This book is a fascinating and energetic, but significantly flawed, effort to uncover and trace the roots and trunk of the Yiddish- speaking Jewish civilization that flourished for over 800 years in Central and Eastern Europe.
The Austrian-born British author apparently lacks sufficient knowledge of the basic languages needed to comprehend and tell the story reliably. Nevertheless, he tells an engrossing tale that includes the argument that a major source of East European Jewry consisted of Slavic-speaking Jews or converts to Judaism who came to be dominated by Jewish cultural trends and norms imported from the Western Jewries of Northern France and the Rhineland.
The book is peculiarly documented, with references to foreign language works which the author presumably did not read in the original, while some of the standard works in English do not appear in the bibliography or notes. The source notes themselves do not generally include page references, and there are numerous misspellings and mistranslations that might have been caught and corrected with more careful and knowledgeable editing.
Sadly, one cannot recommend this book, but one must mourn what the author’s energy, humor and curiosity could have produced. Biblio., index, notes, photographs.