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From its humble beginnings in Mainz to its shockingly swift and brutal end at the blood-soaked hands of the Nazis, the Jewish communities of Ashkenaz were a vital link in the chain of Torah transmission, a vibrant and important part of Jewish life and thought that has influenced Jewry to this very day.
This new addition to the highly-acclaimed The World that Was series gives a panoramic and richly textured view of the world of Ashkenaz Jewry, in all its splendor and suffering. Carefully researched and beautifully designed with woodcuts, illustrations, photos, maps and diagrams, The World that Was Ashkenaz takes us on a breathtaking tour of 1,100 years of accomplishment: the development of the Yiddish language; the world of the Ba'alei Tosafos, the Tosafists whose commentary is an integral part of Talmud study; the shaping of "minhagei Ashkenaz," which were ultimately codified into Jewish law; the "Torah im Derech Eretz" philosophy of Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch.
We meet more than fifty Torah sages who left their mark both on their own generation -- and on ours. From the Ba'al HaTurim and the Pnei Yehoshua to Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch and Rav Shimon Schwab; from Rabbeinu Gershon, the "Meor HaGolah," to Moreinu Yaakov Rosenheim, here are profiles of some of the greatest luminaries and leaders the Jewish world has known. Rounding out this layered picture of Ashkenaz Jewry, eight accomplished contemporary figures share their memories of life in pre-war Germany in poignant first-person accounts.
The world that was Ashkenaz was a world of extremes: a world of great sages and false messiahs, murderous Crusaders and saintly Torah giants, men of the spirit and men of the sword. It is a world beautifully captured in this elegant and important new book.