Assimilation and its Discontents When I realized that nobody had written a comprehensive history of Jewish assimilation, I knew that I had to try doing it myself. It was a remarkable learning experience as I researched a wide range of cultural and historical issues and discovered lots of people and events of which I’d previously known nothing. The tremendous differences between Europe and America required that they be treated differently. I also tried to make it interesting and entertaining.
It is an amazing story of how Jews dealt with the many alternatives they had in whether or not to assimilate, how to alter or maintain their religious practices, as well as what variety of assimilation they might choose: a total flight from their people; assimilation with the elite or with the “masses” (leftism); Zionism or Bundism or liberalism. Through this process a great deal can be understood not only about Jewish history but also the development of Western civilization, democratic society, and modern intellectual life.