Gertrude Himmelfarb: The Great Jewish Historian of Victorian Britain

While primarily a historian of Victorian intellectual life, Gertrude Himmelfarb (1922-2019) was a prolific writer of impressive depth as well as breadth, writing on social and religious history, the ills of postmodernism, the European Enlightenment, the American critic Lionel Trilling, and—toward the end of her life—philo-Semitism and British perceptions of Jews in the modern era. The website Contemporary Thinkers has recently produced an online resource on her life and work, compiling a number of her own essays, biographical material, and encomia to her achievements. One of Himmelfarb’s articles for Mosaic can be read here, as well as essays on her life and work. In a summary of her intellectual contributions, Contemporary Thinkers sums up her work on Jewish topics:

[One] persistent theme in Himmelfarb’s writing was the situation of the Jews in modern Europe. Her historical work showed the deep roots of the more positive history of the Jews in Anglo- and Anglo-American societies than in the Continental European societies. While many Europeans in the 19th century persisted in regarding the Jews, long after their formal emancipation, as a nation within a nation, demanding that they forsake aspects of their identity in exchange for full acceptance, in England the “Jewish question” was far more prosaic, political, and less fraught. It was a question of citizenship—and no more.

The affinity of English-speaking peoples with the Jews is the topic of Himmelfarb’s The People of the Book: Philo-Semitism in England from Cromwell to Churchill (2011). This history of not just tolerance but positive feeling, itself one of the most important and most unusual links connecting Jews and the Jewish tradition with some of the greatest minds of Western culture, begins in England with the Puritans’ attraction to the “Hebrew spirit,” and the mid-17th-century return of Jews to the British Isles centuries after their expulsion. It continues in the writings and public statements of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, born a Jew but baptized at the age of twelve. And it culminates, in the 20th century, in the Zionism of Lord Arthur Balfour and Winston Churchill.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Contemporary Thinkers

More about: Benjamin Disraeli, British Jewry, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Philo-Semitism, Winston Churchill

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism