Yiddish Civilisation: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation Paperback – 1 Jun 2006
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"A highly enjoyable and surprisingly positive account of how Jewish culture helped shape European history and vice versa." -"The Sunday Telegraph"
"An outstanding survey. . . . Kriwaczek tracks the origins, flowering, and destruction of this unique, vibrant, and tenacious culture with a fine mixture of pride, regret, and eloquence." -"Booklist"
"Evocative and precise. . . . An enjoyable narrative that captures the intricacies of a very complicated history."-"Publishers Weekly"
"Informative and very entertaining . . . conjures up and re-creates baroque images and marvelous set pieces of feverish activity, long lost towns and shtetls [as well as] wonderful pictures of lost communities of Jews."-"The Irish Times"
A portrait of a civilisation which flourished within living memory and left an indelible mark on historySee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The first third of the book is not really about Yiddish Civilization at all, dealing as it does with the history of the Jews from the time of the Diaspora to the medieval period when something like a Yiddish identity emerged among the Ashkenazi Jews. In his Bibliography he comments that general books on the history of the Jews are "disappointing in their lack of attention to eastern Europe during the earlier medieval period", and it is this first third of the book that I found most original and that advances a number of theories which challenge commonly received ideas about Jewish history.
The first is that Kriwaczek has the first Jews arriving in Eastern Europe not from the West, but from the East, being swept westwards from the northern edges of the Byzantine Empire by wave after wave of nomadic tribes, generically known as Scythians; and Kriwaczek says that the word Ashkenazi is actually derived from the Semitic name for the Scythians, a-Shkuz. (The problem seems to me that these nomadic waves belong to a period that had ended before the 7th century.) So there were already many Slavic Jews living in Poland, Bohemia and Austria before the arrival of Jews there from Germany.Read more ›
But the wealth of detailed information on places and people that make up Yiddish history may mean much more to Jewish readers than to others. It has the result of this book not really being 'popular history' for a general readership. But the seriously interested in Yiddish history will find a lot of useful information here
Having picked up the book with pleasurable anticipation, I was initially disappointed in it, once I had passed the introductory pages about the author's London boyhood.
The book's weaknesses are particularly prevalent in the earlier chapters when the text seems to be entirely derivative from a range of published histories. It is unfortunate too that the referencing is so general, and no pagination is normally given. There are too many unremarkable passages quoted from historians, in a way that is distracting to the reader, and gives the impression of the author knitting together a narrative about which he lacks much confidence.
Later chapters work better, when he is dealing with interesting religious and political movements both within and outside of Judaism and with ground breaking (but in many cases little known) Jewish individuals in the post Reformation period.I believe that he has written the book with a sharp eye on the American market, and indeed, much that he has to say throws most interesting light on New York Jewish history.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
extremely detailed book, giving a insight in to various periods of Jewish migration in Europe which are not published in other booksPublished on 12 July 2014 by J M Weinblatt
Haven't had chance to read it all yet, but it's well written, and I shall certainly enjoy finishing it.
A good addition to the library of anyone interested in this topic.
This book is so well written that I have read in twice in just over a week. During this time I have been taken by the author across the years back to the Jewish people who lived... Read morePublished on 8 Jan. 2013 by Birmingham Book Reader
As well as being a history of the migration of the Jewish people across Europe from the Middle East during the Roman Empire up until the flee across the Atlantic escaping the Nazi... Read morePublished on 25 Oct. 2009 by I. A. Ashleigh
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