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A Short History of the Jewish People: From Legendary Times to Modern Statehood Paperback – July 27, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 27, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195139410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195139419
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.7 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Jewish history is often told not as a narrative of real people with human problems and interests but as an idealized national myth," writes Raymond Scheinlin, in the introduction to his excellent A Short History of the Jewish People. Scheinlin is an observant Jew, but his book is not a history of the Jewish religion. It is a history of Jewish tribes around the world and the ways "they have interacted with the nations and cultures among whom they have lived, adapting to their environment while retaining a variety of continuities." The book's brevity precludes exhaustiveness, but its focus on particular Jewish communities and its disciplined analysis of their political successes and foibles give readers a firm grasp on the movements in Jewish history that have shaped the Middle East, Europe, and America. Amply illustrated with maps and photographs, the fluid prose of Scheinlin's History make this book a useful starting point for anyone seeking a secular history of Judaism that is neither skeptical nor hostile to religion. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"[A] well-written, handy little textbook....The book is well supplied with pedagogical aids, including excellent maps, boxes that explore allusions in the text itself in greater depth, a selected bibliography for each chapter, and a thorough index. As such it will be of great use as the first text in introductory surveys of the history of the Jews or the history of Judaism. It will also provide instructors with good foundations upon which to add more detailed material."--Religious Studies Review

"Scheindlin's short book provides a concise and readable summary of more than 3,000 years of Jewish history. It provides the student and general reader with an excellent introduction to the topic."--Marvin Swartz, University of Massachussetts at Amherst

"Scheindlin, a respected Hebrew scholar, cultural historian, noted author and rabbi, undertakes the daunting task of summarizing Jewish history in a concise fashion....In his narrative, ...Scheindlin sheds light on Jewish experience staring with legendary times to today's ongoing Middle East process. He doesn't shy away from problems the world's Jews have faced during their history, but concludes that 'in many ways, the Jewish condition in the present is better than it has been at any time since antiquity."--The Topeka Capital-Journal

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Customer Reviews

The book starts at the year 1220 B.C.E. and ends in modern times (the copyright on my edition is 1998).
Epistem Quest
I learned a lot, I read this book because a lot of current events seem not to quite make sense based on what I thought I knew.
I recommend this book for anyone looking for a concise history of the Jewish people from a very objective perspective.
Cody Gustaveson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Raymond P. Scheindlin has managed to write, in 263 pages, an accurate, secular and very readable history of the Jewish people. He takes the reader, chronologically, from the period of the first known references to the Israelites outside the Bible, (1220 B.C.E.), an Egyptian inscription commemorating the victory of the pharaoh Marniptah over the wandering tribe, to the declaration of Israeli statehood in 1948, and further still to the present peace negotiations in the Middle East. This sweeping and highly informative work presents the major geographical, cultural and political forces that have determined the course of Jewish history. Scheindlin also discusses the many individuals, secular and religious, who have shaped the mindset and character of the Jewish people.
I am taking a course in Jewish history and asked my professor for "an excellent but readable book" on the subject. I told him I wanted to be able to "enjoy the reading process as well as study." He immediately suggested Rabbi Scheindlin's "A Short History of the Jewish People." I must say that if it is possible to call a history book "riveting" and "compelling" and still maintain credibility, I will say it. I could not put the book down! The text is beautifully written and the history itself, as well as the people who made it, are fascinating. The book also serves as an excellent outline of Jewish History and has assisted me in understanding the course's assigned texts. Highly recommended!
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By M. Stein on January 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
Although one can quibble over specific statements and interpretations (e.g. he writes that Yiddish is a dialect of modern German, when actually it derives from Middle German and is as much a dialect as English is, which also evolved from Middle German) or his inclusion or exclusion of certain figures, facts, etc.-- overall Scheindlin has created a superb work. It is concise, well written, and nicely complemented with clear historical timelines, maps, and small topical essays.

The book is well organized with sensitivity to the difficulty of understanding the tremendous amount of material being covered. The chapters break down as follows:

1) Israelite Origins and Kingdom [Biblical] (c1220 BCE - 587 BCE)

2) Judea and the Origins of the Diaspora [2nd Temple Period] (587 BCE - 70 CE)

3) Roman Palestine and Sassanid Babylonia [Classical Rabbinic Period] (70 CE - 632 CE)

4) Jews in the Islamic World: From the Rise of Islam to the End of the Middle Ages (632 CE - 1500 CE)

5) Jews of Medieval Christian Europe (9th century to 1500)

6) Jews in the Ottoman Empire and Middle East (1453 - 1948)

7) Jews of Western Europe (1500 - 1900)

8) Jews of Eastern Europe and the United States (1770 - 1940)

9) The Holocaust (appx. 1925 - 1946)

10) Zionism and the Origins of the State of Israel (appx. 1862 - 1948)

11) The Jewish People after 1948

This is an excellent historical primer and contains a good bibliography for further study.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Olsen VINE VOICE on December 22, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Scheindlin has managed to write nearly the perfect book for a lower division course on Jewish history. He successfully spans the entire scope of Jewish history from legendary times to the modern State of Israel in a mere 263 pages of very readable prose. His writing is neither dry nor laden with jargon. He writes like Leon Uris or Herman Wouk.

Two issues of debate in the book should be supplemented with additional readings. The first is that the portrayal of the Jewish-Christian schism is only presented in the context of medieval Antisemitism, and a more balanced and informative view of the formative period of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity is found in From Text To Tradition by Lawrence Schiffman. The second is the lachrymos portrayal of Jewish life in the Middle Ages. That should be balanced with Salo Baron's groundbreaking article "Ghetto and Emancipation," reprinted in The Menorah Treasury, ed. Leo W. Schwarz (Philadelphia, 1964).

With those two caveats, I would recommend this book for any introductory Jewish history or Jewish studies survey class.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Elaine Goodfriend on December 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
I teach a survey of Jewish history course at the freshman/sophomore level, and this is a great text for a course of this sort. It is easily understandable, concise and has all the important information. The index is helpful. I would also recommend it for the non-student looking for a quick introduction to the basics of Jewish history. Scheindlin is particularly good with material from Jews in the Middle East. For my course I supplement it with primary texts.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David Hofmayer on January 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
In taking a "Survey of Jewish History" course this fall, which is a broad subject, a broad and sweeping primary textbook was needed. In the short space of 263 pages, Scheindlin covers equitably the history of world Jewry, balancing coverage of religious and sociopolitical elements.

Although accurately described as a secular book, Scheindlin is a practicing Jew and the book is certainly not irreligious. In most cases (esp. premodern situations,) Scheindlin approaches an event or a conflict as a neutral observer, a historian documenting causes and effects. Importantly, he explains the way Jewish societies around the world conceived of and reacted to their circumstances, without actually adopting their views in his writing. This allows both Jew and non-Jew to feel comfortable with the book.

Anyone who faults the book for its lack of detail misunderstands the point of the text and the feasability of what they are asking for. What Scheindlin does with stunning success is give an interesting, accurate depiction, albeit with broad brushstrokes, of the forces that have shaped Jewry throughout the ages.

(I especially recommend the chapter on the Holocaust as riveting and awe-inspiring. Scheindlin, in his understated tone, evokes the horror of "Shoah" (destruction) in a way that impresses even veteran readers with its vividness.)
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