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Jewry at the Turn of the Centuries
6 Lectures

Item #: S350

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Item Description:

The ends of the 19th and 20th centuries were times of political and social turmoil. From the beginning of Zionism to the end of the Soviet regime, these were decades of great chaos and grand opportunity for the world's Jewish communities. Noted Jewish historian Rabbi Berel Wein explores the conditions that shaped world events at the ends of these two centuries, and the changes that overtook the Jewish people as a result.

Individual lectures:

Eastern Europe - The drastic changes the world saw in the previous century have been so sweeping that the world as we know it would be unrecognizable to a person born 100 years ago. In Eastern Europe, which saw the rise and fall of communism in the last century, the changes are particularly dramatic. How did this affect the Jews in particular? Rabbi Wein exposes the bitter social conditions which led so many Jews to embrace communism and anti-religious attitudes, and though the yeshiva and Hasidic movements still preserved the Jewish way of life, because of Hitler and Stalin, Eastern European Jewry has all but disappeared.

Western Europe - The dominant powers of Western Europe at the end of the 19th century, England, France, Germany, and the Austro-Hungarian empire, each had its own distinct culture, but the Jews in each country all shared one common goal: to become accepted citizens of the places they lived. From the birth of the Reform movement to the Dreyfus trial and its impact on Jewish history, Rabbi Wein reviews how the Jewish community of each country fared against the sweeping tide of assimilation.

The Land of Israel - While anti-Semitism intensified in Europe at the end of the 19th century, the popularity of Zionism as a solution increased. Rabbi Wein retraces the early aliyos of Jews to the Land of Israel - secular and religious - and shows that while they literally planted the seeds for the future State of Israel, their contradicting ideologies continue to do battle today.

North America - Even more popular than Zionism as a solution to the plight of Eastern European Jewry was the dream of "Golden America." A mass immigration to the American shores ensued, but the Jews were not received with open arms. Between the public schools and the movie industry, the message of assimilation was pounded into the Jews. And to a very large extent, it was so successful that generations of American Jews have lost touch with their heritage, causing religious and cultural damage from which we struggle to overcome today.

The Mediterranean Basin - Beginning in the Middle Ages, Sephardic Jews lived in vibrant Jewish communities all around the Mediterranean, from Spain, Portugal, and Italy in the north to Morocco and Algeria in the south. But when Western European imperialism, with its agenda of "civilizing the native," took over Africa and the Middle East, the Jewish communities assimilated en masse. Rabbi Wein contrasts Sephardic assimilation to Ashkenazic and analyzes the culture clash that arose when both groups met each other in the Land of Israel.

Aftica, Asia and South America - In a "travelogue" of Jewish communities throughout the world, Rabbi Wein explores the origins of Jewish life in such far-flung places as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, and the Orient. The unique history of the Jews in each place makes for a spell-binding lecture that brings the entire Jewish world closer together.

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