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Emancipation


Napoleon granting freedom...



The last "Protected Jew"...



Three Jews from Alsace...



The Jewish philosopher
Moses Mendelssohn...


THE REFORMATION IN THE 16TH CENTURY creates a new appreciation of the Hebrew Bible and more understanding for the Jewish religion. After the bitter wars between Protestants and Catholics, the spirit of religious tolerance takes root in Europe, and attitudes toward Jews - no longer the only religious minority - begin to change. With the Enlightenment in the 18th century fostering respect for the individual and asserting the basic equality of all human beings, the stage is set for Jews to be finally admitted as equals into European societies.

Restrictions on residence and work begin to be rescinded, and Jews are granted more and more rights. Emancipation, the granting of complete legal equality and full citizenship, is first given to Jews in the United States and France by 1791, followed in the 19th century by most European states. Jews in Russia, however, have to wait for their freedom more than a century longer - until the Revolution in 1917.

But Jews are still seen as "abnormal." During the 19th century, the question is debated in countries like Germany and Russia of how Jews can be turned into better citizens. The work they have been forced into during centuries of discrimination - trading, peddling, money lending - is considered unnatural; their religious customs, their language and dress are considered uncivilized. In Germany and Russia, the granting of rights - and the acceptance of Jews into society - is made conditional on their "improvement." In countries like France, equality is granted in a single act. (CONT)

Table: Years in which full legal equality was granted to Jews.

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