A. Dirk Moses
A long tradition of scholarship has posited colonialism and ‘racial imperialism’ as an enabler of the genocide against European Jewry, though often in imprecise ways. In response, critics of this view have insisted that antisemitism and World War I were the salient enablers, and Germany's colonial experience was too ephemeral to have had serious causal importance. This article changes the terms of debate by presenting the murderous National Socialist program as a colonial and imperial project executed in Europe to compensate for the loss of Germany's empire abroad and in central Europe in 1919. It argues that the style of occupation and warfare Germany conducted in realizing this project was colonial in nature and inspiration, and the Holocaust of European Jewry can be understood in terms of colonial logics as well. At least in part, the Holocaust was, for the Nazis, the attempt of an indigenous people — the Germans — to cast off the perceived exploitative rule of a foreign people: Jews.
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 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.
Perhaps for as long as two millennia, there have been Jewish communities throughout much of South, East, and Southeast Asia. Most have been in such port cities as Surat, Kochi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Yangon, Singapore, Bangkok, Kobe (Japan), and Hong Kong. Others thrived along the Silk Route, the best known and longest lived of which was at its eastern terminus, Kaifeng. Some of these communities are very old, dating at least from the early medieval period if not ancient times, while others are even newer: Bangkok's Jewish community dates from the first half of the twentieth century, and Shanghai's present community has existed only since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Israel in 1992. Many Asian diaspora communities have been in decline for the past half-century due to emigration to Israel. It is in the oldest of these Jewish communities that we find the most profound interactions with the host culture, the best examples are Kochi in India and Kaifeng in China.
The Jewish presence in Europe dates back to the second or third centuries BCE. Between the twelfth and the twentieth centuries, the overall course of the European Jewish community can be summarized as one of demographic rise, hegemony, and decline. During the Middle Ages, the number of Jews in Europe increased substantially. So did their share of a global Jewish population that previously was mainly concentrated in the Middle East and neighboring areas. The major exodus from Spanish and Portuguese domains between the end of the fifteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth, and the conversion of many Jews who chose not to leave their countries, caused a significant downturn in the Jewish presence in Europe, although many of those who left the Iberian peninsula eventually resettled in other parts of the continent. The cultural contributions of Jews to Europe's history and culture cannot be reduced to a single pattern, but rather reflect the widely contrasting range of different options and constraints that characterized the Jewish experience in the continent. Paradoxically, modern antisemitism rose along with the process of emancipation of the Jews allowed by a liberalization of European politics.
Roger Friedland and Richard D. Hecht
The formation of the state of Israel in 1948 represented not only a historic achievement but also an extraordinary experiment in the nationalization of a global religion. It is remarkable in part because every strand of Judaism was suddenly condensed into one tiny country. Curiously, Israel contained the very seeds of exilic existence that its founders sought to overcome in the new national existence. Over 2,000 years, Judaism evolved into a transportable, de-territorialized, ethical, and ritual system, one that could be practiced anywhere. Under both Christian and Muslim rule, this de-territorialization took the form of a tolerated and eminently movable ethnos, a people with a history but without political claim. The category of Jew was a politically empty category. To give Jews a political identity would, in fact, contradict the claims of Christianity and Islam to supersede Judaism. This article examines Jewish communities in Israel, focusing on the haredim, Hasidism, the formation of the Sephardi Torah Guardians (SHAS), and religious nationalism of the Jews.
The Jewish world is generally lumped into two broad categories, Ashkenazim and Sefaradim, despite the marked differences that exist among the diverse Jewish communities around the world in terms of traditions, culture, language, customs, synagogue service, pronunciation of Hebrew, and the like. Although “Ashkenaz” is the Hebrew word for Germany, its connotation has been broadened to denote all Jews of European descent possessing a particular Jewish cultural complex including a Germanic dialect known as Yiddish. In contrast to “Ashkenaz,” “Sefarad” is the Hebrew word for Spain. Before the establishment of Israel, Jewish communities were to be found in almost all the Middle Eastern and North African countries. With the establishment of Israel in 1948, Jews emigrated from the Arab and Muslim countries in continuous waves, mainly to Israel. This article provides an overview of the Jewish Middle Eastern and African communities, focusing primarily on the Jews of Yemen and Ethiopia, and also explores the history of Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa, including Yemen, Aden, and Ethiopia.
J. Shawn Landres
American Judaism is a major element of global Judaism. Aside from Israel, more Jews live in North America than anywhere else in the world. Forty-one percent of the thirteen million Jews worldwide live in the United States, and approximately six percent live elsewhere in the Americas. According to 2005 estimates, 372,000 lived in Canada, 185,000 in Argentina, and 213,000 elsewhere in Latin America. After the United States and Israel, the next largest Jewish population center, France, can claim less than four percent of the worldwide Jewish population. Of the other ninety countries around the world in which Jews live (down from 200 countries a century ago), only seven have a Jewish population that is greater than one percent of the worldwide Jewish population. The history of Judaism in the United States is in many ways an account of Jewish ambivalence about the homogenizing tendencies of both nationalism and globalism.
Mark R. Cohen
Islam arose in the seventh century in Arabia through the preaching of the prophet Muhammad (d. 632). Nineteenth-century Jewish historians of the ‘Wissenschaft des Judentums’ school painted the experience of medieval Jewry in the world of Islam in idyllic, almost mythic terms and in stark contrast to the sorrowful, oppressive, persecutory history of Jews living in medieval Christendom. This rosy comparison between the ‘Golden Age’ under Islam and the era of persecution under Christendom, sketched against the background of the political agenda of nineteenth-century Central European Jewish intellectuals, was carried forth into the twentieth century, reinforced by the brutal Nazi persecution of the Jews culminating in the Holocaust. On the other hand, the Arab-Jewish dispute over Palestine generated a fresh political issue which impacted on the historiography of medieval Jewry in the world of Islam.
This article underlines the many paradoxes that accompanied the destruction of European Jewry during World War II. Aside from Germany, no country was so directly involved in killing Jews as Romania, yet half of that country's Jewish population, the third largest in Europe, survived the Holocaust. Hungary participated in murdering most of its Jewish community near the end of the war, even after Germany's defeat and the likelihood of retribution for genocide had become clear. Bulgaria, another German ally, destroyed ‘only’ the Jews from its newly acquired territories. In spite of prevalent and intense antisemitism, Croatia massacred more Serbs then Jews. The Netherlands, a country with relatively weak antisemitic traditions, lost a much larger share of its Jews than France, the home of the Dreyfus Affair, and Italy, although a German ally, was disinclined to let Jews under its jurisdiction be killed. The article reveals how contemporary Holocaust scholarship interprets the origins and unfolding of these counterintuitive variations in behaviour.
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.
Sarah Abrevaya Stein
Despite significant achievements, certain challenges still confront the student of Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries. This article delineates four such challenges. First, the conceptual language and categories still need to be rethought: what is to be gained and lost by grouping Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries into one historical category? Second, while recent scholarship has challenged the ‘Sephardic Mystique’ and the ‘neo-lachrymose view of Jewish-Arab History’, there are other influential teleologies that warrant reconsideration, among them the teleologies of Westernization, modernization, and Zionism, all of which assume a Eurocentric perspective. Third, there remain numerous important gaps in the knowledge of Sephardi and Mizrahi culture and history, including social history, women's and gender history, comparative and inter-ethnic history. Fourth, there is still the task of using the scholarship on non-Ashkenazim to reconsider pre-existing assumptions about Jewish culture.
Harvey E. Goldberg
Judaism is perhaps the most global of religious traditions, having existed in myriad diaspora communities throughout the Middle East, Europe, and eventually the Americas and elsewhere. There are currently some fourteen million Jews around the world: the largest number, almost six million, are in North America; about four and a half million live in Israel; three million in Europe; a half million in Latin America; and the remainder in Asia, Australia, Africa, and elsewhere in the Middle East. A broad view of Jewish life throughout the globe was implicit in the new “science of Judaism” formulated early in the nineteenth century, but the systematic and mature application of sociological thought to the historical study of Judaism around the world emerged only slowly. This article discusses the globalization of Judaism, focusing on the study of Jewish societies throughout the world. It also examines diversity in ancient Judaism as well as multicultural aspects of diaspora Judaism. Some of the major figures in the history of sociology are William Robertson Smith, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber.
For many years, historical writing about the Jewish experience in modern western and central Europe was guided by emancipation and assimilation. Historians focused either on the transformations of Jewish society that accompanied the achievement or on the response this engendered in society at large. While this is still for the most part true, there has been a substantial broadening and deepening of the definitions, contours, and content of these concepts. This article provides an overarching framework looking at the core issues of identity, the minority perspective, the still-regnant emancipation paradigm, the Jewish Question, and the east-west divide. Such issues pertain to the search for the modern. In other words, the many and various ways in which European Jews became modern is now a staple of historical discourse and can be said to characterize the historiography in this field.