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Jews and Judaism in World History

265 Pages · 2009 · 1.38 MB · English

  • Jews and Judaism in World History

    Jews and Judaism in World History


    This book is a survey of the history of the Jewish people from biblical


    a ntiquity to the present, spanning nearly 2,500 years and traversing five


    continents.


    Opening with a broad introduction that addresses key questions of termi-


    nology and definition, the book’s ten chapters then go on to explore Jewish


    history in both its religious and non-religious dimensions. The book explores


    the social, political, and cultural aspects of Jewish history, and examines the


    changes and continuities across the whole of the Jewish world throughout its


    long and varied history. Topics covered include:


    (cid:129) the emergence of Judaism as a religion and way of life, from the world of


    the ancient Israelites as recounted in the Hebrew Bible through to encoun-


    ters with the Greco-Roman civilization, and with Roman, Byzantine,


    Persian, Islamic and Christian rule


    (cid:129) the development during the Middle Ages of Judaism as an all-encom-


    passing identity


    (cid:129) the effect on Jewish life and identity of major changes in Europe and the


    Islamic world from the mid-sixteenth through the end of the nineteenth


    century


    (cid:129) the complexity of Jewish life in the twentieth century, the challenge of


    anti-Semitism and the impact of the Holocaust, and the emergence of the


    current centers of world Jewry in the State of Israel and the New World.


    Exploring the overarching themes that bind this complex history, while also


    taking care to note the broad diversity of the Jewish experience, this book


    will be a vital tool to all students of world history.


    Howard N. Lupovitch is the Waks Family Associate Professor of Jewish


    History at the University of Western Ontario. He is the author of Jews at the


    Crossroads: Tradition and Accommodation during the Golden Age of the Hungarian


    Nobility(2007). Themes in World History


    Series editor: Peter N. Stearns


    The Themes in World History series offers focused treatment of a range of human experiences


    and institutions in the world history context. The purpose is to provide serious, if brief, dis-


    cussions of important topics as additions to textbook coverage and document collections. The


    treatments will allow students to probe particular facets of the human story in greater depth


    than textbook coverage allows, and to gain a fuller sense of historians’ analytical methods and


    debates in the process. Each topic is handled over time – allowing discussions of changes and


    continuities. Each topic is assessed in terms of a range of different societies and religions –


    allowing comparisons of relevant similarities and differences. Each book in the series helps


    readers deal with world history in action, evaluating global contexts as they work through


    some of the key components of human society and human life.


    Gender in World History The United States in World History


    Peter N. Stearns Edward J. Davies, II


    Consumerism in World History Food in World History


    The Global Transformation of Desire Jeffrey M. Pilcher


    Peter N. Stearns


    Childhood in World History


    Warfare in World History Peter N. Stearns


    Michael S. Neiberg


    Religion in World History


    Disease and Medicine in World History John Super and Briane Turley


    Sheldon Watts


    Poverty in World History


    Western Civilization in World History Steven M Beaudoin


    Peter N. Stearns


    Premodern Travel in World History


    The Indian Ocean in World History Steven S. Gosch and Peter N. Stearns


    Milo Kearney


    Premodern Trade in World History


    Asian Democracy in World History Richard L. Smith


    Alan T. Wood


    Sexuality in World History


    Revolutions in World History Peter N. Stearns


    Michael D. Richards


    Globalization in World History


    Migration in World History Peter N. Stearns


    Patrick Manning


    Jews and Judaism in World History


    Sports in World History Howard N. Lupovitch


    David G. McComb Jews and Judaism in World


    History


    Howard N. Lupovitch First published 2010


    by Routledge


    2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN


    Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada


    by Routledge


    270 Madison Ave, New York ,NY 10016


    Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business


    This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2009.


    To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s


    collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.


    © 2010 Howard N. Lupovitch


    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced


    or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means,


    now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording,


    or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in


    writing from the publishers.


    British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data


    A catalogue record for this book is available


    from the British Library


    Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication Data


    Lupovitch, Howard N.


    Jews and Judaism in world history /


    Howard N. Lupovitch. – 1st ed.


    p. cm. – (Themes in world history)


    Includes bibliographical references.


    1. Jews–History. 2. Judaism–History. I. Title.


    DS117.L87 2009


    909'.04924–dc22


    2009026704


    ISBN 0-203-86197-3 Master e-book ISBN


    ISBN10: 0-415-46204-5 (hbk)


    0-415-46205-3 (pbk)


    0-203-86197-3 (ebk)


    ISBN13: 978-0-415-46204-4 (hbk)


    978-0-415-46205-1 (pbk)


    978-0-203-86197-4 (ebk) Contents


    Introduction: dimensions of Jewish history 1


    1 The world of the Hebrew Bible 5


    2 The challenge of Hellenism 26


    3 The rise of Rabbinic Judaism 49


    4 The Jews of Islam 61


    5 The Jews of medieval Christendom 74


    6 World Jewry in flux, 1492–1750 102


    7 The age of enlightenment and emancipation, 1750–1880 138


    8 Anti-Semitism and Jewish responses, 1870–1914 179


    9 From renewal to devastation, 1914–45 203


    10 Jews in the postwar world 231


    Conclusion: world Jewry faces the twenty-first century 241


    Further reading 244


    Index 248 For Dahvi and Hanna


    The aim of this book is to provide students of Jewish History with a compact,


    one-volume history of the Jews from antiquity to the present. As such, this


    book has benefitted from my exchanges with dozens of colleagues who spe-


    cialize in various areas of Jewish History. Throughout I have tried to appose a


    straightforward narrative with more in-depth analysis and discussion of


    recent scholarly debates on various aspects of this narrative. In order to allow


    readers to encounter the historical experiences of Jews through the words of


    those who lived through or observed these events, I have included numerous


    direct quotations. Limitations on length precluded the use of footnotes or


    endnotes, so most of these direct quotations were drawn from one of the pri-


    mary sources included in the list of further reading. In the end, I hope that


    readers will come to discover and embrace, as I have, the notion that a greater


    familiarity with the whole of Jewish History facilitates and enhances one’s


    understanding of any part of that history. Introduction: dimensions


    of Jewish history


    Jewish history is more than the history of a religion called Judaism. Although


    Judaism is a central component, Jewish history also recounts the develop-


    ment of a civilization with a complex social order and political culture, and


    generations of social relations between Jews, and between Jews and non-Jews.


    Jewish civilization has been around in one form or another for more than


    three millennia, and has traversed five continents, from central Asia to the


    New World. Jews have come within the perception of intellectuals and states-


    men from Aristotle to Zola, and have lived in a wide variety of contexts,


    including the ancient Near East, the Hellenistic world, Rome, Byzantium,


    Islam, Christendom, Europe, Russia, and the New World.


    Given this diverse array of situations and vast time span, it is essential to


    begin by defining what is meant by Jew, Jewish, and Judaism. The term Jew


    or Yehudiis derived from the ancient Israelite kingdom of Judah or Yehuda. It


    was first used as a descriptor in reference to Mordechai ha-Yehudi, Mordechai


    the Jew, the uncle of Queen Esther and one of the protagonists in the biblical


    story of Esther. Mordechai the Jew is described as being among those “who


    were exiled from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia, in 597


    B.C.E.” Strictly speaking, therefore, there were no Jews before the Babylonian


    exile. Biblical figures such as Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and the


    prophets are more aptly referred to as Hebrews or Israelites than as Jews.


    The question remains, are the Jews best defined as a people, as the mem-


    bers of a religious faith, as a nation, or as an ethnicity? All of these


    designations have been tried in the past and all remain valid definitions of at


    least some facets of Jewish life. At some point, Jews were most easily recog-


    nizable and definable as one or more of these descriptions. Though ostensibly


    a matter of taxonomy and semantics, the problem of defining the Jews as a


    group points to the larger problem of encapsulating the diversity of the


    Jewish experience within a single narrative. Yet is it possible to encompass


    this diversity and multiplicity within a single historical narrative?


    In answer to that question, historian Michael Meyer has suggested the


    metaphor of a rope. A rope is made up of strands none of which extends from


    one end to the other, yet the strands, still hold the rope together as a single 2 Introduction: dimensions of Jewish history


    coherent entity. So, too, the history of the Jews. Jews in the twentieth century


    are so vastly different from their ancient counterparts that there may be no


    common thread that runs the gamut of Jewish history from antiquity to the


    present. Thus, the challenge for the present-day reader and writer of Jewish


    history is to flesh out the strands of this rope and the connections between


    them without disregarding how different the strands are from one another.


    Three aspects of Jewish history, in particular, are sufficiently broad to


    encompass the diversity of Jewish experience, but together add up to a dis-


    tinct history. First, the history of the Jews is the history of a small people


    surrounded by larger, more powerful peoples. Whether a small independent


    kingdom amid neighboring empires or a small religious or ethnic minority


    living under foreign rule, Jews were faced with the challenge of preserving


    their culture in the face of alluring alternatives that were often culturally


    more sophisticated. In every age, there were Jews who chose these alternatives


    over their Jewish identity. Yet there were also Jews who struck a workable


    balance, living with one foot in the world of Jewish tradition and culture, and


    the other in the world of the mainstream. Every period and episode in Jewish


    history bears the imprint of a larger world in which Jews lived. Jewish iden-


    tity, individual and communal, developed as a series of amalgams between an


    existing Jewish heritage and aspects of the surrounding non-Jewish world


    that were emulated and recast in an acceptable Jewish light.


    Second, the complexity of Jewish history means that there has been a


    recurring or chronic tension between a search for uniformity and a search for


    diversity in Judaism and Jewish life. Recently, there has been a tendency to


    avoid referring to a single, monolithic Jewish experience. Instead, historians


    now speak of “Judaisms” instead of Judaism, and “cultures of the Jews”


    instead of Jewish culture. Indeed, the diversity of Jewish history and the


    multiplicity of Jewish experiences are undeniable. At the same time,


    though, twenty-first-century Jews still feel somehow connected to their


    ancient predecessors


    Third, the tension between uniformity and diversity was at once compli-


    cated and facilitated by a series of migrations by Jews from one part of the


    world to another. It was complicated because migration meant dislocation


    and was often the result of some form of adversity: military defeat, religious


    persecution, or economic hardship. Migrating to a new home meant setting


    down new roots, rebuilding a life, and coming to terms with a new society


    and state and the accompanying array of new challenges and expectations. It


    was facilitated because Jews never arrived into a new homeland empty-


    handed; rather, they brought with them the cultural and communal baggage


    of their former home, and transplanted them into their new home. Starting


    over almost never meant starting entirely from scratch. Each new center of


    Jewish life built on the successes and learned from the difficulties of its pre-


    decessors. The seemingly endemic nature of Jewish migration gives an image


    of an overriding sense of Jewish homelessness and rootlessness in the diaspora. Introduction: dimensions of Jewish history 3


    This may have been true from time to time, but as often as not, Jews felt very


    much at home in the places where they lived, especially in those places where


    they lived for centuries.


    This sense of rootedness may seem odd, especially for those who approach


    Jewish history from what Salo Baron called a “lachrymose view.” Baron cor-


    rectly noted a prevailing yet erroneous view that contends that Jewish history


    is a history of endless suffering and persecution. This view was validated in


    retrospect by the fact that every center of Jewish life eventually came to an


    end, and more recently by the Holocaust.


    The notion of perpetual Jewish adversity in the diaspora is at the heart of


    several different approaches to Jewish history. The traditional rabbinic


    approach regards the worship or acknowledgment of God, the observance of


    Jewish laws, and the study of the Torah as the common thread of the Jewish


    experience. This approach equates good for and bad for Jews with good for


    Judaism and bad for Judaism (“Jewish history is Rashi and the Rambam


    [Maimonides]”). Jewish suffering and the persecution of Jews were seen as


    divine retribution for religious laxity and indifference. Zionist historians,


    though downplaying the role of religious observance and divine providence,


    embraced the lachrymose view of Jewish history to underline the futility of


    Jewish life in the diaspora and the overriding need to move to Israel.


    Those who have sustained this lachrymose point of view have had to resort


    to connecting the dots between a series of adverse situations: the Crusades,


    the Black Death, the Age of Expulsions, the Italian ghettos, the Chmielnicki


    massacres, pogroms in Russia, and the destruction of European Jewry by


    Hitler. Yet these events were separated by centuries and by hundreds of miles.


    Between these events were less dramatic moments when Jews lived comfort-


    ably in the diaspora for extended periods of time. This point should not be


    overstated, yet while persecution is an undeniable feature of Jewish history, it


    was not the only feature. The situation for Jews in the diaspora was neither


    perfect nor perfectly awful.


    The book is divided as follows: Chapter 1 will explore the world of the


    ancient Israelites as recounted in the Hebrew Bible, one of the pillars of west-


    ern civilization, and how Judaism was forged from the matrix of ancient


    Israelite traditions and institutions. Chapter 2 will then consider how this


    society was challenged by the experience of exile and by its encounter with


    the Greco-Roman world – the other pillar of western civilization – and trans-


    formed from a territorial, cultic religion into a melange of Jewish sects vying


    to be the authentic heir of ancient Israel. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 will explore the


    tortuous crystallization of Rabbinic Judaism into the dominant and definitely


    authentic form of Judaism under Roman, Byzantine, Persian, and finally


    Islamic and Christian rule. They will show how it expanded into an all-com-


    passing way of life by the end of the Middle Ages, regulating and governing


    all facets of Jewish life, and how it managed the growing complexity of


    Jewish identity under the rubric of a system of religious beliefs, practices,


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