Historian Simon Schama continues to chart the story of the Jews in the third part of this enlightening and impassioned five-episode series. This time, he homes in on their experience during the nineteenth century – a tumultuous 100 years for the Jews. As the 1800s began, Jews were exiled and persecuted, inward looking and closed off, and failing to integrate with the European people they lived among.
Philosopher Moses Mendelssohn was one of the first Jews to attempt conciliation and, though the change he inspired was initially slow, it gathered pace as the century progressed and as renowned Jewish artists (including composer Giacomo Meyerbeer) helped the Jews become accepted in genteel society.
As Schama laments, this unexpected improvement was short-lived and, as the episode draws to a close, we leave the Jews once more facing a torrent of anti-semitic feeling. It’s a fairly relentless tale, but Schama delivers it with the verve and spirit of a true storyteller, making ‘The Story of the Jews’ an edifying and entertaining experience.