Its preface reads: "You don't have to be Jewish to be interested in Jewish history. Author Constance Harris reviews interesting and little-known aspects of the Jewish experience over the centuries."
Harris is the author of (see below) "The Way Jews Lived: Five Hundred Years of Printed Words and Images."
Jewish Narrative's introductory post (October 6, 2009) reads:
You don't have to be Jewish to be interested in Jewish history. The Jews were important players in world events from almost the beginning of recorded time. Jewish stock produced Moses, Jesus, Paul, Spinoza, Disraeli, Freud, Marx, and Einstein.In her blog, Harris will discuss how Jews resolved - or failed to resolve - basic issues among themselves and well as how Jewish culture interfaced with Christianity, sometimes as colleagues, more often as dissenters.
Mark Twain wrote in 1899 "If the statistics are right, the Jews contribute but one per cent of the human race... His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstract learning are away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers... and he has done it with his hands tied behind him."
While religious, ethnic, and racial hatred have beset all of mankind, in length of time and relentlessness of purpose no other people have endured the unhappy fortunes of the Jews. But their history transcends a recital of pain and misfortune. They gave the world unique ethical systems. Their Sabbath day of rest and study gifted a society that knew week long drudgery and endless toil. Their festivals, rituals, and customs offered more than legislation, more than aesthetics; they inculcated tradition and cultural continuity and offered opportunities to alleviate the bad and savor the good. Mainstream Judaism historically denied magical practices or human sacrifices, restricted slave ownership, regulated tillage of the soil, and limited the collection of debts.
Other topics this month have included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Poem on Jewish History, A Tree Grew in Amsterdam, True Passover Seder Stories, "Anti-Jewish" and "Anti-Semitism" - Is there a difference?, The Jews' Expulsion from, and Return to England, and Consideration for the Poor and the Weak (and Women).
"The Way Jews Lived" has received good reviews:
According to Senior Rabbi Steven Weil (Beth Jacob Congregation, Beverly Hills, California):
[Harris] masterfully explores over six centuries of Jewish social history with keen eye and balanced perspective. This important study skillfully offers the reader a rare glimpse into the interconnection between complex world events and how Jewish life, with all its triumphs and challenges, is woven irrevocably through them. This enlightening book is a thorough, clearly organized examination which seems to leave no stone unturned, particularly in its fascinating analysis of the rise of anti Semitism in 19th century central Europe. Sometimes inspiring, occasionally bittersweet, this collection which personifies the heroic struggle of our people is a consistently thought-provoking, entertaining read. I heartily recommend The Way Jews Lived to anyone, regardless of faith, who has a healthy appetite for knowledge.Check out the blog and more about her book online.