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.
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.
This article presents a narrative history of the Jews between the destruction of the Second Temple (70
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.
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.
Theodore W. Jennings Jr.
While the Bible is often understood to forbid same-sex love, a closer examination reveals a wide variety of forms of same-sex love that are presupposed and even celebrated in these texts. After demonstrating that biblical texts taken to prohibit same-sex love have been misunderstood, the chapter explores multiple forms of same-sex love in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Love between women in the story of Ruth, the expressions of warrior love in the stories of David and the centurion who came to Jesus, the transgendering of Israel in the prophets and the transgendering of Jesus and Saint Paul in the New Testament, even tales of sexual awakening and violence, provide a rich tapestry of same-sex love exhibited in biblical literature giving deeper meaning to the message of divine love which for Christians is exemplified by Jesus.
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.