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The Jews: Their History, Culture and Religion, edited by Louis Finkelstein

- Abstract

In his prefatory letter to the Honorary President of the American Jewish Committee, which provided funds for these volumes, Dr. Finkelstein describes the contents and character of The Jews: Their History, Culture, and Religion: “This book is the first comprehensive description of Judaism and the Jews. While avoiding the anatomical structure and purely alphabetical organization of an encyclopedia, it is designed as a readable and unified sketch of a singular human phenomenon. The principal relevant facts concerning the people of Israel and its faith are summarized in a succession of essays, which form an ordered whole and afford penetrating glimpses into particular aspects of the subject. This book includes the first compact history of the Jews written by scholars specializing in the several fields; an appreciation of the rule of Judaism in world culture, seen from a wide variety of disciplines and skills; an initial effort toward a demography of the Jews in America; and a brief outline of the Jewish religion.” This is a fair statement (though it sweepingly and surprisingly disregards the two volumes of the Central Yiddish Culture Organization’s The Jewish People: Past and Present that have appeared in recent years); and indeed the substance of the work goes some way toward meeting the promise with which it is introduced. Certainly, this work makes available to the general reader, often for the first time, the fruits of Jewish scholarship in many specialized fields.

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