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French-Jewish assimilation reassessed: a review of the recent literature.

experienced assimilation.

Research remains to be done, however. One area that certainly demands further investigation concerns the political behavior of French Jewry. True, the role of the AIU has recently been reexamined,(28) and Jewish reactions to anti-Semitism during the Dreyfus Affair and the Vichy era have also been reassessed.(29) Nevertheless, the broader theme of Franco-Jewish political behavior has received scant attention. Although it may be true that French Jewry never developed a formal self-defense organization comparable to the Centralverein deutscher Staaatsburger judischen Glaubens, this THE DECADE OF THE 1980S HAS WITNESSED a veritable blossoming of historical writing on the experiences of French Jewry in the post-emancipation period. While the bicentennial celebrations of the French Revolution clearly inspired several of these works, the growing interest in the history of modern French Jewry stems also from the fact that, until relatively recently, the Franco-Jewish experience has been somewhat neglected, especially in comparison to the extensive literature devoted to the history of Central European Jewry. The factors responsible for this neglect are not difficult to fathom: the remarkable ease and swiftness of Jewish assimilation fostered the impression that Jewish integration was a relatively smooth and tension-free process.(1) True, even France experienced periodic bouts of anti-Semitism; nevertheless, in comparison to developments across the Rhine, the obstacles to Jewish emancipation and integration seemed minimal indeed.(2)

Recently, however, historians have begun to reassess the nature of Jewish emancipation and assimilation in France. In the past, assimilation has been depicted as an essentially linear process resulting in a steady diminution of a distinctive sense of Jewish identity. Indeed, it was widely assumed that had it not been for the rise of anti-Semitism, together with the massive influx of East European immigrants beginning at the end of the 19th century, French Jewry, left to its own devices, would probably have disappeared.(3) Recent scholarship, however, rejects this view and shows that the processes of acculturation and integration were, in reality, far more complex. Not only do these works suggest that Jewish religious identity was more vibrant than previously believed, but some of them, influenced by trends in American Jewish historiography, even contend that French Jewry exhibited strong signs of ethnic solidarity. Such views constitute nothing short of a veritable revolution, particularly since French Jews have long been considered the most highly assimilated of all Western Jews and, thus, the most hostile to any notion of Jewish peoplehood or nationality. This essay, therefore, will review the principal books that have been published since 1980 that seek to re-evaluate the themes of emancipation and assimilation.(4) As we will see, these studies illuminate not only issues specific to the French context, but they incorporate methodologies and perspectives that ultimately reshape our understanding of assimilation in Western societies more generally.

To understand the foundations of assimilation, it is useful to re-examine the debates over Jewish emancipation that occurred at the end of the 18th century. To be sure, the French approach to Jewish emancipation is commonly held up as the most clear-cut example of a liberal emancipation model. Immediate, complete, and unconditional in its demands, the French paradigm stands in sharp contrast to the gradualistic and piecemeal Central European approach that demanded assimilation as the price for emancipation.(5) While none of the studies under consideration here contests the essential validity of this dichotomy, Libres et Egaux ... L'Emancipation des Juifs, 1789-1791 (Paris: Fayard, 1989), by Robert Badinter, a prominent French Jewish lawyer who served as Minister of Justice from 1981 to 1986 and as President of the Constitutional Council since 1986, poignantly reminds us that even in France the granting of civil rights to Jews was by no means the straightforward victory of revolutionary ideals that it might seem to be today. Indeed, had the men of 1789 been ideologically consistent in applying the principles of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, there should never have been any separate consideration of the Jewish question. Yet, as we know, the process of Jewish emancipation advanced only in stages, and the issue was not fully resolved for another two years. The small but highly acculturated Sephardic community of southwestern France, descendants of Marranos who had fled from Spain and Portugal in the 16th and 17th centuries, won their political rights in January of 1790. It was only at the end of September, 1791, just prior to the dissolution of the National Assembly, that the status of France's largest Jewish community -- the 30,000 Ashkenazi Jews of Alsace and Lorraine -- was finally resolved in their favor.

How then can we account for this two-year time lag? As Badinter well illustrates, the major factor militating against immediate and complete emancipation was the tremendous force of popular anti-Semitism in Northeastern France. Unlike their Sephardic coreligionists, the Jews of Alsace and Lorraine had made no progress toward acculturation during the ancien regime: they lived in their own separate communities governed by Talmudic law; they spoke Yiddish, not French; and they were involved in economic practices widely considered degenerate: peddling, second-hand trading, and moneylending. Long banned from owning land, and unrestricted by Church regulations governing the lending of money, Jewish traders, most of whom lived on the edge of poverty themselves, provided the chief source of agricultural credit in the area. This situation was fraught with tension since the peasantry, often unable to repay their debts, deeply resented their Jewish creditors and feared that, if emancipation were to succeed, the Jews might ultimately seize their land. Thus, Jacobin defenders of the peasantry in Alsace spearheaded a violent campaign in 1789 to crush their feared Jewish exploiters. The counter-revolutionary right, represented by the Church and the nobility, was no less hostile. In part, their resentment stemmed from traditional Christian anti-Jewish prejudice, but economic concerns played a role here as well. With the nationalization of their properties, they, too, feared that their former estates would fall into the hands of the Jews. Hence, emancipation was no simple unfolding of the rational and enlightened principals of 1789; rather, it was the fruit of a long, drawn-out battle between ideological liberals, on the one hand, and anti-Semites of a variety of political stripes, on the other.

To be sure, much of Badinter's story is not new. Nevertheless, the way in which he tells it -- as a closely detailed chronological narrative of every stage at which the debate unfolded -- highlights just how uncertain the final outcome actually was. Indeed, he shows that there were moments when the weight of anti-Jewish opinion seemed so overwhelming that pro-emancipation spokesmen had little choice but to stall the debate in order to avert premature defeat.

If the cause of Jewish emancipation was as tenuous as Badinter suggests, whey, then, did it triumph in the end? Had the driving force of revolutionary principles alone been responsible, the National Assembly in 1791 would have been forced to have emancipated slaves as well, which it failed to do. Moreover, as Badinter repeatedly reminds us, the cause of Jewish emancipation did not rank high on the political agenda of the National Assembly; the vast majority of delegates were indifferent to the fate of the Jews. Hence, Badinter argues, emancipation would not have triumphed had it not been for the remarkable lobbying efforts of two important groups: first, the Jews themselves, who were not nearly as passive as historians in the past have portrayed them to be; and, second, the pro-Jewish camp in the National Assembly, headed by the Abbe Gregoire.

With regard to the Jews, there is no doubt that they were fiercely divided among themselves, and the political strategies pursued by the two major ethnic groups were, more often than not, at loggerheads. For the Sephardim, the issue was less the acquisition of new political rights than maintaining those rights already secured extra-legally. Above all, they did not want their fate linked to that of their less "civilized" Ashkenazi brethren with whom, they argued, they shared nothing in common. As the Sephardi, Isaac de Pinto, noted already in 1762, "A Portuguese Jew from Bordeaux and a German Jew from Metz seem to be two entirely different beings." The strategy of the Ashkenazim was altogether different. Well aware of their inferior position, they sought every means to tie their fate to that of their more well-to-do coreligionists in the south. Largely unconcerned with political rights, what they wanted was freedom from the myriad of medieval disabilities that still weighed heavily upon them: the onerous head tax; a web of residential restrictions; and bans on all sorts of economic activities. Moreover, in sharp contrast to the Sephardim, they had no intention of relinquishing their autonomous Jewish communal institutions. It was only after they realized that this demand was incompatible with the revolutionary vision of a unitary centralized state that the Jewish notables of Alsace and Lorraine backed down on this issue. Yet, despite these divisions, Badinter argues that the representatives of both camps conducted remarkably vigorous and astute lobbying campaigns that, in the end, contributed greatly to sustaining the momentum behind the pro-emancipation drive.

More important than the political activism of the Jews themselves, however, was the indefatigable campaigning of those liberal proponents of emancipation, and most notably the Abbe Gregoire. Refuting those who in recent years have stressed the negative side of emancipation, and particularly its hostility to the persistence of any distinct Jewish identity, Badinter proclaims that emancipation was unequivocally positive in its ramifications for Jews. To be sure, he admits that those most avid in pressing the cause of the Jews were not particularly tolerant of Jewish particularism; they, too, disdained Yiddish, scorned the precepts of rabbinic law, and condemned the allegedly corrupt economic practices of the Jews. Some, including Gregoire, even expressed the hope that, at some time in the future, Jews would voluntarily undergo that ultimate act of assimilation: conversion to Christianity. Indeed, as Arthur Hertzberg has masterfully shown in The French Enlightenment and the Jews (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), a book curiously absent from Badinter's notes, pro-and anti-emancipation forces were in remarkable agreement over the corrupt and debased nature of the Jews. They differed only in their assessments of the causes of this corruption. Was it due to nature, as anti-emancipation spokesmen maintained, or to nurture, as liberals held? If to nurture, then Jews were, indeed, capable of being "regenerated" once the oppressive institutions, laws and prejudices that had caused their deformation were eliminated.

By minimizing the significance of this key point of agreement between the pro-and anti-emancipation forces, Badinter fails to discern its profound implications for the future. As Hertzberg maintains, even the most liberal Gentile supporters of the Jews generally expected them to disappear as a distinct group once they received their civil rights. Jews, of course, did not envision the future in these terms; rather, they would strive to balance the demands of integration and assimilation, on the one hand, with the maintenance of a distinct Jewish group identity, on the other. Only by coming to terms with these contradictory expectations for the future, a task Badinter fails to pursue, can we begin to comprehend the difficulties that would attend the assimilatory process for the next two centuries.

Simon Schwarzfuchs is one of several historians to devote himself to re-examining these patterns of Jewish assimilation that emerged in the post-European era. His book, Du Juif a l'Israelite: Histoire d'une mutation, 1770-1870 (Paris: Fayard, 1989), offers a richly detailed chronological narrative that focuses on the institutional development of French Jewry from the French Revolution up through the end of the Second Empire. To be sure, Schwarzfuchs covers much the same turf as Badinter; indeed, a full two-thirds of his text is devoted to the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. Nevertheless, by widening his chronological horizon, Schwarzfuchs provides a provocative and suggestive analysis of the principal continuities and discontinuities between the pre- and post-revolutionary Jewish communities. Indeed, the author's main contention is that we cannot properly speak of a single Jewish community in France prior to 1789. Rather, he claims, the various 18th-century ethnic Jewish communities were distinct Portuguese and German "nations" not only in name, but in facts as well. Pinto, Schwarzfuchs maintains, was by no means off the mark when he claimed that the two groups shared nothing in common.

It was only as a result of the French Revolution, together with Napoleon's creation of the Consistorial system in 1808, that French Judaism was unified and consolidated into a single national community. Ironically, however, this reorganization -- which was due, at least in part, to the lobbying efforts of Jewish notables and rabbis who deplored the organizational anarchy that reigned in the immediate wake of the French Revolution -- yielded some unintended consequences. Jews, according to the terms of emancipation, were expected to divest themselves entirely of their national character -- they were to give up the civil aspects of Talmudic law; disavow the political implications of Jewish messianism: abandon the use of Yiddish; and, most importantly, relinquish their semi-autonomous communal institutions. They were to become like other Frenchmen in every respect, save religion. Schwarzfuchs effectively illustrates, however, that Jewish ethnic identity, although significantly transformed by the French Revolution, nevertheless survived into the post-emancipation period. Indeed, the Consistorial system, by providing French Jewry with a new national organizational framework, contributed substantially, albeit unintentionally, to preserving Jewish ethnicity. The persistence of anti-Semitism and, particularly, officially sponsored anti-Semitism, further strengthened these bonds of ethnic solidarity. Under Napoleon, harsh restrictions were imposed specifically on Jewish moneylending, and Jews, in contradiction to other Frenchmen, were forbidden from hiring military replacements when conscripted into the army. Moreover, in contrast to their Christian counterparts, Jewish clerical officials did not receive state salaries until 1831; only the Jewish community was held responsible for the payment of its pre-revolutionary debts; and the degrading Jewish oath, the more judaico, was abolished only in 1846. Internal and external factors thus conspired, Schwarzfuchs shows, to create a sense of shared peoplehood among French Jewry.

To be sure, Schwarzfuchs' use of the language of ethnicity runs sharply against the grain of long-standing French historiographical traditions. Yet, for Schwarzfuchs, this concept alone captures the essence of the unique French-Jewish symbiosis that emerged in the first half of the 19th century. He sharply refutes those who have depicted French Jewish life in this period as vapid, lifeless, and lacking in spirituality. Instead, the portrait of post-emancipation Jewry that emerges from this book is one of enormous vitality and creativity; religious indifference, Schwarzfuchs contends, became a problem only after 1870. It was precisely because of the persistence of Jewish ethnicity into the post-emancipation period that French Jews, he argues, were the first to create in 1860 an organization entirely devoted to the cause of international Jewish solidarity: the Alliance israelite universelle (AIU). Thus, in the final analysis, French Jewish life was no less vibrant than its German counterpart; it was merely different and reflected a unique blend of French and Jewish values.

Schwarzfuchs' optimistic assessment of French Judaism during the first half of the 19th century is fully endorsed in Jay R. Berkovitz's study, The Shaping of Jewish Identity in Nineteenth-Century France (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1989). "Emancipation did not lead directly to the attentuation of Jewish loyalties, as might be expected," Berkovitz asserts. Rather, he, too, believes that French Jews fashioned a creative synthesis between their loyalties to Judaism and their loyalties to France, a synthesis that enabled them to adapt successfully to the demands of modernity while maintaining their distinctive group identity. This study, essentially an intellectual history, focuses specifically on an ideology referred to by the author as "regeneration." This 18th-century term has frequently been employed in the past to describe efforts by French Jewish elites to encourage acculturation and economic integration among their less enlightened co-religionists and, particularly, among the staunchly traditional village Jews of Alsace and Lorraine. Berkovitz is the first historian, however, to use this term to describe a coherent ideological movement that spanned the first half of the 19th century. True, the concept of "regeneration" is a bit vague, and its meaning has changed over time: early in the 19th century the stress was on the need for Jews to become more like their French compatriots, whereas, after the Restoration, the emphasis was increasingly placed on strengthening Jewish cohesiveness. Yet the goal, Berkovitz argues, remained constant -- striking the proper balance between Jewishness and Frenchness.

The primary contention of Berkovitz's study is that the ideology of "regeneration" represented a uniquely French mode of Jewish accommodation to modernity. He admits that French Judaism never developed a successful Reform movement. Nevertheless, like Schwarzfuchs, Berkovitz refutes those who suggest that this failure in some way signifies that French Jewish life was less intellectually and religiously vibrant than its German counterpart. There were, indeed, specific reasons why religious reform did not take root in France. Most important, of course, was the fact that France granted emancipation without first requiring Jews to undergo an extensive process of assimilation.

Thus, the debate over religious reform was far less urgent than it was across the Rhine, where Jews firmly believed that they had to prove themselves capable of cultural integration before they could be considered eligible for the rights of citizenship. Although French Jews, too, were expected to assimilate, never did they feel that their civil status was contingent on their ability to prove that Judaism, as a religion, was capable of change and adaptation. Second, the highly centralized consistorial system, which served to unite French Jews into a single national unit -- in sharp contrast to the complete absence of any "national" organization representing all of German Jewry -- militated against radical religious reform. Orthodox and liberal Jews in France had no choice but to coexist within the consistorial system, which monopolized every aspect of Jewish religious life. Given the considerable diversity of its constituency, the Consistory understandably chose to pursue a path of moderate reform precisely to avoid the sectarian strife that prevailed in Germany.(6)

Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that French Jews developed an accommodation to modernity significantly different from the patterns that emerged among their German co-religionists. In an interesting twist, Berkovitz, in fact, argues that French Jews were the most loyal heirs of the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment movement. Like Moses Mendelssohn, the towering intellect of the late 18th-century German Haskalah movement, French Jewish "regenerators" sought to balance Jewish tradition and law, on the one hand, with greater integration into the surrounding society, on the other. And since they, too, regarded Jewish law as immutable, the "regenerators" focused primarily on the aesthetic reform of the synagogue service, as well as on the creation of new schools that would combine Jewish and secular learning. Thus, despite the Haskalah's rapid demise in Germany, it by no means disappeared from the scene, as is commonly assumed. Rather, Berkovitz maintains, it ultimately made its way to France where it enjoyed considerable success. Berkovitz thus proves that, at least for the French case, religious traditionalism was by no means incompatible with socioeconomic and cultural modernization.(7)

To be sure, Berkovitz's study could have done more to explore the social context of "regeneration:" what social backgrounds did the "regenerators" come from, and to what extent did this ideology filter down to the Jewish masses? Moreover, was this movement as uniquely French as Berkovitz suggests, or did it continue to be influenced by trends across the Rhine? And, finally, Berkovitz vastly overestimates the severity of anti-Semitism. Although aggressive Christian missionizing toward the Jews undoubtedly took place during the Restoration and the July Monarchy, the total number of converts remained insignificant, as Schwarzfuchs points out, despite the conversion of several prominent individuals. Integration, not anti-Semitism, was the predominant motif of this era. Nevertheless, Berkovitz's book stands as a major contribution not only to our understanding of how Jewish communities survived into the modern period, but how they actively reshaped and revitalized themselves as well. While avoiding the terminology of ethnicity, Berkovitz, too, makes a strong case that "regeneration" strengthened French Jewry's sense of shared peoplehood well into the post-emancipation period.

Christine Piette's study, Les Juifs de Paris (1808-1840): La marche vers l'assimilation (Quebec: Les presses de l'Universite Laval, 1983), unlike the other works discussed here, seeks to apply a social historical approach to the question of assimilation. Focusing specifically on the Jewish community of Paris, she sets out to examine the process of socioeconomic and cultural and religious integration between the years 1808, when the Consistorial system was created, and 1840, when, as she sees it, the processes of integration had largely been completed. Far more than other authors surveyed here, Piette insists that social class must be taken into account in any understanding of assimilation. Indeed, some of her more fascinating discussions center on ways by which Jewish middle class notables used the institutions of "regeneration" to control and even police the Jewish poor, an issue that Berkovitz leaves relatively unexplored. Moreover, she argues, the social integration of Jews must always be seen within the larger context of the changing social contours of the society as a whole. By using a wide array of statistical data, including notarial records, Piette paints a rich picture of social change among Parisian Jews that is considerably at odds with traditional interpretations.

Contrary to Michel Roblin's thesis that the Jews of Paris experienced rapid upward social mobility in the first decades following emancipation, Piette presents a far more moderate assessment.(8) Her fundamental argument is that if we compare the social mobility of Parisian Jews to the general processes of social change occurring within the Parisian population as a whole (here she relies on Adeline Daumard's study, Les Bourgeois de Paris au |xix.sup.e~siecle |Paris: Flammarion, 1970~), it becomes apparent that Jews followed essentially the same trends as everyone else. Hence, she show that, in 1809, only 12.4 percent of the Paris Jewish population was bourgeois (defined by Daumard as having estates worth between 2,000 and 500,000 francs), slightly less than the proportion among the population as a whole. By 1840, change had occurred -- 16.6 percent of all Jews in Paris could be considered bourgeois, a proportion roughly the same as that for the total population. Thus, while the rate of Jewish enbourgeoisement was somewhat more rapid than that of non-Jews, Piette argues that this was primarily a process of catching up. So, too, our notions of Jewish social mobility are modified by the fact that the number of Jewish poor remained quite high up until 1840, possibly even exceeding the number of indigents among the population as a whole. And, while Jews continued to be concentrated in certain residential neighborhoods, such residential segregation tended to decline as they moved up the socio-economic ladder: bourgeois Jews who could afford to leave Jewish neighborhoods moved into the same fashionable arrondissements as their non-Jewish compatriots. This was by no means a separate Jewish middle class, paralleling its Christian counterpart but not overlapping with it; rather, Piette insists, the Jewish bourgeoisie was fully integrated into the Parisian bourgeoisie as a whole. Hence, for Piette, those structural forces that tended to encourage the persistence of Jewish ethnicity were declining rapidly. Although she disagrees with Roblin's assessment regarding the pace of change, she concurs with his view of the general direction: "On the whole, the Jewish social structure was thus comparable to the Parisian social structure in 1840".

To be sure, patterns of Jewish ethnic cohesiveness would have been more striking had Piette looked more closely at the occupational distribution of Jews, in comparison to that of the total Parisian population. Moreover, one must wonder why, if Jewish and Christian members of the bourgeoisie really shared so much in common, the rate of intermarriage remained so low. And, finally, a different picture of the pace of change might have emerged had Piette carried her statistical analysis beyond 1840. Indeed, David Cohen had suggested that the period in which French Jewry experienced the most rapid embourgeoisement in the 19th century was the Second Empire (1852-1870), and it would be worthwhile to trace the degree to which the socio-economic transformation of the Jews continued to parallel general trends.(9) Nevertheless, Piette's stress on the importance of class, and her attempt to place the history of Jewish socio-economic change within a comparative context, add an important dimension to our understanding of assimilation.

Yet, when Piette goes beyond her statistical analysis to explore cultural and religious change -- an examination based largely on qualitative sources -- she arrives at very different conclusions regarding the persistence of ethnicity. Like Berkovitz, she, too, argues that the philosophy of those Jews who sought to achieve a balance between a strong, separate Jewish identity, on the one hand, and socio-economic integration, on the other (she calls them "reformers" rather than "regenerators"), ultimately prevailed over both the orthodox and the radical assimilationists. Indeed, a principal reason for concluding her study in 1840 was that, in 1839, the Jewish community announced its decision to establish a separate Jewish hospital, in spite of fierce opposition from the radical assimilationists who believed that such separate institutions would impede integration. Thus, like Berkovitz, Piette claims that the Jewish community's insistence upon a separate sphere of Jewish institutional life -- hospitals, schools, and philanthropies -- constituted an important turning point.

Ultimately, however, Piette stops short of answering the key question raised by her study -- why, at the very moment when Parisian Jews were becoming socially and economically more like their French compatriots, should they have chosen to stress their cultural and religious uniqueness? To be sure, she suggests some possible reasons. The persistence of anti-Semitism, manifested both in the conversionary pressures of the 1820s and 1830s, as well as continued occupational and educational discrimination, were certainly factors. Moreover, as she points out, Protestants and Catholics had their separate institutions, so Jews were simply following the dominant cultural mode. And, she speculates, as the most religiously indifferent Jews abandoned the community, the ranks of the radical assimilationists diminished, thus opening the door for the more moderate reformers. But, there may also have been an important internal factor at work that Piette has largely ignored -- the significant internal migration of Jews to Paris during this period -- especially from Alsace and Lorraine.(10) Although Piette discusses the demographic impact of this migration, noting that, between 1809 and 1840, the size of the Paris Jewish community tripled, largely as a result of this influx, she fails to consider the cultural and religious repercussions of such a vast and ongoing migration. The Jews who arrived in Paris from the northeastern provinces were staunchly traditional and exerted a strong brake on any extreme assimilationist tendencies. Moreover, the fact that the Central Consistory represented not only Paris, but all French Jews, meant that in formulating its policies it had to consider the more traditional Jewish populations of these frontier departments, who, in 1866, still constituted 57 percent of all French Jewry. Hence, while Piette's analysis is rich and suggestive on many levels, it also highlights the problem of isolating Parisian Jewry from the larger French context.

By far the boldest and most innovative of these investigations into assimilation in France during the first half of the 19th century is Michael Graetz's Les Juifs en France au |xix.sup.e~siecle: de la revolution francaise a l'Alliance Israelite Universelle (Paris: Seuil, 1989).(11) Graetz's goal is, in reality, two fold. First, he wants to explore the factors responsible for the creation of the AIU in 1860. This organization, devoted to the principles of international Jewish solidarity, was rounded by a group of young activists who proclaimed that French Jews had a special mission to combat anti-Semitism and to fight for Jewish emancipation worldwide. Graetz dismisses as inadequate those interpretations of the AIU that stress only the immediate incidents leading up to its creation, such as the Damascus Affair of 1840, in which the Jewish community of Damascus was accused of having murdered a Capuchin monk for ritual purposes, or the Mortara Case of 1858, in which a six-year-old Jewish boy was kidnapped in Bologna by Vatican agents who claimed that the boy had been baptized. Rather, Graetz insists that a longue duree perspective would illuminate the fact that the AIU's origins were actually embedded in larger patterns of assimilation. His second and somewhat subsidiary goal is to show how the AIU was a necessary precondition for the later emergence of Zionism. To be sure, Graetz acknowledges that the explicit aims of the organization were blatantly assimilatory, and he does not refute the fact that the AIU sought, above all, to spread the ideology of emancipation and regeneration among Jews throughout the world. Nevertheless, Graetz claims, by propagating the ideology of international Jewish solidarity, the AIU operated in unconscious ways to prepare the way for the rise of Jewish nationalism later in the 19th century.

To reveal the underlying forces at work in this progression toward the emergence of Jewish nationalism, Graetz develops a novel and innovative theory regarding the nature of assimilation. This theory is based upon two contentions: first, like Schwarzfuchs and Berkovitz, Graetz rejects the linear model of assimilation that predicts a steady deterioration of Jewish identity in the post-emancipation period. Rather, he argues, assimilation must be understood as a dialectical process -- a dynamic interplay between two sets of forces: the forces encouraging greater integration and assimilation, on the one hand, and the forces of anti-Semitism, on the other. Second, Graetz holds, 19th-century Jews belonged not to a single community, but to two distinct groups. First, there were those whom he labels the "center" -- the mainstream Jews who dominated Jewish institutional life; and, second, there was the "periphery" -- the most extreme assimilationists who were entirely unaffiliated with any Jewish organizations. These Jews, largely young intellectuals, felt profoundly alienated from traditional Judaism and sought out alternative communities, like the Saint-Simonians, that offered the prospect of constructing a new and totally universal society which would transcend both Christianity and Judaism. Indeed, it was precisely these "peripheral" Jews, Graetz argues, who were impacted most by their encounter with anti-Semitism. Due to their extreme assimilationist aspirations, these Jews moved in almost exclusively non-Jewish circles. Yet, despite their successful integration, most of them quickly became aware that anti-Semitism survived to varying degrees even among the most enlightened elements of Gentile society. This clash between the reality of anti-Semitism and their universalistic ideals often resulted in a profound disillusionment that inspired at least some of these youths to return to the Jewish fold. And, coming back to the question of the AIU's origins, Graetz contends that it was precisely these returning young Jewish intellectuals -- imbued with a renewed sense of Jewish solidarity -- who founded the organization. Hence the "periphery" returned to the "center," and, in so doing, revitalized Jewish institutional life and strengthened the bonds of Jewish solidarity.

Graetz insists, quite persuasively in my view, that historians in the past have overemphasized the experience of the Jewish "center" and have ignored almost completely the experience of the "periphery." But, as he shows, the two groups cannot be so neatly separated, and, he maintains, the time has now come to give the "periphery" its proper due. This line of inquiry sends Graetz off on fascinating forays into previously unchartered waters. Graetz's discussion of Jewish involvement in the Saint-Simonian movement is truly pathbreaking, and he shows that even this most "neutral" sphere of French society remained strongly tinged with Christian and often anti-Jewish values. Similarly, his analysis of anti-Jewish tendencies in 19th-century French Biblical scholarship provides a brilliant complement to Uriel Tal's treatment of German trends.(12) Indeed, despite Graetz's contention that his primary focus is the "periphery," this study, to its credit, deals at least as extensively with the "center" and the interaction between these two spheres.

Yet, despite the extraordinary richness of the individual parts of Graetz's book, as a whole it is marred by its farfetched thesis. First, there is no compelling reason to read all of French Jewish history during the first two-thirds of the 19th century as inexorably leading up to a single event -- the creation of the Alliance israelite universelle. There is even less ground for the contention that the emergence of this organization was, somehow, part of a larger historical process that inevitably culminated in Zionism. Indeed, Zionism, even in the 20th century, remained very much a minority phenomenon among French Jews, and the AIU, to put it mildly, was never among the movement's more avid supporters. True, early Zionist thinkers like Moses Hess may have expected the AIU to play a key role in the implementation of their Zionist schemes, but these schemes never materialized, and, in the end, they provide a flimsly hook upon which to hang the bold claim of the AIU's proto-Zionist tendencies. Graetz seems to be suggesting that any Jewish organization that pursued specifically Jewish political ends must, ipso facto, have been Zionist. Such a claim, however, has no foundation and severely distorts the entire history of modern Jewish political behavior.

Moreover, although Graetz's concepts of "center" and "periphery" are enormously useful, his central contention that the AIU was the creation of "peripheral" Jews is unsubstantiated. Indeed, he himself points out that only one of the Alliance's founders -- Jules Carvallo -- had been a member of the Saint-Simonian movement. Moreover, a full 20 percent of the organization's founders -- again according to Graetz's own calculations -- had previously been members of the Consistory. Adolphe Cremieux, the most prominent of the AIU's founders, had even served as the Consistory's president. Thus, as both Schwarzfuchs and Berkovitz note, the founders of the Alliance, with the possible exception of Eugene Manuel, were not peripheral Jews at all. Finally, Graetz's argument rests heavily on the supposition that a significant number of peripheral Jews made their way back to the Jewish fold, but, once again, where is the evidence? Graetz is surely right to contend that some of these intellectuals, like Joseph Salvador, experienced an awakening of their Jewish consciousness, but there is no basis for arguing that they returned to the Jewish mainstream and reconstituted a new "center."(13) Hence, despite the tremendous value of the individual parts of Graetz's study, the book as a whole is flawed by its over-reliance on an outdated Zionist historiographical model. In the final analysis, Graetz's major contribution is not his thesis; rather, it is the masterful way in which he has integrated the story of "peripheral" Jews into the larger story of Jewish assimilation.

A wholly different approach to the issue of Jewish assimilation is provided by Anka Muhlstein's splendid and highly readable biography, Baron James: The Rise of the French Rothschilds (New York: Vendome Press, 1983; Vintage Books, 1984).(14) Though James de Rothschild was no ordinary Jew, nevertheless, Muhlstein maintains, his story can teach us a great deal about the dramatic transformation of Jewish life in general in the aftermath of emancipation. While the author's primary purpose is to examine the spectacular rise of one of Europe's most prestigious and powerful banking houses, the Jewish element of the story is of no small consequence.

Inevitably, histories of the House of Rothschild begin in the Frankfurt ghetto at the end of the 18th century. It was here that Mayer Amschel, paterfamilias of the Rothschild clan, began to build an extensive financial empire, based on foreign exchange and money lending, that ultimately brought him into the position of Court Jew of the Landgrave of Hesse. Yet, despite this considerable financial success, Mayer Amschel realized that still more could be accomplished if his sons, schooled in the business from an early age, were to establish branches in Europe's major cities. Hence, the youngest of the live Rothschild brothers, Jacob, set off for Paris in 1811.

After the stifling atmosphere of the Frankfurt ghetto, the 19-year-old Jacob -- who quickly changed his name to James -- found the atmosphere in Paris positively liberating. Emancipation, Muhlstein shows, had, indeed, made a difference: for the first time in his life, the young James "no longer found his origins a liability". Moreover, in contrast to his brother, Nathan, in London, James quickly began to distance himself from the world of Jewish tradition in which he had grown up. Indeed, in the years immediately following his arrival in Paris, James actually took pains to avoid the Jewish community; so unknown was he that the Consistory never even solicited him for contributions! In part, James' detachment was due to his prolonged bachelorhood; in part to the fact that the Jewish community in Paris was, itself, not well established. In any event, Muhlstein notes: "James had liberated himself from his past with exceptional speed. In barely ten years he had traveled a distance that would take others a lifetime to cover".

James' real ambitions resided, instead, in his desire to cultivate non-Jewish society, a goal that he pursued with a vengeance. His table was considered the best in all of Europe, and no one, according to Muhlstein, ever refused an invitation to his banquets. Truly, money had become the great levelling force in Europe. As Le Constitutionnel wrote: "The power of gold ... brings all classes and cults together. Not the least of the curious spectacles to be seen today, a time so rich in contrasts, is that of all the representatives of the Holy Alliance, established in the name of Jesus Christ, attending a banquet given by a Jew". Contrary to the claims of Berkovitz and Piette, Muhlstein contends that anti-Semitism made little headway prior to the 1840s, and even then it interfered scarcely at all with Rothschild's social relations. Only at the end of the 19th century did snubbing the Rothschilds become all the rage among certain aristocratic circles.

Rothschild's association with the official Jewish community began in earnest only after his marriage in 1824. According to Muhlstein, it was primarily in response to his wife's prodding that Rothschild began to involve himself in Jewish communal activities: he gave more and more generously to Jewish causes, and, although he never held a seat on the Consistory, he played an ever more prominent role in Jewish affairs. Indeed, at the time of the Damascus Affair of 1840, Rothschild interceded with the French government on behalf of Syrian Jewry. This intervention, Muhlstein shows, stimulated a virulent outburst of anti-Semitism in France itself, since the French consul in Syria, in charge of protecting the Christian community there, had, in fact, trumped up the charges against the Jews in the first place. A conflict thus ensued that pitted France's diplomatic interests against the interests of the Jews, presenting French Jewry for the first time with the dilemma of what appeared to be conflicting loyalties. Premier Adolphe Thiers himself denounced Jewish intervention on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies: "You protest in the name of the Jews; well, I protest in the name of the French ... They |the Jews~ are more powerful in the world than they pretend to be ...". Such tirades prompted Adolphe Cremieux, one of French Jewry's most prominent leaders, to lament that "France is against us". Yet, Muhlstein shows, the dilemma was somewhat less acute for Rothschild himself since, ironically, he did not yet consider himself fully French: as he put it, he was first of all a Rothschild, second of all a Jew, and only lastly a Frenchman. Obviously, his French-born children would feel quite differently.

To be sure, in many ways Rothschild's path toward assimilation was unique. Despite his growing prominence within the Jewish community, he never socialized extensively with fellow Jews. At the same time, Muhlstein claims, "he strove to set himself apart from his own natural class, that of the great commercial bourgeoisie, of stockbrokers and bankers". Yet, he was excluded, too, from the ranks of the old aristocracy, not just by his Jewish origins, but, also, by his unabashedly bourgeois mentality: unlike the nobility to which he aspired, Rothschild did not disdain hard work, nor did he ever feel the least bit embarrassed by his single-minded devotion to making money. In the end, notwithstanding his relentless pursuit of social acceptance, he remained very much a pariah: neither part of the old, nor part of the new.

Despite his exceptionalness, Rothschild became the foremost symbol of the Jews. By the 1840s, his name had entered the anti-Semitic lexicon as the principal codeword for capitalism, and socialist anti-Semites delighted in lambasting him as "king of the Jews." From there, only a small leap of imagination was needed to excoriate all Jews as "the kings of the epoch,"(15) collectively responsible for the exploitation of the masses and conspiring behind the scenes to conquer the world through secret financial machinations. Ironically, Jews, too, transformed Rothschild into a symbol. They basked in his glory, convinced that his success would encourage a more positive image of the community as a whole. His career, in their eyes, epitomized the dramatic revolution brought about by emancipation, a revolution that propelled a ghetto Jew from Frankfurt to previously unimagined heights of economic and social success. So completely antithetical were these images that they highlight once again the extraordinary divide that separated Jewish and Gentile expectations with respect to emancipation.

A quite different approach is to explore the ways in which the East European immigrant experience, beginning at the end of the 19th century, profoundly restructured the fundamental patterns of French Jewish life. These immigrants, who spoke Yiddish, looked distinctly Jewish, and were primarily working class and poor, reminded French Jews of the world that they had sought to escape since their own emancipation. Moreover, the East Europeans brought with them an ethnic cultural, religious, and political style that contradicted the basic tenets of French Judaism, notwithstanding the recent reassessments of Franco-Jewish ethnicity discussed above. Whether French Jewry would succeed in integrating the immigrants into the existing native Jewish establishment, or whether the immigrants would pursue an alternative mode of accommodation, thus provides the subject of Nancy L. Green's fine study, The Pletzl of Paris: Jewish Immigrant Workers in the Belle Epoque (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1986). France, it is true, received only about 35,000 East European Jewish immigrants before World War I, far fewer than either the United States or Great Britain; it was, essentially, during the interwar era that France became a principal haven for Jewish immigrants. Nevertheless, as Green shows, this first wave of migration was of no small consequence, perhaps because the French Jewish population numbered only about 80,000 at the turn of the century.(16) By the eve of World War I, a full 45 percent of all Paris Jews were of East European origin, with the vast majority of them concentrated in the Pletzl, the Jewish immigrant quarter located in the third and fourth arrondissements.

Although Green discusses the considerable apprehensiveness with which native French Jews initially greeted their East European coreligionists, her book is not primarily a discussion of the native-immigrant encounter. Rather, her focus is on one specific aspect of the immigrant experience -- the Jewish labor movement--and here she argues quite forcefully that "it is not the French Jewish bourgeoisie, but the French labor movement that is the more pertinent frame of reference for understanding the development of the Jewish immigrant labor movement in Paris." Immigrant Jews, Green contends, left more comfortable within the milieu of the French labor movement, which shared its working class politics and values, than it did within middle class French Jewish institutions. Indeed, Green shows, immigrant Jews not only integrated into the French labor movement, but they ultimately reshaped it in significant ways. As an already highly skilled group of workers, especially in the garment trades, they adapted quickly to the needs of French markets. They became especially prominent in the manufacture of ready-to-wear clothing and even dominated certain sectors: rubber rain coats, leather products, furs, and, most importantly, cap-making. Moreover, on the political level, Jewish workers displayed an activist style that corresponded well with the Confederation Generale du Travail's (CGT) mounting emphasis on strike activity in the years immediately preceding the First World War. Indeed, the vitality and influence of Jewish immigrant workers was reflected in the fact that they were allowed to organize their own Yiddish sections within the larger labor movement.

Yet, Green contends, while East European immigrants looked to the French labor movement as their primary reference group, relations between them and their non-Jewish comrades were often fraught with tension. Not surprisingly, native French workers were staunchly protectionist and feared that Jewish immigrants would steal jobs by accepting work for longer hours and for lower wages. And despite the CGT's official policy of defending immigrant workers, xenophobic and anti-Semitic incidents frequently erupted. Thus, prior to the First World War, Jewish immigrant workers were not successfully integrated into any group. They remained separate from their middle class French co-religionists and created a rich institutional life of their own wholly outside the established communal framework.(17) By the same token, they remained a highly visible and distinct group, even within the French labor movement.

By concluding her study in 1914, Green may, of course, be over-emphasizing the significance of the Jewish labor movement as the single most important aspect of the immigrant experience. Yet, as Paula Hyman and David Weinberg have shown, the continuation of mass Jewish immigration into France throughout the interwar years meant that the working class profile of the immigrant community endured there far longer than it did elsewhere in the West.(18) In the United States and Great Britain, the upward social mobility of the second generation of Jewish immigrants, as well as the implementation of immigrant restrictions, cut short the life span of the Jewish labor movements in those countries. In France, however, even when the second generation left the Pletzl for the suburbs during the 1920s and '30s, waves of newly arriving immigrants instantly took their place; as Hyman notes, "slum conditions, thus, remained the norm for large numbers of immigrant Jews throughout the interwar period."(19)

Despite their apparently incomplete integration into both the native Jewish establishment and into the French labor movement, the East European immigrants nevertheless exercised a profound influence over both groups. To be sure, certain circles within the native community continued to put up considerable resistance; nevertheless, in the long run, the community was radically transformed. Not only did the immigrants successfully implant their ethnic religion and culture, but, perhaps most importantly, they refused to give up their ethnic political style. Unlike their native co-religionists, East European immigrants were unafraid to speak out against anti-Semitism in public. Indeed, as Green shows, the only Jewish public protest against anti-Semitism during the Dreyfus Affair was organized by a group of East European anarchists and socialists. These activists even had the temerity to condemn their socialist colleagues for failing to speak out for Dreyfus and against the anti-Semitic violence then raging in France. The idea that anti-Semitism had to be fought not through quiet diplomacy, but through mass public protests, was one that the immigrants would endorse up through the 1930s.

The influence of immigrant Jewish workers on the French labor movement was no less profound. Not only did they introduce an activist strain into CGT politics, but their very presence did much to alter left-wing stereotypes of Jews. As a result of their encounter with the immigrant Jews, many French socialists realized, for the first time, that Jews, too, had a proletariat, one which was as oppressed and down-trodden as the rest of the working class. This sympathy, together with a recognition by the French left that anti-Semitism posed a serious threat to republican values, ultimately prodded the socialist movement to abandon its longstanding identification of Jews and capitalism. Unfortunately, however, this tradition by no means disappeared; rather, it was embraced and injected with new venom by the emerging forces of the radical right.(20)

While the 19th-century provides the departure point for the vast majority of recent works devoted to reassessing Franco-Jewish assimilation, several new studies seek to explore the phenomenon in its 20th-century context. Michel Abitbol's Les Deux Terres Promises: Les Juifs de France et le sionisme, 1897-1945 (Paris: Olivier Orban, 1989), provides a history of French Jewish responses to Zionism. Abitbol's aim, however, is not so much to examine the ideologies or activities of the various Zionist organizations that emerged; rather, his principal goal is to analyze the attitudes toward Zionism of one segment of the French Jewish community: Jews "of French stock, those commonly referred to as French Israelites". This group is of special interest to Abitbol because of its extremely high level of assimilation and its reputed hostility to any notion of Jewish peoplehood. Hence, Abitbol argues, an analysis of Zionism's reception by native French Jewry can reveal as much about the nature of assimilation as it does about the French Zionist movement per se.

Abitbol's depiction of the way in which French Jews responded to Zionism significantly challenges previously held interpretations. Most historians, to date, have suggested that native French Jews, on the whole, remained staunchly hostile to Zionism at least until the 1930s, when the need to find asylum for thousands of refugees uprooted by Nazi persecution convinced them of the value of a Jewish homeland.(21) Abitbol argues, however, that, in reality, the rapprochement between French Jewry and Zionism occurred much earlier. According to his analysis, the majority of native French Jews accepted the basic premises of Zionism and many even participated in Zionist organizations as early as the 1920s. Abitbol by no means minimizes the fervent anti-Zionism that persisted in certain circles well into the 1930s, most notably among the members of the AIU. Yet, he argues, the fear that Zionism would fuel anti-Semitism and raise the spectre of dual loyalties, while widespread in the pre-World War I era, had largely dissipated by the interwar years.

Such pro-Zionist sentiments did not remain limited to ideological pronouncements; rather, they were institutionalized as well. During the 1920s, Zionist organizational life flourished in France and, Abitbol maintains, even the rabbinate and the Consistory supported these efforts. The General Assembly of French Rabbis, encouraged by Chief Rabi Israel Levi, passed a motion in 1923 inviting all French Jews to participate actively in the work of reconstructing Jewish Palestine.(22) Soon afterwards, Levi and other native Jewish leaders, including the Baron Edmond de Rothschild, even created an organization, L'Oeuvre Palestinienne, to help rebuild the Yishuv. Although this effort was short-lived, Abitbol considers the creation of such an organization to be a major breakthrough: "the least Zionist of all Jewish communities in the West was going to be the first whose central religious bodies conceived of the idea of establishing an official organization devoted entirely to the work of Palestinian colonization".

Yet, Abitbol fails to answer the central question that he has posed: how can we distinguish between support for Palestinian colonization activities, on the one hand, and support for Zionism, on the other. Unfortunately, these critical distinctions are too often blurred. To cite but one example, Abitbol takes the 1923 resolution passed by the French Rabbinical Assembly, together with the creation of L'Oeuvre Palestinienne, as manifestations of the growing rapprochement between native French Jews and Zionism. This organization, he concludes, played a pivotal role "in paving the way for a larger participation of consistorial Judaism in the Zionist effort". Paula Hyman, however, interprets these activities quite differently; she suggests that the 1923 resolution, while calling on French Jews to participate actively in the rebuilding of Jewish Palestine, by no means constituted an endorsement of Zionism. Indeed, according to Hyman, the French rabbinate actually went out of its way to distance itself from Zionist goals. "The French rabbinate," the resolution affirmed, "considers that the national and political doctrines of Zionism, of which they recognize the moral and ideal value for millions of their brethren, cannot be reconciled with the principles of French Judaism ... "(23) Moreover, as Rabbi Maurice Liber explained, the rabbinate supported this resolution only because "Zionism had been left aside."(24) Thus, according to Hyman, L'Oeuvre Palestinienne was designed specifically to defuse political Zionism by channelling sympathies for the Yishuv into exclusively philanthropic endeavors.(25)

Other questions remain unanswered as well. How can we explain, for example, why French Jews, in particular, were so avid in their support of Palestine colonization activities? Moreover, a discussion of the personal motivations that led many highly assimilated Jews -- like Leon Blum, Raymond-Raoul Lambert, or Victor Basch -- to embrace Zionism, would have been highly welcome. For these individuals, the affirmation of Zionism constituted a sort of spiritual revolution. Yet, this personal drama is entirely ignored. Furthermore, we never understand the underlying causes of disunity within the French Zionist movement. True, Abitbol points to conflicts between native French Jews, on the one hand, and East Europeans and North Africans, on the other, but whether these divisions were motivated by ethnic, personal, or political rivalries remains a mystery. Given the book's breadth and scope, it is unfortunate that such critical issues have been left unresolved.

The sole study under consideration here that seeks to examine Jewish assimilation in its contemporary context is Dominique Schnapper's Jewish Identities in France: An Analysis of Contemporary French Jewry, transl. Edward Shils (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).(26) The question that fascinates Schnapper is why Jewish identity has not only been able to survive but has even experienced a sort of renaissance in recent decades, contrary to the predictions of social scientists earlier in the 20th century, who believed that modernization and industrialization would inevitably lead to the dilution and ultimate disappearance of distinctive cultural identities, in general, and of Jewish identity, in particular. In an attempt to unravel this paradox, Schnapper constructs a Weberian paradigm of French Jewry, based on interviews with Jews from a variety of regions and ethnic and professional backgrounds, that divides them into three ideal types: practicing Jews, militant Jews, and assimilated Jews. All three of these groups, she argues, feel themselves to be Jewish, but they experience their Judaism in different ways. Practicing Jews, whom she divides into two sub-categories: newly practicing Jews, or ba'alei t'shuvah, who come primarily from middle and upper middle class backgrounds, and traditional practicing Jews, who are predominantly of lower middle class backgrounds, affirm their Judaism primarily through religious observance. By contrast, the second category, militant Jews, are generally indifferent to religious observance; although a minority of this group consists of left-wing activists hostile to Israel, the vast majority today are socialist-leaning Zionists who affirm their Jewish identity primarily through pro-Israeli activism. Finally, there are those Jews whom Schnapper categorizes as assimilated, and they are divided into two main camps. First, there are those whom Schnapper calls the neo-assimilationists -- people who have experienced some sort of return to a Jewish identity. These individuals, largely upper middle class, feel compelled to identify as Jews as a result of the Holocaust as well as the Six-Day War. Their Jewishness is defined primarily in ethnic terms (although Schnapper refuses to use this term, a point that we will return to shortly). The second main group of assimilationists consists of self-employed businessmen. Although she claims that individuals in this group have little intellectual understanding of Judaism as a religion or culture, they, too, feel a deep ethnic identification with the Jewish people.

Although Schnapper acknowledges all of these varieties of Judaism as equally legitimate and authentic, she strongly contends that two subgroups are better equipped than others to transmit Jewish values to future generations: the ba'alei t'shuvah and the neo-assimilationists. These highly educated Jews, of upper middle class socio-economic status, have recently returned to Judaism with a new intensity and fervor; according to Schnapper, they are the ones who are most responsible for the recent renaissance of Jewish religious and cultural life. Most significantly, she argues, these groups have succeeded in intellectualizing their Jewish heritage in a way that allows Judaism to adapt to the needs of the modern world. Repeatedly, she insists, unthinking tradition alone is no longer adequate for the survival of Judaism. Rather, she states: "In industrial society, which poses a challenge to tradition as such, cultural tradition can be maintained and renewed by conscious intellectual effort".

But why, one must wonder, should Jews in modern Western society seek to emphasize their cultural distinctiveness? On this issue, Schnapper contends, earlier social scientific theories were simply wrong: modernization and industrialization do not inevitably lead to cultural homogenization. Rather, she insists, the contemporary Jewish cultural revival, like other recent manifestations of regional, cultural, or religious revivals in France, is actually an attempt to compensate for the profound alienation and anonymity that prevail in modern life. Hence, in seeking to express their distinctive Jewish identity, Jews are merely following general French trends. But, Schnapper reiterates, all particularistic cultural identities, which in the past were rooted in the actual conditions of life, can no longer survive through blind adherence to custom alone; rather, they must be refashioned to suit the new conditions of modernity and "can only be passed on as a value and an object of study".

While Schnapper offers a fascinating portrait of the contemporary French Jewish scene, together with a provocative hypothesis regarding the revival and transmission of Jewish cultural values in modern societies, her claims ultimately seem somewhat ethereal since they are never rooted in the actual socio-economic conditions of life. Do Jews freely choose to be practicing Jews, militant Jews, or assimilated Jews? Or are they, at least to some degree, motivated by socio-economic factors of which they are often unconscious? To be sure, Schnapper does discuss the role of Jewish ethnicity (Sephardi vs. Ashkenazi background), class status, and whether those interviewed came form immigrant or native French backgrounds. Yet, her decision to subsume these social and economic differences entirely into her larger categories relating to the nature of Jewish identification, ultimately minimizes their significance. How she arrived at her decision to stress these categories to the exclusion of other possibilities is not entirely clear, and one can only wonder whether her conclusions might have differed had she been more open to alternative modes of interpreting her data.

Schnapper's extreme reluctance to use the terminology of ethnicity is also incomprehensible, especially since she repeatedly states that even the most non-observant Jews often move in exclusively Jewish circles and feel a deep sense of what she calls a "Jewish identity that is at once biological and historical". Moreover, since ethnicity is certainly implied, if not explicitly discussed, Schnapper would have enriched her study had she provided a more in-depth analysis of precisely those sociological forces that encourage such bonds of Jewish solidarity. How do Jewish residential patterns, associational life, and professional and educational achievements remain distinctive and, thus, encourage continued Jewish identification, even among non-practicing Jews? These bonds of Jewish solidarity are not altogether voluntary intellectual or cultural choices; rather, they are, at least in part, rooted in the socioeconomic fabric of Jewish life.

Finally, Schnapper's contention that only educated upper middle class Jews are capable of passing on their Jewish heritage to the next generation seems rather elitist. Granted that the existence of an involved Jewish intelligentsia contributes significantly to the vitality of the Jewish community; still, the children of many working class and lower middle class Jews have remained staunchly loyal to Judaism as well. Indeed, one could easily argue that, in the past, and even today, it was precisely the children of the educated elite who have been most prone to defect from Judaism altogether. Thus, her argument that educational level, in and of itself, plays a pivotal role in the maintenance of Jewish survival, is not terribly convincing. Moreover, Schnapper's prediction that the intellectual bourgeoisie will be most successful in transmitting Jewish values to future generations does not fit well with her theory that expressions of cultural particularism are essentially protests against the alienation of modernity. The intellectual bourgeoisie, the vast majority of whom are professionals, are precisely those individuals whom we would expect to be most satisfied with their lives and careers, and, hence, less in need of alternative avenues of self-expression. Finally, the role of those Jews whom Schnapper calls the militants is very unclear. They, too, belong to the intelligentsia, and, according to her, they constitute the majority of French Jews today. Yet, their political commitment to Judaism is far less intellectual than emotional, and just how this commitment can be passed on remains problematic, to say the least.

Despite the extensive scope of the works discussed above, one additional area of scholarship warrants mention, although it cannot be discussed here at length: the subject of Jewish assimilation in Alsace and Lorraine. Although many of the works surveyed here allude to the experiences of Jews in those areas, they remain, on the whole, Paris centered. Nevertheless, Paula Hyman's new book, The Emancipation of the Jews of Alsace: Acculturation and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), offers an important corrective. By focusing primarily on the highly traditional and, largely, village Jews of Alsace from the early 19th century until 1870, this book illuminates the ways in which Emancipation touched not only the lives of Jewish intellectual elites, but influenced the everyday behavior and mentality of ordinary Jews.(27) My own work, Between France and Germany: The Jews of Alsace-Lorraine, 1871-1918 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988), attempts to grapple with the question of the degree to which French patriotism -- an integral component of the ideology of Franco-Jewish assimilation prior to 1870 -- filtered down to the more traditional Jewish masses of Alsace and Lorraine. Were these Jews, as a result of the ideology of emancipation and "regeneration," more loyal to France than were their Catholic or Protestant compatriots, and, if so, how did they manifest this pro-French patriotism? Moreover, in what ways did they differ from their recently emancipated German co-religionists, some of whom immigrated to the annexed provinces after 1871? Hence, an examination of these Jews' national loyalties during this era can also reveal much about how more traditional and less highly urbanized Jews
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Author:Caron, Vicki
Publication:Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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