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.
James C. VanderKam
The work that is today called the Book of Enoch or 1 Enoch is actually a collection of ancient booklets written at different times by several authors, almost all of them composed in the Aramaic language. They all share the trait that Enoch is the speaker and/or protagonist. Though a book of Enoch was known and fairly widely used in antiquity, most of the text was lost to Western readers until copies of the Ethiopic translation of the book were brought from Abyssinia to Europe beginning in the late eighteenth century CE. This article describes the components, the textual evidence, and influential themes in 1 Enoch. It also considers the place of the book in Second Temple Judaism and evaluates the Enochic–Essene hypothesis.
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.
The Book of Esther tells the tale of a prime minister, Haman, who, through various political machinations, attempts to annihilate the Jews of the ancient Persian empire. Esther, queen of the empire and secretly a Jew, averts the disaster and, together with her uncle, Mordecai, is celebrated as the saviour of the Jews. The end of the book institutes Purim as a festival to celebrate ‘rest from their enemies’ and the turning of ‘sorrow to gladness’ and ‘mourning into a good day’. As early as 1935, parallels were being drawn between this story and the politics of the Nazi party, which are discussed in this article.
Warren Zev Harvey
This chapter discusses the ethical views of medieval Jewish philosophers, showing that the varieties of Jewish philosophy in the medieval period defy easy categorization, let alone condensation into a single notion of Jewish ethics. Scholars surveyed include Saadia Gaon, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Bahya ibn Paquda, Judah Halevi, Abraham ibn Ezra, Abraham ibn Daud, Moses Maimonides, Levi Gersonides, Jedaiah Bedersi, Hesdai Crescas, Joseph Albo, and Joseph ibn Shemtob.
This article describes conceptions of the early modern period in Jewish historiography, the Italian Renaissance, intellectual history, the Jews of Central Europe in the early modern period, the Sephardic diaspora in Western Europe, and messianism. Classical Jewish historiography depicted a sharp break between medieval and modern patterns, the movements of transformation seeming to emerge virtually out of nothing. Cecil Roth's The Jews in the Renaissance introduced Jewish historians to the riches of Jewish life in this multifaceted world. Jewish intellectual history in the early modern period is characterized by successful attempts to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497 had a profound impact on the life of Western European Jews, even beyond that on Iberian Jewry itself. Meanwhile, the messianic movement of Sabbatai Zevi reverberated strongly through the Jewish historiography of the early modern period.
This article presents a narrative history of the Jews between the destruction of the Second Temple (70
There are two kinds of academic enquiry. ‘Normal enquiry’ examines human behaviour in contexts of conventional language use. ‘Reparative enquiry’ identifies and offers responses to occasions of radical change, when conventional language breaks down. For scholars dedicated to normal enquiry, Abrahamic studies names a curriculum that collects together individual studies of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions of belief, practice, and social history. For scholars dedicated to reparative enquiry, Abrahamic studies names an academic response to conditions of radical disruption among the Abrahamic traditions. The contemporary academy offers few models for conducting this kind of enquiry. The best resources may rest within the Abrahamic scriptural traditions themselves: generations of commentary and many-levelled reflection on ancient narratives of conflict and redemption.
For all Jews in this period, in both diaspora and homeland, the Jerusalem Temple was the central religious institution. The wide dispersal of Jews prevented many from regular participation in Temple worship, but no religious Jew seem to have ignored the significance of the sacrificial and other offerings in Jerusalem. The second pillar of common Judaism was the Torah. It was during these centuries that the biblical text took a form resembling that of the present day and acquired something close to its later authority. Most of the debate about the relation of Jews to the surrounding culture has concentrated on the Hellenization of Judaism. The motivation of Christian scholars for investigating the relationship of Judaism and Hellenism has naturally been very different and more concerned with the origins of ideas found in the early Church.
How does Christianity explain the existence of the two rival Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Islam? What place does it allow in Christian society for Jews and Muslims? The responses to these questions are many; this chapter examines a few prominent examples. Rather than a survey of Christians’ attitudes towards Jews (or Judaism) and Muslims (or Islam), it examines how Christian law accommodated Jews and Muslims as residents of Christian societies and at the roles that Christian thinkers assigned to Judaism and Islam in a Christian scheme of history. The emphasis is on a few salient examples from the fourth century (when Christianity obtains social and intellectual predominance in the Roman Empire) to the nineteenth (when Christianity loses that predominance in Europe).
John J. Collins
Strictly speaking, the Second Temple period extends from the construction of the temple at the end of the sixth century
The Hebrew Bible is sometimes understood as the source of a ‘traditional’ Judaeo-Christian approach to marriage and sexual practice. A comprehensive examination reveals, however, that biblical assumptions about sex, gender, and kinship are complex and internally diverse. Some of these assumptions stand in tension with traditional Jewish and Christian norms for marriage and sexual activity. This essay reviews such matters as the biblical vocabulary for, and representations of, marital relations; the status of women in households organized around fathers; the role of polygyny; differing standards for the sexual conduct of husbands, wives, and concubines; intermarriage and inter-ethnic sexual relations; prostitution; the use of sex and marriage within male contests for power and honour; the use of sexual and marital images in representations of Israel’s relationship to God; and the attitudes towards sex and gender found in less frequently read books of the Bible such as the Song of Songs.
Karaism is best defined as a Jewish religious movement of a scripturalist and messianic nature, which crystallized in the second half of the ninth century in the areas of Persia-Iraq and Palestine. This article highlights new developments and breakthroughs in research, with specific emphasis on the state of manuscript sources, and the fields of Karaite history and hermeneutics. It also attempts to redefine the major impetus behind the Karaite movement. It concludes by reviewing the issues that have been raised and outlines the major paradigmatic shift in the current understanding of Karaism. Two separate modes of explanation have traditionally been pursued in the light of comparative religious phenomena. One identifies the major motivation underlying Karaism as intrinsic to Judaism, drawn from earlier scripturalist models, and the other identifies it as external to Judaism, borrowed or grafted onto it from heterodox Islamic models.
James E. Young
This article focuses on Holocaust memorial histories and debates in Germany, Poland, Israel, and the United States. Holocaust memorials and museums provide spaces and occasions that represent the Holocaust in their own distinctive ways. Public memorialization of the Holocaust era began early, with every affected group remembering its own fate. The more events of World War II and the Holocaust recede in time, the more prominent museums and memorials about them become. As survivors have struggled to bequeath memory of their experiences to the next generations and governments have sought to unify disparate polities with ‘common’ national narratives, a veritable ‘Holocaust memorial and museums boom’ has occurred. Since 1990, hundreds of museums and institutions have been established worldwide to remember and tell the history of Nazi Germany's destruction of the European Jews. Depending on who builds these memorials and museums and where, they recollect this past according to particular national myths, ideals, and political needs. At a more specific level, these museums also reflect the temper of the memory-artists' time, their architects' schools of design, and their physical locations in national memorial landscapes.
Ira F. Stone
The nineteenth century witnessed the dramatic growth of Jewish thought and activity spurred by the increasing civic and intellectual freedoms that emancipation and the Enlightenment brought to Jews. This chapter traces the challenges that this new modernity posed to Jews and how they responded. It considers scholars such as Moses Mendelssohn, Samuel David Luzzato, Elijah Benamozegh, Nachman Krochmal, Samson Raphael Hirsch, Hermann Cohen, and Israel Lipkin's Mussar Movement. Although they variously retained traditionalism, their responses were all reforms insofar as they each created “what might be called an indigenous Jewish response to modernity.”
It is surprising to realize that no historian of Judaism wrote a history of the Middle Ages in Jewish history. Between 1923 and 1926 a Jewish historian, Shlomo Bernfeld, wrote a three-volume historical work, consisting mainly of an anthology of sources, entitled Sefer ha-Demaot, ‘The Book of Tears’. These volumes present a history of the Middle Ages up to the ‘Age of Reason’, which the author hoped would be the beginning of a new age in which the fate of the Jews would be different, yet this hope, he states in the end of his work, seems to have been unfounded. This article examines such narratives: the way narratives shape the chronological boundaries of the Middle Ages; their consequences concerning the examination of the relationships between Jews and non-Jews in the medieval world; and the place of history of ideas in the descriptions of the Middle Ages.
Since their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492, the dissemination of the Jews in Europe, northern Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas has resulted not only in the production of a literature in modern Jewish languages and dialects such as Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino, Judaeo-Italian, and Judaeo-Arabic, but also in a Jewish literature delivered in virtually every major Western tongue. These literatures in non-Jewish languages obviously fit into their respective national canons: Jewish-Portuguese authors are part of Portuguese letters, Jewish-Polish authors part of Polish letters, and so on. Five centuries after the expulsion from Spain in 1492, and more than 200 years after the Haskalah, an abundance of fiction and poetry by Jews in non-Jewish languages around the globe is produced regularly. And a solid body of literary criticism that attempts to examine its ambivalence at the national and international levels goes hand in hand with it.
There is a long-standing Jewish tradition, both religious and secular, of responding to catastrophe in the present by recalling, and recasting, models and archetypes from the past, particularly from the Bible. They may be recalled literally, as traditionally understood, or rewritten, even parodied (often violently), in order to challenge and/or subvert more traditional readings. Interrogating and/or deconstructing traditional responses and archetypes is present in scripture and in midrashic readings that seek to tease out the tensions, gaps, and silences in the biblical text. If, as James Young suggests, a ‘self-reflexive questioning of the available archetypes’ is the typical Jewish response to catastrophe as writers and artists turn to ‘the only system of myths, precedents, figures, and archetypes available to them’, then it is hardly surprising that writing and rewriting biblical archetypes is a recurrent motif within Jewish literary, artistic, and theological responses to the Holocaust. This article begins by analyzing different forms post-Holocaust biblical hermeneutics can take. It then explores the complexities and tensions within the biblical Book of Job. It considers a range of post-Holocaust Jewish interpretations of Job and the relevance this biblical figure and text might have to the realities of the Holocaust and living in a post-Holocaust world.
Nearly concurrent with the rise of feminist criticisms in recent decades was the emergence of post-modernism that both endorsed particularity (as against the universality championed by modernity) yet critiqued the totalizing effects inhering in particularity. This chapter begins by tracing the complicated interrelationship of Jewish and secular philosophy in Emmanuel Levinas' thought. It then turns to the ethical philosophy of embodiment and self-mastery by Jonathan Schofer and Chaya Halberstam, to show that postmodern Jewish ethics is simultaneously intensely personal as it is also procedural and communal.
This article deals with rabbinic literature, considering what rabbis wrote in the context of performing their rabbinic functions: halachic literature in all its aspects — talmudic commentary, books of legal decisions, responsa, halachic monographs, works on prayer and liturgy, the holidays, and customs. The corpus of medieval rabbinic texts, which is today witnessing a renaissance, constitutes the basis of what is called mishpat ivri (Jewish law). It is possible to describe this literature according to four different categories: geography, chronology, content, and literary genre. The description here is related to content and literary genre, while taking note of geographical and chronological divisions. The books were mostly from European countries — Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Provence. Rabbinic literature began to be produced in all the European regions more or less at the beginning of the eleventh century.