A Very Short Introduction

An exceptional, succinct, and comprehensive account of the past of Jews around the globe can be found in A Very Short Introduction. In order to explain why the Jewish religion has endured and stayed unimpaired throughout history, he develops a novel theory. The connection between racism and assimilation has served as the foundation for the theory. The author also discusses the different regional traditions, social standings, and Jewish people's perceptions of themselves over time and space. The author's thesis entails a thorough explanation of the history of Jews in the world, with a focus on how they have managed to live since the beginning of time. The book strongly explains the history of the Jews throughout time and gives detailed information on how they have been able to defy the test of time and maintain a population of 14million worldwide (Myers, 2017). The Jews have defied odds by overcoming major challenges such as exile, persecution and the various plans to ensure they are extinct (Myers, 2017). Many authors have written about the survival of the Jews and linked it to divine intervention. Myers’ explains the long history of the Jews and give a systematic account to support his ideas. He has managed to capture major activities in the Jewish history without sacrificing its substance beginning with the ancient times of the Israelites whose accounts can be given by the Hebrew Bible and ends with the modern Jewish communities that are currently in existence.

The author manages to support his ideas by dividing his thesis into five chapters namely the names, numbers, politics, perception, and cultures. He, therefore, manages to examine the history of the Jews using the perspectives making it easier for him to support his ideas. Myers gives a clear picture of the history of the Jews using the different topics. He supports his ideas by explaining how the Jews have survived in their history and providing a detailed account of important events in their history, which give the audience a clear and concise understanding of their past.

Myers uses antisemitism and assimilation to explain and support his thesis. The two factors are considered as grave dangers but according to Myers’ the two factors have played a great role by interacting with each other and ensuring the persistence of the Jews in the human society. He backs his ideas by showing that the Jews have been able to adapt to the various changes in their environment. They have been able to adapt to the changing surroundings, cultures, languages and various norms of the society (Myers, 2017). The author portrays the Jews as people who have always been in constant movement, which started with their founding father, Abraham. Abraham moved from his country into the Land of Canaan; another example is the exodus of the Israelites showing the nature of the Jews (Myers, 2017). These encounters of the Jews with host societies have led to the exercise of the cultural backbone of the Jews and have prevented the degenerate that could have been experienced if they had made non-extensive interactions with people in the non-Jew societies. Myers states that it is only through the encounters with other communities did they manage to develop unique customs, speak many languages and create a variety of traditions (Myers, 2017). He believes that if the idea was left unchecked, the ability of the Jews to be absorbed in other cultures posed a danger for the community to disappear (Myers, 2017). However, the constant hatred and hostility they experienced from other communities helped keep the Jews in check and ensure they did not disappear even after assimilation. The hatred and discrimination towards the Jews have been experienced throughout history and most of the books explaining their history highlight this factor. They have faced persecution, and many people have tried to ensure they become defunct an example of King Herod (Myers, 2017). However, the irony of antisemitism is its flexibility, which has led to portraying the Jewish community in different contradicting images since it easily assumed new forms. Antisemitism therefore inhibited further assimilation of the Jews while at the same ensured that the Jews preserved the Jews sense of differences from their host (Myers, 2017). Based on this explanation Myers manages to show how antisemitism and assimilation at limited levels helped ensure the survival of the Jews. He describes them as a highly adaptable but still a distinct group (Myers, 2017).

Myers offers an array of examples to explain the idea of assimilation and antisemitism. He gives an account of the many languages that the Jews have adopted over the years to show their ability to be assimilated in other communities around them. Some of the languages adopted according to Myers are Hebrew their native language, Greek, Ladino, Yiddish among others. He states that the Jewish in the past felt the need to adapt the languages of their host, but at the same time, they ensured they adopted their version of the language, which could only be understood by other Jews (Myers, 2017). This was made possible by their ability to translate the host’s language in Hebrew letters and making a few Hebrew additions to it (Myers, 2017).

In the chapter of the names under the sub-heading of Race, Myers explains the origin of the word antisemitism, which was created by a German reporter. The word to him portrays the understanding or fear of the Jews assimilating into the German culture. In fact, the word was used to congratulate those who were discriminating and showing their hate towards the Jews. The assimilation into the German culture allowed them to have access to social factors without being detected and Jewish scholars explored the language of race and blood when describing them in the 20th century. He goes ahead to explain that the Jews escaped extinction through becoming urbanites and most of their expansion being into the cities.

Conclusively, Myers explores the history of the Jews people in a short and precise description of their history focusing on how they have survived the test of time while other communities and religions have become extinct. The Jews have been in existence for over four thousand years, which means that their history is very long. Myers manages to support his thesis by showing how assimilation and antisemitism have been the fundamental factors for the survival of the Jews. Myers managed to give detailed examples in the history of the Jews, which explains the idea of assimilation and antisemitism. He shows the ability of the Jews to adapt to the culture, language, and practices of the host while at the same time explaining how antisemitism has helped keep them in check and ensure they are not completely assimilated into the hosts’ culture. Myers manages to strongly support his thesis and give the audience a clear understanding of the idea he is trying to bring out in the book.


Myers, D. (2017). Jewish History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.

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