Scribner. 464 pages. Hardcover $30.00.
A brief taste of an amazing book!
Norman Lebrecht’s study is filled with energy, irony, and new angles of vision. He makes a powerful point that most of the figures featured in this book made their contributions in what was essentially an antisemitic world. While the particulars of such conditions run through the book’s sixteen chapters, more engaging is the author’s blend of diverse personalities with varied relationships to Jewish identity: religion, culture, law, and peoplehood.
Although most of the chapters detail important contributions by Jews to the benefit of mankind within the stretch of this hundred-year period, many chapters focus on significant changes particular to Jewish culture and identity. Historical writings continue to applaud the accomplishments of Einstein, Kafka, Marx, Freud, and others of world-changing stature, but it is inside the international Jewish community that the contributions of giants such as Theodor Herzl and Solomon Schechter are celebrated.
Lebrecht enjoys developing his explorations through comparisons and contrasts. The Herzl-Schechter chapter titled “1890: Two Beards on a Train” is one powerful example. It ends with the introduction of a third shaper of Jewish destiny, a foil to Schechter’s role in birthing the Conservative movement; this partner is Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who invigorated and masterminded Chabad Lubavitch. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears on the Jewish Book Council web site, click here: Genius & Anxiety