Anna Foa's richly innovative history of Jewish life in Europe from the fourteenth through the nineteenth century breaks through the boundaries of traditional narratives. Instead of featuring a long series of catastrophes and cataclysms and the Jews' responses to them, Foa concentrates on the creative aspects of Jewish life, and on continuities and correspondences among very different local Jewish communities.
Foa's illuminating overview of the issues and debates that have dominated the study of Western European Jewish society more than justifies her blending of narrative history with thematic investigations. This is, perhaps surprisingly, the story of a stability that underlies and survives change. In a new afterword, prepared expressly for the English edition, Foa talks about the twentieth century's two transforming phenomena, Zionism and the Holocaust, and the ways they have changed Jewish identity and historiography.