Glo­ri­ous, Accursed Europe: An Essay on Jew­ish Ambivalence

Jehu­da Rein­harz and Yaa­cov Shavit
  • Review
By – August 30, 2011
For more than a mil­len­ni­um the con­ti­nent of Europe was the home of the Jew­ish peo­ple both phys­i­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly. Its advances were our advances, its rise to world lead­er­ship helped raise us as well, and its depre­da­tions were played out on our skins. This intense­ly felt dichoto­my of the Jews’ expe­ri­ence in Europe forms the basis for this sol­id vol­ume by Rein­harz and Shav­it.

Osten­si­bly an intel­lec­tu­al review of Euro­pean and Jew­ish thought from the Enlight­en­ment to the present day, the book explores the major con­cep­tu­al frame­works upon which the Jew­ish view of Europe and the Euro­pean view of the Jew were formed. An inten­sive col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary thinkers are pre­sent­ed to elu­ci­date the the­o­ret­i­cal dialec­tics of the rise of Europe and its decline, the place of Jew as the Ur-Mod­ern Euro­pean as well as pari­ah, Amer­i­ca as philis­tine and light unto the nations, and final­ly, the rise of the new anti-Semi­tism and appre­hen­sion over Europe’s future Islam­i­fi­ca­tion. 

The book is use­ful and enlight­en­ing. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see Her­zl extolling Europe’s role in civ­i­liz­ing his fel­low semi-Asi­at­ics,” or to source the var­ied streams of Zion­ism in the foothills of fin-de-siè­cle thought. At the same time, it’s hard not to divine the authors’ desire to over­look con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can and Israeli views of Europe as vac­il­lat­ing, unsure of itself, and ulti­mate­ly unwill­ing to stand up for its own cul­ture. Because it was so glo­ri­ous,” Rein­harz and Shav­it seem to say, let’s not curse it so much.” Yet, how­ev­er ambiva­lent a read­er may be upon com­ple­tion of the book, he or she will be grate­ful for the effort.
Jeff Bogursky reads a lot, writes a lit­tle and talks quite a bit. He is a media exec­u­tive and expert in dig­i­tal media.

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