Assimilation and Its Discontents

Barry Rubin, Author Crown Publishers $25 (333p) ISBN 978-0-8129-2293-6
Historian Rubin (Revolution Until Victory) has written an insightful and provocative mix of analysis and history concerning the perpetual issue of Jewish assimilation. He concentrates on the ideas and actions of ``leading intellectual and cultural figures,'' starting when the French Revolution and the Enlightenment appeared to give Jews a way to shed identity without conversion to the dominant religion. He follows Freud and Koestler, Brandeis and Lippman, and points out the contradictions exemplified by artists like Woody Allen, who is preoccupied by the Jewish background he rejects. The author offers interesting takes on the Jewish embrace of radical causes and victimized groups. He concludes that assimilation has both damaged Jewry and produced creative and professional success for Jews in Europe and America. Some quibbles: the book's tone is detached, it ignores recent movements of Jewish renewal in America and it barely examines the question of Jewish identity in Israel, where Rubin teaches at Tel Aviv University. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
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