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Nils Roemer

Abstract

This article investigates the ongoing interaction between the Jewish sacred past and its modern interpreters. Jewish thinkers from the eighteenth century reclaimed these ideals instead of dismissing them. Sacred traditions and modern secular thought existed in their mutual constitutive interdependence and not in opposition. When the optimism in historical progress and faith in reason unraveled in the fin de siècle, it engendered a new critical response by Jewish historians and philosophers of the twentieth century. These critical voices emerged within the fault lines of nineteenth and early twentieth century Jewish anti-historicist responses. What separated twentieth-century Jewish thinkers such as Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, and Gershom Scholem from their nineteenth-century forerunners was not their embrace of religion but their critical stance toward reason and their crumbling faith in historical progress.

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Evyatar Marienberg

Abstract

This article examines how concepts related to menstruation and menstrual blood were used by medieval Jews to insult the Christians’ God and his mother. One of the central concepts used in these exchanges was the claim that Jesus was conceived while Mary was menstruating. The article checks this and similar claims when they appear, among other places, in polemic works, such as the rather famous Toledot Yeshu (“The Genealogy of Jesus”), and in the Jewish chronicles about the massacres of Rhineland Jews during the first crusade of 1096.

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Irene Kajon

Abstract

The article deals with three points that refer to two important Jewish institutions of the age of emancipation, that is, the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau and the Rabbinical College of Padua: (1) how these Rabbinical schools were founded, (2) their courses and programs, and (3) the inspiration behind them. A comparison is outlined on the ground of these three points. The conclusion reminds the closing of these two schools, in 1938 the first and in 1871 the second, because of external events: the uprising of German antisemitism and the constitution of Italian State; and how the interesting figure of Sabato Morais, the founder in 1887 and first president of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, which prepares Conservative Rabbis, could in a sense be considered the heir of both these schools.

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Jonathan Boyarin and Martin Land

Abstract

Recent work by scholars such as Sylvie-Anne Goldberg and Elisheva Carlebach has paid close attention to the forms of temporality in traditional Jewish cultures, and classic twentieth-century studies debated the origin and character of various forms of Jewish Messianism as well as the genre of Jewish apocalypse. This essay considers the possible relevance of Jewish rhetorics of temporality to the most likely current scenario of the human future: a deterioration of both numbers and quality of life, with no inevitable extinction or redemption to be envisioned as a narrative end-point. The recent television series “Battlestar Galactica” is closely examined, both for its specifically Jewish tropes and more generally as a narrative modeling of a regressive sequence without inevitable resolution. Most broadly, this meditation in the form of a dialogue challenges scholars to address their analyses to the current situation of the species, and to do so in a way that does not rely on antiquated ideologies of progress and enlightenment.

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George Y. Kohler

Abstract

The article follows the reception of the philosophy of Yehudah Halevi (1075–-1141) within the Breslau school of Jewish thought during the second half of the nineteenth century. Special focus is given to the discussion of Halevi in the writings of David Kaufmann and Julius Guttmann. Both scholars admire Halevi’s Sefer haKuzari because they discovered a certain analogy between his medieval project of an intellectual apology of Judaism and their own endeavors in Breslau to philosophically justify the existence of Judaism in modernity. In their point of view, Halevi has achieved his results, however, without forcing the wealth of traditional Jewish teachings into an artificial system of thought, as did Maimonides after him. Thus, Halevi became for the Breslau scholars a personal example of Jewish integrity, combining faithful adherence to Judaism with intellectual penetration of its doctrines.

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Jonathan Boyarin

Abstract

In this paper, a long-time resident of the Lower East Side of New York City reflects on his experiences as an adult “learner” in his neighborhood yeshiva. The questions addressed in this narrative autoethnography include: What are the forms of self-making that shared study of Rabbinic texts affords? What is the range of intellectual freedom, and how does this interact with the formal and informal hierarchies of the place? What is the balance, for a mature male Jewish ethnographer, of anthropological fieldwork and study “for its own sake” in this setting? Throughout, the emphasis is on the commonalities shared by the ethnographer and his fellows at the yeshiva, rather than on the putative process of crossing cultural bridges.

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Dominik Peters

Abstract

The Palmach was the backbone of the pre-state Yishuv militias fighting for the independence of Israel. However, its impact went beyond the battlefield and still resonates in the cultural arena of modern day Israel. The exclusive elite group was a beacon of cultural as well as pedagogical values influencing the state, such as the Yediat ha-Aretz principle and the thereby interwoven Wanderlust. Therefore, I will try to show how Haim Hefer, the prominent Palmach poet and songwriter, prolonged this hiking tradition through the years of early statehood and implemented it in his famous song ha-Sela ha-Adom (“The Red Rock”) about the clandestine treks to the mythical Nabatean city of Petra in Jordan by Meir Har-Zion and many others. I will argue that the pop-cultural heritage of this particular song-although deeply rooted in the cultural matrix of the Yishuv-is a theme and topic of controversy to this day.

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Ian Vincent McGonigle

Abstract

In 2013, the Israeli state announced that it may begin to use genetic tests to determine whether some prospective immigrants are Jewish or not. If implemented, the state would be enshrining Jewishness at the level of DNA, rendering “Jewish genes” legally legible, and making DNA signatures a basis for decisions on basic rights and citizenship for the first time in its history. Herein, I examine the Israeli context of “Jewish genetics,” and I situate this contingent historical moment within the diverse political philosophy of Zionism, particularly as it relates to configurations of Jewish ethnicity and modes of citizenship. At issue is the possibility of a novel application of genetics in distributing citizenship, entailing a unique application of Jewish political thought, an articulation of a secular Zionism that foregrounds biology in determinations of civic inclusion.

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Max Haberich

Abstract

Of Jewish origin, Jakob Wassermann (1873-1934) has been labeled a nationalist and reactionary author, even a precursor of fascism. The opposite is the case. Nicole Plöger (2007) argues convincingly for Wassermann’s modernism by examining the literary style of his early novels. This article seeks to complement her approach by concentrating on two key aspects of Wassermann’s thought: First, there is his critical attitude to modern industrial and urban life, exemplified in his “Volksromane.” Second, Wassermann conceived of the “Orientale,” a charismatic leader figure of Jewish origin-heavily influenced by Nietzsche’s “Übermensch”-who would overcome anti-Semitism, and eventually, reconcile the German and Jewish cultures. These two elements of his early work, which may appear reactionary from the modern viewpoint, are in fact decisive evidence that Wassermann was at the height of his time.