Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsJews

Single Jewish History?

May 10, 1987

In his review of Paul Johnson's "A History of the Jews" (The Book Review, April 19), Jacob Neusner accuses Johnson of "representing many groups (of Jews) as one and finding a single linear history where there has been none." In so doing, he falls into the erroneous mode of thought of many historians that regards history as a mere chronicle of facts and not as a meaningful narrative which, in the case of the Jews, is derived from a common faith.

To write a history of the Jews without acknowledging the psychological imperatives of that faith would be comparable to Neusner writing his own personal history as an account of eating, sleeping, brushing his teeth, and other quotidian happenings while leaving out his purposeful progress from callow student to Judaic scholar.

It is true, as Neusner argues, that the Jews are a diverse people living in many lands, but they have only one God, and it is that monotheistic belief that brings historical unity to their diversity as well as bestowing a singular identity.

If Neusner is right that the Jews do not have a linear history or singular identity, what must one think of the unprecedented and tenacious Jewish faith in which God is seen as involved in history's beginning, middle, and end, and in which humans are co-workers?

It was precisely the Jewish assertion of a religious identity that Hitler sought to deny, insisting instead that Jewry was "emphatically not a religion," but a race. Consequently, the Jews could be seen not to belong to the German race, and ultimately not to the human race.

CUTHBERT C. MANN

Glendora

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|