War and Jewish History

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It is but a truism to say that Jewish history fits itself into several compartments that at a superficial glance may be thought to be independent or almost independent of one another. In the first place one can divide Jewish history into the histories of the several Jewish communities, each to a large extent self-contained, in England, Poland, Spain, among countries?Venice, Rome, Vienna, complete entities among smaller groups?but not infrequently touching one another. On a wider canvas one may group Jewish history as the history of the Jews in the Eastern Lands, in Spain and Latin America, if one likes, in the British Empire or the English-speaking world. Jewish history of this character may as a matter of convenience be termed the History of the Jews. Yet although these separate histories are distinct and largely self-contained there are one or more currents common to them all, a thread that connects all the Jewries of the world of all times with one another. In this sense the history of the Jews, although it can be and often is separated into many parts, is one, and thus merges into the History of Jewry. However, Jewish history, taken as a whole, can be divided on other than a geographical basis.

The history of Jewry also falls easily into two parts, also connected and touching one another, but perhaps less closely than the histories of the Jews in Amsterdam and of those in London touch. These two parts of the history of Jewry can be defined as the History of Judaism?the internal life and development of the people and its thought?and the history of the Jewish people, of the relations of Jews and the universal Jewish community with the outer world?the external history of Jewry.

The beginning of the study of the History of Judaism at once convinces the student, if he has not already realized the fact, that Judaism is something more than a religion in the sense that the other universal religions are religions?to some extent a civilization and a way of life, but still something more. Judaism, he will find, is also a history and a tradition.

Thus there is far more scope for the historian in the History of the Jews, to use a convenient term which like all other convenient terms is concise if not strictly accurate, than merely to narrate the exploits of Jewish leaders and groups of Jews throughout the ages, even when their spiritual and intellectual development is taken into account.

This afternoon I propose to speak to you on the subject of War and Jewish history, a section of what I have just termed the History of Jewry. To give expression to another truism, for which I hope you will forgive me, the history of Jewry falls into two periods and here again I use a convenient phrase, for the earlier period should more accurately be termed the History of Israel or of Israel and Judah. The earlier of these periods is the one in which Israel formed a

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