Vox Tablet

Free Thinkers

How Europe’s 19th and early 20th century Jews changed everything

January 4, 2010
Napoleon emancipating the Jews in 1806(Wikimedia Commons)
Napoleon emancipating the Jews in 1806(Wikimedia Commons)

The French Revolution is not generally considered a key moment in Jewish history. But in his new book, Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance, Michael Goldfarb argues that the period that began with the Revolution and Jews’ consequent enfranchisement and ended nearly two centuries later with the Holocaust was marked by astonishing contributions by Jews to Western culture—in philosophy, industry, politics, literature, music, and the sciences. Newly liberated Jews were in a unique position to challenge received wisdom in all areas, after experiencing such radical changes in their own way of life. But their integration into European society also came at the expense of religious and cultural identity.

Goldfarb, former London bureau chief for National Public Radio and now an independent journalist living in London, speaks to Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry about signifcant moments and personalities of that period, from philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, who left his Talmud studies in the Dessau ghetto to become what some referred to as “Germany’s Plato,” to the Rothschild dynasty and its antithesis, Karl Marx.

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Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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