Page 113 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

Basic HTML Version

— S
it tm a y er
and synthesis in his chosen field. As a researcher, Baron has been
the author of literally hundreds of studies, many of monographic
length which continue to appear steadily in a variety of learned
journals in several languages. His own linguistic equipment is
formidable, for he can use at first hand sources in all the major
languages of the Western world, including the Slavic, as well as,
of course, all the writings in the classic languages of Jewish
creativity. His industry and capacity for self-discipline, allied to
a prodigious memory, are bywords among his students and col­
leagues. No matter how intricate the subject he always lectures
without notes.
Baron is most famous, however, for his great synthetic works
in Jewish history. In 1937 there appeared in three volumes his
A Social and Religious History of the Jews.
Five years later came
another major work of synthesis, also in three volumes,
Jewish Community: Its History and Structure to the American
His primary work in the last fifteen years has been
“a revised and enlarged” second edition of his
Social and Reli­
gious History.
This is in reality a new work, the capstone of his
scholarly endeavors. The scale on which it is being done suggests
that it will ultimately amount to roughly twenty-five volumes,
or more. Since 1952 eight volumes and an index to them have
appeared, and the story of Jewish history, in Baron’s account,
has now been told from its beginnings to about the year 1200.
There are ongoing translations of this series in both Hebrew
and French, and one is projected in Spanish. As “relaxation”
from his
magnum opus,
Baron has co-edited (with Joseph L. Blau)
three volumes entitled
The Jews of the United States, 1790-1840:
A Documentary History,
which appeared in 1963, and a one
volume history from his pen entitled
The Russian Jews under
Tsars and Soviets,
is to be published later this year (i964).
Baron’s Historical Outlook
What are the central emphases of Baron’s historical outlook?
In the first place, he insists that what has happened to the Jews
throughout the ages has not occurred in isolation. In every age,
from the beginning to the present, Jewish experience has reflected
both the inner life of the Jew and the continuing relationship of
the Jewish community to the outside world. Even the most closed
ghettos was influenced in an important way by the culture of the
majority that surrounded it. Jewish history can therefore not be
understood, as it had been in a previous generation, as the history
of Jewish literature and of Jewish suffering, for Jews cooperated
with their neighbors as well as suffered at their hands; they
participated in the general culture as well as resisted it.