In this episode, we’re joined by David Sorkin to talk about the history of Jewish emancipation, the process of Jews gaining (and sometimes losing) civic and civil rights in modern times. Listen in for a fascinating conversation about David’s recent book Jewish Emancipation: A History Across Five Centuries.
David Sorkin is the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History at Yale’s Department of History. He’s a leading scholar in modern jewish history and particularly the social, intellectual, and political transformations of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – which he looks at this this book through the lens of Emancipation.
Jewish Emancipation synthesizes the legal and historical pathways of emancipation against a broad geographical and chronological backdrop in western and central Europe which much of the traditional discussion of emancipation has emphasized, both also including the Ottoman Empire and the U.S., where many have passed over the history of emancipation on the basis of assumptions that emancipation is a European story, or that Jews never needed emancipating in the US. The book also extends our timeline. Instead of focusing on the French Revolution and its aftermath as a one-time event, the book traces the history of emancipation as a process from the sixteenth century to the present, suggesting that this is a story which still isn’t over yet — especially when we consider Israel and the question of rights and citizenship there.
We’re really excited to share our conversation. David’s book presents a starting point for a wide-ranging discussion about how we understand Jewish emancipation. As David suggests, we talk about emancipation and know that this is an important juncture in modern Jewish history, but it paradoxically also has been neglected — so when we look at this history more closely, we can think about why emancipation matters not only for how we understand Jewish history, but as a history that illuminates and illustrates the development of modernity on a much larger scale.
An edited transcript of the episode will be available shortly.