Education 114 In the Arts and Literature 115 In the Academy and State Administration 117 Alternative Paths 119 And Women 123 Integration and Jewishness 124 From Jew to Israelite 125 Modern Solidarity 128 Scholarship and the Perpetuation of Tradition 131 Chapter 10. Breaches in Franco-Judaism 134 Immigration 134 Anti-Semitism 137 The Affair 141 Zionism 146 Chapter 11. Between the Wars 148 Migration 148 Neighborhoods and Trades 149 Conception of Judaism 151 Revival of Anti-Semitism 153 Reexamining, Judaism 156 Youth Movements 157 Repositioning Zionism 159 The Nazi Peril 161 Chapter 12. The Dark Years 166 The War 166 From Citizen to Pariah 167 The Roundups 171 Public Opinion 174 The UGIF 175 The Resistance 177 Chapter 13. Recovery 179 The Influx of North African Jews 185 The New Face of French Jewry 189 Chronology 201 Notes 221 Bibliography 241 Index 271
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2 14% (1)
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