With My Own Eyes, by Jacob Katz
As one of the most distinguished Jewish historians of the 20th century begins the tenth decade of an extraordinarily productive life, this translation of his autobiography provides the English reader with an account of his intellectual, spiritual, and physical odyssey, ranging from the rural Hungary of his birth, to Nazi Germany, to the newborn state of his youthful Zionist dreams. Jacob Katz established his scholarly reputation with Tradition and Crisis (Hebrew, 1958; English, 1961), a study of the transition from traditional to early modern Jewish society. Not only does his own experience, recounted here, mirror that transition; his early education in the heartland of Hungarian Orthodoxy gave him the tools to study modernity with a full understanding of what had come before it.
The story of Katz’s “yeshiva years” is the often charming account of a rebel with a very small “r.” In these pages, Katz chronicles his youthful rejection of the Hungarian yeshiva world’s growing intolerance both of secular education and of the burgeoning Zionist movement—while also making a point of his fundamental loyalty to the religious culture in which he had been raised.
About the Author
David Berger is Broeklundian professor of history at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.