Page 186 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
the early 20th century from a primary concern with theology,
literature , and great ideas to the mundane , real social life o f
the people. In his concern that each branch o f diaspora had
to be approached according to its distinctive historical dynamics
and cultural focus, he pointed the way to the delimited, spe­
cialized methods o f 20th-century Jewish historians and sociol­
ogists. It was Baron, ra th e r than Dubnow, tha t demonstrated
what this orientation fully entailed.
Salo Wittmayer Baron was born in Tarnow in Galicia in 1895
and spent World War I and its afterm ath in Vienna, where
he ea rned doctorates in philosophy, political science and law
and gained rabbinic ordination. His first major work,
The Jewish
Question at the Congress of Vienna,
was published in 1920. Baron
came to the United States in 1927 to teach at the Jewish Institu te
o f Religion in New York; in 1930 he became a member o f the
history depa rtm en t o f Columbia University, where he remained
until his re tirem en t in the 1960s. T h e first edition o f
A Social
and Religious History of the Jews
was published in th ree volumes
in 1937; the much expanded second edition began to appea r
in 1952. Among the best known o f his o the r works are
The
Jewish Community: Its History and Structure to the American Revo­
lution
(1941) and
Modern Nationalism and Religion
(1947), whose
titles indicate his concern for the institutional and social history
o f the Jews and fo r the interconnection o f m odern nationalist
movements and religious traditions.
VARIED APPROACH
B a ro n ’s a p p ro a c h is e x t r a o rd in a r i ly d iv e rs if ie d an d
multifaceted. In a recent volume,
The Contemporary Relevance
of History,
Baron discussed the methodological pluralism o f
20th-century historiography and makes the following, for him
unusually personal comment:
In the stretches of my life under three different civilizations
I have had many opportunities to observe, and even to participate
in, a variety of experiments in social, communal, and intellectual
life. As a child and adolescent I lived in the midst of a Galician
community which had retained many characteristics o f a medi­
eval ghetto. I spent my young manhood enjoying the turbulent
and pulsating life of Vienna during its last years of serving as
the capital and intellectual center of the powerful Austro-