The modern concept of the Abrahamic religions has roots in Christian theology, the academic study of the Near East, and the study of Islam. In the nineteenth century, Protestant theologians built on the idea of the ‘Abrahamic covenant’ in developing the idea of a spiritual connection among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At the same time, students of the Near East understood the three religious traditions as sharing a common genealogical bond. Such recognition was enhanced by Islam’s own sense of the religion of Abraham, which was communicated to a broader public by western Islamicists. Although the concept of the Abrahamic religions does not preclude the privileging of one religion over the others, it has provided both scholars and laypeople with a useful way of exploring the common ground of the three faiths.
American Jewish history as a field of scholarly inquiry takes as its subject-matter the experience of Jews in the United States and places it within the context of both modern Jewish history and the history of the United States. Its practitioners see their intellectual project as inextricably connected to both histories. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the enterprise of American Jewish history enjoys a condition of robust health. By the 1990s American immigration history had generally declined in favour within the ranks of American historians. That Jews, outsiders to American culture upon their arrival in the United States, were able to penetrate barriers and enter the mainstream clashes with the way historians want to see the American past. As a group who craved both economic security and respectability, their story lacks the dramatic punch of resisters and rebels to the American ethos.
Thinking about American Jews, race, and religion entails confronting the instability of those terms. This chapter examines the history of Jews and race in the United States through three lenses. First, it looks at the history of how Eastern European Jews have been “raced” in America, and in particular how they became “white.” Second, it considers Jewish interactions with other groups, such as blacks, Native Americans, and Asians, and how Jewish identity has been co-constituted with and against that of other groups. Third, the chapter looks at internal Jewish diversity and the challenges presented by Euro-centric models of Jewishness. The chapter concludes by considering Jews, race, and religion in the age of Ferguson.
This article examines the misuse of biblical texts in order to underpin the ideology of an ‘Aryan’ or ‘German Christendom’. Seen against the backdrop of anti-Semitic ideologies, it asks to what extent were biblical texts of the Old and New Testament misused in order to uphold anti-Semitic ideas or within the framework of anti-Semitic propaganda? The focus is on typical, regularly appearing motifs, which can be encountered in anti-Semitically motivated exegesis, especially in the National Socialist milieu. The same exegesis reappears — fatally enough — in the form of stereotypically reiterated statements among authors who can by no means be reproached with an anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic mindset. The case becomes even more precarious once said stereotypes catch on in wide circles of the church and society — to break through them after their acceptance involves an immense struggle and strain.
Michael J. Gilmour
Few contemporary artists have endured so long, reinvented themselves so frequently and successfully (folk, rock, country, gospel music), and contributed in such diverse media (music, film, poetry, prose, sketches) as Bob Dylan. What is more, there may be no other artist of the 20th and 21st centuries with such an unusual list of significant honours: Grammy Awards; an Academy Award (2000); a Polar Music Prize (2000); a Kennedy Center Honour (1997); honorary doctorates (Princeton University; St Andrew's University); nominations for the Nobel Prize for Literature; and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation (2008), among them. In addition to this impressive list, Bob Dylan's music and writing is often the subject of serious academic analysis from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including literary, cultural, religious, and music studies. This article argues that the use of the Bible in the songs and other art forms that comprise the Bob Dylan canon defies simplistic systematization and containment within categories. Dylan's art is idiosyncratic, involves constant blending and bending of his sources, and is often inconsistent; a biblical image or phrase used one way in one time and place may appear quite different in another.
Sergio Della Pergola
The scientific study of the Jewish population, also known as demography of the Jews or Jewish demography, does not actually claim the status of a distinct discipline. It is an area of specialization focusing on the changing size and composition of Jewish populations and on the determinants and consequences of such changes. This article outlines some of the main concepts, interpretative frameworks, and methodological issues in the field, followed by a short outline of substantive patterns and applied uses of available knowledge. The main scientific rationale for the study of Jewish populations rests with the growing interest in understanding the demography of religious, ethnic, and cultural groups and minorities. Demographic changes provide an important and occasionally indispensable background for an appraisal of Jewish history and cultural experience. Hence, the study of Jewish demography is organically tied to the development of Jewish studies.
This article discusses how the study of the history, literature, and religious beliefs and practices of ancient Jews in the Land of Israel and the Diaspora provides the proper background and context for the study of the later books of the Hebrew Bible, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, and the New Testament writings. From the time of the Babylonian exile, and especially from Hellenistic times onwards, a vibrant Jewish Diaspora existed alongside the Jewish community in the Land of Israel. During the time of the Second Temple (520
David M. Freidenreich
This survey of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic dietary law finds no recognition within pre-modern sources of the biblical or familial affinities implied by the contemporary term Abrahamic. The profound diversity of norms regarding animal species, blood, meat and dairy, and alcohol demonstrates that it is misleading to focus on the fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are rooted in a common scripture. Pre-modern sources about the food of religious foreigners, moreover, do not express a sense of Abrahamic kinship among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. These sources instead employ classificatory methods that reinforce ideas particular to each tradition’s approach to claiming superiority over foreigners. The term Abrahamic offers a convenient label for the juxtaposition of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sources that bypasses the diverse and ideologically driven categories native to these traditions; the more one focuses on the term’s meaning, however, the less useful it becomes.
This article notes that the study of the modern history of East European Jews is not a field driven at present by deep conceptual or ideological divides or abiding scholarly or methodological controversies. The past debates on this score between Israeli and diaspora Jewish scholarship have all but disappeared, as has even more dramatically the attempt at a Marxist version of juedische Wissenschaft. While the major works of the founders of the field from Simon Dubnov on ought to be studied and the impressive resurgence of interest in the history and culture of East European Jewry in the modern age is underway, the work is still largely undone. The crucial challenge to the field is not to succumb to the lachrymose and romanticized stereotypes of Jewish life in Eastern Europe while continuing to explore the history of this the largest Jewry in the world before the Holocaust.
This article examines Holocaust education, which now takes place across continents and grade-levels and through diverse programs and pedagogies. It argues that research about these efforts and their effects has been underdeveloped, partly because the approaches, objectives, and challenges of Holocaust education necessarily reflect cultural and national differences. While taking these into account, the recurrent themes and practices in Holocaust pedagogy are explored, identifying what is underscored and underplayed. The discussion stresses that the currently predominant context for Holocaust education is the repeated threat of genocidal violence. How Holocaust education and research about it can foster a sense of global citizenship is examined.