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With a keen eye for revealing details, Hillel J. Kieval examines the contours and distinctive features of Jewish experience in the lands of Bohemia and Moravia (the present-day Czech Republic), from the late eighteenth to the late twentieth century. In the Czech lands, Kieval writes, Jews have felt the need constantly to define and articulate the nature of group identity, cultural loyalty, memory, and social cohesiveness, and the period of "modernizing" absolutism, which began in 1780, brought changes of enormous significance. From that time forward, new relationships with Gentile society and with the culture of the state blurred the traditional outlines of community and individual identity. Kieval navigates skillfully among histories and myths as well as demography, biography, culture, and politics, illuminating the maze of allegiances and alliances that have molded the Jewish experience during these 200 years.
Hillel J. Kieval is Gloria M. Goldstein Professor of Jewish History and Thought at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of The Making of Czech Jewry (1988) and Blood Inscriptions, a forthcoming study of the modern ritual murder trial.
"I find his richly documented chapter . . . of true analytical importance. Kieval would be my ideal candidate to write [Jewish communities] history."—Peter Demetz Stds In Contemporary Jewry
"An engaging and highly nuanced portrait of one of European Jewry's most interesting but least known communities. . . . Kieval has a masterful command of a century and a half of Czech Jewish history, which he brings to bear in a sophisticated manner. "—David Sorkin, author of Moses Mendelssohn and the Religious Enlightenment
"Uniformly erudite, yet readable and lively. . . . The book will be widely read not only by historians of modern Jewry but by all those interested in the tortured and difficult path of this part of Europe towards the creation of a plural and civil society."—Antony Polonsky, editor of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry