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American Jewry Between the Wars

Jewish life today in the US is very different than before 1948. Forces like poverty, bigotry and the Melting Pot caused Jews to drop tradition and assimilate.

 

The Coming of Hitler

The rise and fall of Adolf Hitler is one of the most terrible, dramatic and unbelievable stories in history.

 

Jewish Europe Between the Wars

Jewish life between WWI and WWII was in turmoil. Anti-Semitism and assimilation decimated Jewish numbers and morale. It was a harbinger of what was to follow.

 

The Third Aliyah

The wave of immigration known as the Third Aliyah was fueled by idealism. But the reality that confronted them would shake their dreams to the foundation.

 

The British Mandate

Although the Balfour Declaration was written into the British Mandate and ratified by the League of Nations the British tried to stifle the Zionist dream.

 

The Treaty of Versailles

Rather than solve Europe's problems the Versailles Treaty perpetuated them. However, one provision had a profound impact on Jewish history, the British Mandate.

 

The First World War

WWI uprooted Jewish communities and destroyed the infrastructure of Jewish life, forever changing the face of Jewry. But an event at the end gave Jews hope.

 

Coming of the Great War

In decade before WWI Eastern European Jewry was disintegrating externally and internally due to urbanization, revolution and virulently anti-religious Jews.

 

The Zionist Movement

As Herzl tried to hold his Zionist movement together contentious battles were fought over questions like: Will it be a Jewish state? What type of Jewish state?

 

Dawn of the Century & Jewish Despair

At the dawn of the 1900s, the horrific Kishinev pogrom and the Beilus trial dashed Jewish hopes of a future and made them socialists, Zionists or pessimists.

 

The First Aliyah

The First Aliyah, Jewish settlers to the Holy Land from 1881-1901, were secular, idealist and extremely naïve about Arab reaction to their arrival.

 

Political Zionism

In 1897, Theodore Herzl declared at the First Zionist Congress, “Today, I have founded the Jewish state. It will take you 50 years to see it.” It was visionary.

 

The Dreyfus Affair

A new type of anti-Semitism arose in the 1800s - one based on race, not religion. The culmination of this new anti-Semitism was the infamous Dreyfus Affair.

 

The New World

Between 1882 and WWI, despite great obstacles, Jews immigrated in droves to America, the New World, changing not only Jewish life but America as well.

 

The Lovers Of Zion

The modern day return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel began over 150 years ago with a strange mix of rabbis and atheists called the Lovers of Zion.

 

Dispute & Dissemination: Expansion of the Mussar Movement

The Mussar Movement met opposition from within and without after the death of its founder, Rabbi Israel Salanter, but spread wider because of it.

 

The Mussar Movement

The Mussar Movement combined with the Yeshiva Movement held together the Jewish people from being swept away by the tide of Haskalah and assimilation.

 

Rabbi Moses Sofer

Rabbi Moses Sofer started the first yeshiva in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It differed from yeshivas in Poland, but turned back the tide of assimilation.

 

The Volozhin Revolution

The Yeshiva movement 200 years ago was revolutionary in its time, and the main defense against Haskalah, guaranteeing the furtherance of traditional Judaism.

 

Haskalah

In the 19th century in Russia there occurred a drastic change in Jewish life whose ripple effects are still felt today. For the first time in perhaps seven or eight centuries Jews orchestrated a direct confrontation with traditional Judaism.

 

The 1850s

In the 1800s, the Czar of Russia dealt with his “Jewish problem” in three ways: conversion, emigration and destruction. Through a series of harsh decrees Jews would convert to Russian Orthodoxy, emigrate out of Russia or face destruction.

 

Chabad

Chabad was founded in the late 18th century by Shneur Zalman of Liadi. The Lubavitch branch takes its name from Lyubavichi, the Russian town where the group was based until the early 20th century. Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn the sixth leader fled war-torn Europe for New York in 1940, where he established a synagogue; later know as the famed 770 Eastern Parkway. His son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, turned the movement into a powerful force within Judaism.

 

The Chassidic Movement II

The Maggid of Mezritch, successor to the Baal Shem Tov, was largely responsible for building Chassidus into a widespread movement that attracted Jews in all sectors of Eastern Europe. But as the movement grew, its opposition grew increasingly violent. Recount the bitter events of this terrible conflict, the Alter Rebbe’s (Baal HaTanya) attempt at peace and his subsequent arrest.

 

The Chassidic Movement I

Analyzes the revolutionary impact of the Baal Shem Tov on Eastern European Jewry. The Besht's all-embracing world outlook and way of life that saw the Jew's central purpose as a unifying link between the Creator and His world; with an emphasis on serving God with joy, thereby revitalized Judaism from the downtrodden state they were in. To the leading rabbis of Vilna, the movement was a dangerous fringe to be fought against with force.

 

The Coming of Reform

Enlightenment ideals brought great upheaval to world Jewry. Frederick the Great, Amschel Mayer Rothschild and Moses Mendelssohn define the era and the upheaval.

 

The Reformation

The Protestant Reformation changed forever the face of Western civilization, and in so doing changed world Jewry, shifting its center to Eastern Europe.

 

Rabbi Joseph Caro

Among the Jews who left Spain during the expulsion in 1492 was a boy not even 13 who would become one of the great figures in the history of the Jewish people, Rabbi Joseph Caro (sometimes spelled Karo). By the time of his death in approximately 1575 it could be said that from the time of Maimonides until his time no person had a greater and longer lasting influence on the Jewish people. He was not only the giant of his age, and all the ages since.

 

The Jews Come To Poland

Jewish life in Poland remained vibrant for 500 years. Though filled with extreme hardship, it had a spiritual richness that helped Jews transcend the mundane.

 

The Marranos

The Marranos suffered greatly, but some managed to flee Spain, finding tolerance and success with other Jews in lands such as Italy, Turkey, Israel and Holland.

 

The Jews and the Renaissance

The Renaissance brought a new intellectual spirit to Europe but also challenged the power of the Church. For the Jews, it opened new possibilities and dangers.

 

The End of Spanish Jewry

Don Isaac Abarbanel almost prevented the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, but could not. The end of Spanish Jewry was a blow unequaled until the Holocaust.

 

The Black Death

Although the Black Death devastated all Europe, for the Jews it is was compounded by Christian persecution that blamed them for the disaster.

 

The Ashkenazim Come To Spain

During the 1200s, persecutions pushed Ashkenazic-European Jewry to the precipice of physical and spiritual extinction. But three men turned everything around.

 

Expulsions and Burnings

Between blood libels, pogroms, the burning of the Talmud and expulsions from England and France in the 13th century, it is a miracle the Jewish people survived.

 

The Age of Rabbeinu Tam

Even as the situation of the Jews in Christian Europe rapidly deteriorated, one sage put his stamp on Jewry for all time: Rabbeinu Tam, the grandson of Rashi.

 

The First Crusade

The Crusades changed all of Jewish life in Europe. It changed the attitude of Christians towards Jews and Jews toward Christians… and even Jews towards Jews.

 

The House of Rashi

For 900 years, no Jew studies Torah or Talmud without Rashi. He is the guiding hand and gentle teacher who explains the words and inspires all who study Torah.

 

Ashkenazic Jewry in France

The Jews fulfilled three roles in Europe: money-lender, scapegoat and harbinger of new ideas. All three made him necessary as it made his life precarious.

 

The Christian Reconquest of Spain

Jews faced increasingly harsher persecutions Christian dominated Spain, including accusations from usury, desecrating the host, blood libels and well poisoning.

 

Nachmanides

Nachmanides is one of the greatest Jewish scholars ever. His resounding victory in against the Church marked a turning point in Jewish-Christian relations.

 

Maimonides

The Golden Age of the Jews in Spain can be symbolized by one person, arguably the greatest person that the people produced from the time of the Talmud until our day: Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides or the Rambam. The epitaph on his grave reads, “From Moses to Moses, there arose none like Moses.”

 

Zenith of the Golden Age

Solomon ibn Gabirol, Judah Halevi and Abraham ibn Ezra were three of the greatest Jews of the Golden Age. Their lives give us a personalized glimpse of the era.

 

Beginnings of the Golden Age in Spain

The Golden Age of Spanish Jewry, despite eruptions of Islamic fanaticism, was marked by expansion of Jewish wealth and influence in politics and philosophy.

 

End of the Geonic Era

There were three major reasons that the center of Jewish life shifted from Babylon to Spain starting around the year 1000 CE: division, migration and assimilation.

 

Ashkenazic And Sephardic Jewry

The spread of the Jews from Babylon to North Africa and Europe is remarkable and based on the legend of four great rabbis who were kidnapped by Arab pirates.

 

The Middle Geonic Period

Despite his turbulent life, Rabbi Saadiah Gaon's clear insight and influence of knowledge have remained part and parcel of the Jewish people until today.

 

The Early Geonic Period

As the Jews settled into life under the Muslims, dealing with its good and bad influences, the heretical Karaite movement threatened both Jews and Judaism.

 

The Rise of Islam

In less than a century, Islam swept through the Arabian Peninsula. Even as the Muslims became the new leaders of civilization, Jewish reaction was ambivalent.

 

Christian Expansion & the End of the Talmudic Era

As Europe entered the Dark Ages, and the Church formulated anti-Semitic doctrines, the Jews completed the Talmud and preserved Judaism for future generations.

 

The Roman Empire Adopts Christianity

When Constantine, the emperor of Rome, became a Christian it meant that the empire became Christian, with momentous consequences for the Jewish and pagan worlds.

 

The Spread of Christianity

From a sect of Jews to a world dominating religion that defeated the Roman Empire, the story of Christianity is – for better or worse – intimately intertwined with Jewish history.

 

The Beginnings of the Talmud

The shift of Jewish life from Israel to Babylon marked a transitional period fraught with danger. Luckily, such leaders emerged and set the foundation for Jewish life until today. Rabbi Judah the Prince marks the end of a period known as the era of the Tannaim, which lasted approximately until 200 CE.

 

The Mishnah

The Mishnah Rabbi Judah the Prince was not only wealthy and head of the Sanhedrin. His greatest accomplishment transcended the time in which he lived. That was Mishnah. The Mishnah is the first written record of what was the Oral Law.

 

After The Bar Kochba Holocaust

Out of the suffering of the Bar Kochba holocaust Jewish leaders emerged who made it possible for the Jewish people to survive into the long night of exile. After the demise of Bar Kochba the Jews prepared themselves for a long exile.

 

Rabbi Akiva

Rabbi Akiva arguably represents a combination of everything that is heroic about the Jewish people more than anyone else. At the least, he is one of the most beloved figures in Jewish history, a person whose influence and stature is a source of inspiration throughout all of the ages.

 

Bar Kochba

After the destruction, the surviving Jewish leaders tried and were able to reestablish relations with Rome rather rapidly. It is remarkable considering that the Romans had never suffered as many casualties in any of their wars. They had never experienced such as bitter war as the ten year war they had with the Jews.

 

The Destruction of the Second Temple

The destruction of the Temple, and the subsequent destruction of the national entity of the Jewish people, occurred to a great degree because of warfare among the Jews themselves. The warring groups besieged in Jerusalem destroyed all hopes of victory.

 

The Rise of Christianity

The rise of Christianity occurred during the extremely tumultuous period, the Herodian Era.

 

The Times of the Roman War

The Times of the Roman War As Roman corruption and culture destroyed the social fabric of Jewish life, Judea revolted. But horrific in-fighting among Jews doomed the spirited rebellion. At the death of Agrippa I (Herod Agrippa) in 44 CE, the Jewish people were divided very sharply into warring factions.

 

Hillel and Shammai

It was Hillel, not Herod, who reestablished the true Kingdom of the Jews, which is the Kingdom of Torah, nobility of character, patience, goodness and kindness.

 

The Herodian Era

Herod may have been a great murderer, but he was a great builder. And he was not a person given over to modesty or one who did things on a small scale. Whatever he did was larger than life.

 

Herod

Herod was a certified madman, but had moments of genuine concern for the country. In the end, though, his legacy was one of paranoia, terror, murder and evil.

 

Review of the Hasmonean Era

The Hasmonean Era was one of the most glorious and tragic in Jewish history – as well as for understanding Jewish history and destiny.

 

The End of the Hasmoneans, The Rise of Rome

The decline of the Hasmoneans coincided with the rise of Rome, but it wasn't coincidence, for the once great Jewish family had become a shell of its holy roots.

 

Sadducees and Pharisees

The seeds of strife planted earlier took root as the Hasmonean era produced sacrilegious heirs and pitted Jew vs. Jew in a bloody civil war.

 

The Hasmoneans

The Hasmonean era is among the most glorious in Jewish history yet contained seeds of self-destruction that almost destroyed everything.

 

The Miracle of Chanukah

Chanukah was a miraculous military victory, but a tiny cruse of oil proved more miraculous and enduring in the memory of the Jewish people.

 

The Hell in Hellenism

Greek culture slowly infiltrated Jewish culture, threatening to destroy the Jewish people in ways tyrants could not do through brute force.

 

Alexander the Great

The story of Alexander the Great and the Jews is intimately intertwined. However, its after-effects shook the Jewish world to its roots.

 

The Coming of the Greeks

Greek culture would tempt Jews like no other, threatening to destroy Judaism. It would be as much an exile of mind as of the body.

 

The Men of the Great Assembly

The Men of the Great Assembly passed decrees that ensured the Jewish peoples’ survival in the post Temple era down to our times.

 

Ezra and Nehemiah

If not for legendary efforts of Ezra and Nehemiah the fledgling Jewish community in Israel would not have survived as we know it.

 

The Beginning of the Second Commonwealth

Was the Persian king Cyrus who permitted the Jews to return to their land and rebuild their Temple Jewish? This is just one of the questions and intrigues surrounding the beginning of Jewish history in the Second Commonwealth.

 

Purim and The Persian Period

The Persian exile began positively for the Jewish people, but turned dark with the threat of holocaust at the hands of one of history’s great anti-Semites.

 

Babylon and Beyond

The Babylonian exile set into motion patterns of Jewish history that have held true throughout the ages down to our time in uncanny ways.

 

By The Rivers of Babylon

The success of the Jews in Babylon is all the more remarkable when seen in the context of the terror that was Babylonian society and its tyrannical leader.

 

Chaos After The Destruction

After the destruction there was hope that the survivors would rally around a new leader, Gedaliah, but instead it was another tragic chapter in Jewish history.

 

Destruction of The First Temple

The destruction of the First Temple was devastating, but the Jewish people took the lessons to heart and solidified their identity as an Eternal People.

 

Review of the Judean Kings

A brief summary of each of the Judean kings who ruled Judea for more than four centuries.

 

The Last King of Judea

The last king of Judea was caught in the vice of almost irresistible forces unleashed by earlier generations, but gained a measure of redemption before he died.

 

The End Nears

Judea deteriorated badly after Josiah died, but a tiny seed planted in Babylon would take root and serve as a symbol of Jewish rejuvenation for all posterity.

 

Jeremiah

The prophet Jeremiah witnessed the destruction of the Temple and suffering of his people, yet penned some of the most beautiful lines of hope ever written.

 

Hezekiah: The Messiah Who Was Not

Aided by the prophet Isaiah, Hezekiah led his nation so faithfully through Armageddon-like times that he almost became the Messiah, save for one character flaw.

 

The Judean Monarchy

After civil war split the Jewish people, Judea was a small, defenseless country, but it outlived its counterpart because of its adherence to its spiritual calling.

 

The Ten Tribes — Lost

After generations of spiritual decline, the dramatic fall of the Ten Tribes was shocking. Known now as the "Lost Tribes" the question is: Will they ever return?

 

Life and Times of Elijah

Elijah was one of the most influential prophets even though his words fell on the deaf ears of the wayward northern kingdom and its wicked king Ahab.

 

The Prophets

More than mere fortune tellers, the prophets were the moral conscience of the people, and as such, often found themselves in mortal danger from those in power.

 

The Divided Kingdom

After King Solomon’s death, the Jewish kingdom was torn apart by civil war that permanently changed the landscape of the Jewish world.

 

Solomon

Solomon was an immensely complex and layered personality. The wisest of men was truly pious and noble, yet torn apart by self-destructive tendencies.

 

David

King David, forerunner of the Messiah, was misunderstood by many of his contemporaries. In that way his life epitomizes that of his people, the Jews.

 

Saul: The First King

There is no more tragic figure than Saul, first king of Israel. He was good, heroic and modest – yet was destroyed by the crown he never wanted to begin with.

 

Samuel and The Seeds of Monarchy

Samuel was judge, prophet, warrior and educator. He led the people during a time of great turmoil and gave them hope for the future.

 

Era of the Judges

The Era of the Judges was characterized by a steep decline, but included great moments and memorable heroes and heroines.

 

Joshua

Joshua conquered the land and then transitioned the nation to a confederacy, but his achievements were beset by self-doubt and conflict.

 

The Wilderness Years

The 40 years in the desert was both harsh and necessary for the Jewish people to become who they would be.

 

Revelation and Beyond

The grandeur and challenges of living up to the greatest event in human history.

 

The Exodus

The redemption and the test after the temptation afterward of returning to Egypt

 

Redemption

Human nature and the nature of miracles The watershed of Jewish history is the exodus from Egypt. Over and over again the Torah commands: “Remember the day of your exodus from Egypt.” It is not just an historic event – it is the historic event in Jewish life.

 

The Egyptian Holocaust

Eerie parallels between the situation of the Jews in Egypt and Nazi Germany There are three ways to tell the story of the Jewish people in Egypt. One is to tell it from the perspective of the hieroglyphics of the time, i.e. from the perspective of ancient Egypt.

 

Ancient Egypt

Understanding ancient Egypt is important to grasping the backdrop of the Bible Egypt was the exception to the rule in the ancient world in the sense that it was fully self-sufficient. All the other countries in the Near East and Mesopotamia were dependent upon war, trade or expansion of the economy to feed themselves.

 

The End of the Beginning

Judaism is uniquely universal and particular – and establishes this pattern in the Book of Genesis.

 

Joseph and His Brothers

Jacob’s twelve sons, like the Jewish people, were a cantankerous group. Jacob sought to harness their individualism and make them one nation.

 

Joseph and the Wild Animals

The story of Joseph’s sale into slavery, rise to prominence and reconciliation with his brothers is one of the most dramatic in world literature. Beyond the facts is a deep message about the human condition.

 

Jacob: The Paradigm of Jewish History

What it takes to become the “man of truth” Jacob completes the period of the Patriarchs. He is the bridge between the Jewish family and the Jewish nation, where the small family group expands into a large and great people.

 

Isaac: Most Mysterious of the Forefathers

Why he embodies the “survivor” personality Isaac lived in a less turbulent time than his father. The Canaanite Empire had solidified itself and the great, raging wars that had existed in Abraham’s time (Genesis 14) had ceased.

 

Abraham: Altering the Course of History

The man who really did change the course of history There are singular personalities in the history of the world who change the course of civilization. The primary example of such a person is Abraham. He changed the way the world thought about itself, life and especially the Creator.

 

The Tower of Babel and Paganism

The ten generations between Noah and Abraham saw the birth of technology. It also saw the rise of the tyrant Nimrod, the antithesis of Abraham and morality.

 

The Great Flood

The Great Flood The story of the flood, found in many ancient civilizations, is etched into the collective consciousness of humankind, feeding our fears of a world-ending cataclysmic event. That only makes the biblical account more relevant than ever. Almost all ancient civilizations have a story about a great flood that wiped out civilization.

 

The Dawn of Civilization

There are many theories how the human race began. Relatively recently, Science concluded that all of us share a common female ancestor. In recognition of the biblical account they even called her Eve. The Torah’s account of Adam and Eve is meant as a primer on the human condition.

 

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