Bouncing Back – and Forward: From Immigrant Household to Cambridge Fellowship by Stefan C. Reif
The tale of how a boy of working-class, immigrant Jewish parents in Edinburgh became a Cambridge scholar of international repute. Stefan Reif traces the numerous obstacles encountered as he struggled to make a life that released him from poverty and anonymity but maintained the best of Ashkenazi Judaism. We follow his adventures as a pupil subjected to the rigours of a Scottish Presbyterian education, as well as the demands of traditional Jewish learning. The account describes London, Glasgow, and Philadelphia before concentrating on Cambridge and describing how difficult it was for a scholar who had degrees from London to win academic recognition. This is not only the personal tale of how a poor boy made good that will touch the hearts of many who have struggled to achieve success or seen others who have failed to do so. It is also a readable, informative, and moving account of Jewish life in immigrant Edinburgh; of the teachers and politics of Jews’ College, London, in the 1960s; and of the intricacies of Cambridge academia in the final third of the twentieth century. It contains fresh information, controversial revelations, and frank assessments of individuals and institutions.
Year first published: 2021