Refugees or Migrants Pre-Modern Jewish Population Movement Robert Chazan

Publication date:
12 Feb 2019
Yale University Press
272 pages: 235 x 156 x 22mm
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A leading historian argues that historically Jews were more often voluntary migrants than involuntary refugees

For millennia, Jews and non-Jews alike have viewed forced population movement as a core aspect of the Jewish experience. This involuntary Jewish wandering has been explained by pre-modern Jews and Christians as divine punishment, by some modern non-Jews as the result of Jewish harmfulness, by some modern Jews as fostered by Christian anti-Jewish imagery, and by other modern Jews as caused by misguided Jewish acceptance of minority status.
In this absorbing book, Robert Chazan explores these various perspectives and argues that pre-modern Jewish population movement was in most cases voluntary, the result of a sense among Jews that there were alternatives available for making a better life elsewhere.

Robert Chazan is S. H. and Helen R. Scheuer Professor of Modern Jewish History and professor of history at New York University. He is the author of Anti-Judaism to Anti-Semitism: Ancient and Medieval Christian Constructions of Jewish History.

“In easily understandable language…Chazan discusses Jewish migrations over the sweep of Jewish history…They were not refugees but migrants, looking for economic opportunities and a better life. He makes the point convincingly.”—Martin Lockshin, Jerusalem Post

“Impressive and compelling. . . . Chazan has undertaken a major re-evaluation of one of the key themes in traditional Jewish history. It will most certainly be widely and thoroughly discussed and become a seminal work.”—Benjamin Ravid, Brandeis University

“Robert Chazan is today the leading scholar of Medieval Jewish History. This book is an exemplary introduction to the study of Jewish History and will be of much interest and much use to Jewish and general readers.”—Joseph Shatzmiller, Duke University

“This deeply learned exploration of millennia of Jewish history demonstrates that Jewish population movement often resulted from voluntary responses to complex and fascinating forces.”—David Berger, Yeshiva University

“In this masterful, wide-ranging study, Robert Chazan confronts one of the central myths of Jewish self-understanding. Drawing on a lifetime of learning, Chazan shows that Jews, like most migrants, moved more often not out of compulsion but in the hope of bettering themselves.”—David Engel, New York University