23 Pages

Modern Jewish Politics East and West (1840–1939)

Utopia, Myth, Reality
ByJonathan Frankel

The systematic study of Jewish politics as a major theme in Jewish history has been gaining rapid momentum over the last decades. Jewish historiography first developed in the nineteenth century predominantly as the history of ideas and, although this approach soon lost its monopoly, it has remained of central importance ever since. When the Western and East European models of the Jewish politics are seen not as describing historical facts, empirical processes, but rather as ideal types that only very rarely, if ever, existed in pure form, they can then be effectively employed as major orientation points essential for the mapping of modern Jewish history. Thus, at one corner there was the subworld of traditional Jewry, often described at the time as a relic of the past, but in fact, as already noted, by no means ineffective in adopting the new to preserve the old.