This fine collection of essays by noted scholars is a welcome addition to the literature on a critical period in Jewish history. The failed attempt to overthrow the Tsarist regime became a turning point for a generation of Russian Jews.
A typical offering in this rich source tells how young Jewish intellectuals like David Green (later Ben Gurion), in despair over devastating government-sponsored pogroms, came to feel that Zionism was the only solution for the Jewish future.
Another chapter deals with the identity problem of Polish Jewry. Should they, as many of them died, and as politically liberal Christians urged, assimilate as Polish citizens of the Jewish faith? Or were they, as many claimed, a Yiddish-speaking Jewish nation? Excerpts from letters express the agony of young Jews who have lost hope of ever seeing their ruthless homeland be transformed by Marxism.
Also included are studies of Jewish efforts to found schools and free libraries in the Pale.
The conclusion is upbeat, with accounts of mass emigration to America and work by American Jewish organizations on behalf of victims of Tsarist brutality.
Many articles can be recommended to general readers, particularly those eager to learn about their families’ Russian background. But since the text is directed toward academia, it requires serious interest. Bibliography, with notes, biographies of authors, cartoons of Jews, index, and map of the Pale.