A History of Judaism by Martin Goodman and Belonging: The Story of the Jews 1492-1900 by Simon Schama – review

Goodman details the complex history of a dynamic religion while Schama’s immersive book resists bleakness, his varied protagonists blazing with vitality

In 1523 a slight, dark-haired man named David Ha-Reuveni appeared in Venice claiming to be the commander-in-chief of the army of the 10 lost tribes of Israel on a divine mission to liberate the holy land from the Muslims. Having won the cautious backing of Jewish leaders and obtained a letter of introduction from Pope Clement VII, he made a triumphal voyage to Lisbon where he very nearly persuaded King João III of Portugal to provide him with weapons and a fleet of warships to reclaim Jerusalem. Ha-Reuveni overplayed his hand, however, and, condemned for promoting Judaism among the Iberian peninsula’s forced converts to Christianity, he was burned at the stake in Spain.

His adventures are one of the many points of overlap in these two histories, one religious ...