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Emancipation Cover


How Liberating Europe's Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance

By Michael Goldfarb

Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781416547969, 408pp.

Publication Date: November 3, 2009

For almost 500 years the Jews of Europe were kept apart, confined to ghettos or tiny villages in the countryside. Then, in one extraordinary moment in the French Revolution, the Jews of France were emancipated. Soon the ghetto gates were opened all over Europe. The era of Emancipation had begun. What happened next would change the course of history.
Emancipation tells the story of how this isolated minority emerged from the ghetto and against terrible odds very quickly established themselves as shapers of history, as writers, revolutionaries, social thinkers, and artists. Their struggle to create a place for themselves in Western European life led to revolutions and nothing less than a second renaissance in Western culture.
The book spans the era from the French Revolution to the beginning of the twentieth century. The story is told through the lives of the people who lived through this momentous change. Some are well-known: Marx, Freud, Mahler, Proust, and Einstein; many more have been forgotten. Michael Goldfarb brings them all to life.
This is an epic story, and Goldfarb tells it with the skill and eye for detail of a novelist. He brings the empathy and understanding that has marked his two decades as a reporter in public radio to making the characters come alive. It is a tale full of hope, struggle, triumph, and, waiting at the end, a great tragedy.
This is a book that will have meaning for anyone interested in the struggle of immigrants and minorities to succeed. We live in a world where vast numbers are on the move, where religions and races are grinding against each other in new combinations; Emancipation is a book of history for our time.

Praise For Emancipation

“A celebration. . . that speaks to the universal desire for emancipation, material and spiritual.”

–Marc Tracy, The New York Times Book Review

“This is one of those marvelous books that not only illuminates an important chain of historical events, but provides timeless—and especially timely—lessons for our own age. . . .Impassioned, thoughtfully argued, well-expressed. . . .Goldfarb has rendered an enormous service.”

--Martin Rubin, The Washington Times

“A compelling history of one of the most important social and cultural phenomena of modern times. . . . Good, popular history. . . [a] timely look at an important topic.” –Library Journal

Saturday, Nov 21, 2009

Europe's Jews began to fight their way out of the ghettos during the tumult of the French Revolution. It's the focus of Michael Goldfarb's new book, Emancipation: How Liberating Europe's Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance. Guy Raz talks with Goldfarb about how that liberation paved the way for thinkers like Marx, Freud and Einstein. More at

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