Jews and Europe in the Twen­ty-First Cen­tu­ry: Think­ing Jewish

Nick Lam­bert; David Cesarani, fwd.
  • Review
By – March 5, 2012

Jews in the Unit­ed States often pay atten­tion to their Euro­pean coun­ter­parts only after an anti-Semit­ic inci­dent. A fuller though not nec­es­sar­i­ly reas­sur­ing pic­ture of life on the Con­ti­nent is offered by Uni­ver­si­ty of Lon­don his­to­ri­an Nick Lam­bert— who con­duct­ed inter­views with nine­ty Jew­ish par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, aca­d­e­mics, and heads of reli­gious courts in Eng­land, the Nether­lands, and Italy. 

Spec­u­lat­ing why Jews are rel­a­tive­ly unin­volved in the EU, Lam­bert finds that Con­ti­nen­tal Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties — at least as reflect­ed in the mus­ings of these thinkers — are frag­ment­ed in terms of iden­ti­ty, uncer­tain about their place on a con­ti­nent that’s increas­ing­ly Mus­lim, and yet ambiva­lent toward Israel as a pos­si­ble place of refuge and source of pride. Dif­fer­ences between com­mu­nal” and unaf­fil­i­at­ed Jews, Ortho­dox and lib­er­al, and strong vs. ques­tion­ing Zion­ists are famil­iar, yet sharp­er in a con­fined geo­graph­ic space. While Lambert’s book is some­times dry and over­writ­ten — unlike­ly to be read cov­er to cov­er — it offers sub­stan­tial insights into a large seg­ment of the world Jew­ish population.

Bar­bara Train­in Blank is a free­lance jour­nal­ist and arts previewer/​reviewer, as well as some­time play­wright based in Har­ris­burg, PA.

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