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Judaism

See also Israel/Palestine.

1. Brief Introduction
2. Religion and Politics Sections
3. A Short Introductory Course
4. Other Resource Materials
5. Recent Articles

1. Brief Introduction:

The religions of the book began with God's call of Abraham, a rich Semitic trader, to take his family out of Mesopotamia to a new land which God would give him. Six hundred years later the same God called Moses out of Egypt to lead Abraham’s descendants back to Palestine. The Jews thus become a people defined by their covenants with God. In 1000 B.C.E. King David captured Jerusalem, situated between and thus perfect for uniting the ten Hebrew tribes of the north with the two tribes of the south. Later the Assyrians defeated the north and the ten tribes disappeared from history. The Babylonians conquered the south and took captives to their capital city (597-38 B.C.E.) where the Jews meditated more and more on who was this God who had called them and what did it mean to be His Chosen People. The Jewish Tanakh (the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings) gradually formed the Hebrew scriptural canon over many centuries. When the Persians returned the Jewish captives to Palestine to rebuild the temple, the Jews faced the great challenge of a Hellenic civilization centered on the gymnasium. The Jews raised revolts against the successor Romans in 66 C.E. and 132 C.E. which led to a nearly two-thousand-year Diaspora among pagan, Christian, and Islamic civilizations.

During this Diaspora Judaism became a “congregationalist faith” (Johnson, below) based on the community synagogue led by the rabbi, a revered interpreter of the law. From the fourteenth century, two major Jewish groups, the Sephardi and the Ashkenazi, can be discerned. The Sephardi (from a corruption of the Hebrew word for Spain) had their roots in this Iberian Christian-Muslim battlefield of the seventh to the fifteenth century. The Ashkenazi spoke Yiddish. They left their Western European ghettoes and expanded into Germany, Poland, and Russia as these states developed from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Throughout the Diaspora Jews suffered waves of persecution at various intervals, of which the horrid culmination was the Holocaust directed by Nazi Germany. Theodore Herzl published The Jewish State in 1896, and the first Zionist Congress met in 1897. The state of Israel was founded in 1948 with support from Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. U.S. Judaism is divided into Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed branches. Conservatives were once the dominant strand, but they are now second in numbers to the Reform congregations, as centrist Conservatives have lost members to both more and less strict interpretations. 

2. Religion and Politics Sections:

“Religions of the Book: Historical Revelation, Scripture, Law, and Worldview” (pp. 92-95)

“Judaism and the Diaspora” (pp. 95-98)

Israeli Politics: Jewish Identity and the Israeli State” (pp. 228-31)

“Palestinian Politics: PLO Versus Hamas” (pp. 231-35)

3. A Short Introductory Course:

Johnson presents a popular history of Judaism. Halpern and Reinharz explain the emergence of the modern state of Israel. Friedman vividly describes the interaction between Jews and Palestinians up to the Oslo Process of 1992. Wald summarizes contemporary Israeli politics in the first article, and the political traditions of American Judaism in the second. Fisch provides a fine example of Jewish ethical reasoning.

Johnson, Paul. A History of the Jews (London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1987). 
 
Halpern, Ben, and Reinharz, Jehuda. Zionism and the Creation of a New Society. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

Friedman, Thomas L. From Beirut to Jerusalem, updated with a new chapter (New York: Doubleday, 1995).

Wald, Kenneth D. “The Religious Dimensions of Israeli Political Life,” in in Jelen, Ted Gerald, and Wilcox, Clyde, eds. Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective: The One, the Few, and the Many (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 99-124; and "American Jews and the Public Role of Religion," in McGraw, Barbara A., and Formicola, Jo Renee, eds. Taking Religious Pluralism Seriously: Spiritual Politics on America's Sacred Ground (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2005), 27-43.

Fisch, Menachem, “Ethical Diversity, Tolerance, and the Problem of Sovereignty: A Jewish Perspective,” Madsen, Richard, and Strong, Tracy B., eds. The Many and the One: Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ethical Pluralism in the Modern World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 195-218.

4. Other Resource Materials:

Blet, S.J.,  Pierre. Pius XII and the Second World War According to the Archives of the Vatican City (New York: Paulist Press, 1997).  Reading Blet, Carroll, and Cornwell provides a fairly comprehensive mini-course in the relationship of Catholicism, especially the papacy, to the Holocaust. Contrast, for example, Blet and Cornwell on the role of Pope Pius XII.

Cahill, Thomas. The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (New York: Doubleday, 1998).

Carroll, James. Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001).
 
Cornwell, John. Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (New York: Viking, 1999).

Fisher, Eugene J. “Catholics and Jews Confront the Holocaust and Each Other,” America (September 11, 1999).

Fradkin, Hillel, “Judaism and Political Life,” World Religions and Democracy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 87-101.

Frymer-Kensky, Tikva, Novak, David, Ochs, Peter, Sandmel, David Fox, and Signer, Michael A., eds. Christianity in Jewish Terms. (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 2000).

Gopin, Marc. Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future of World Religions, Violence and Peacemaking. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

Kliksberg, Bernardo. Social Justice: A Jewish Perspective. NewYork: Gefen Publishing House, 2003.

Küng, Hans, “Judaism” in Tracing the Way: Spiritual Dimensions of the World Religions (New York: Continuum, 2002), 163-194.

Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-2001 (New York: Vintage Books, 2001).

Pelikan, Jaroslav. Whose Bible is it? A History of Scripture Through the Ages. (New York: Penguin, 2005).
 
Pleins, J. David. The Social Visions of the Hebrew Bible: A Theological Introduction. (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2000).

Seligman, Adam B., “Jewish Responses to Modernity,” Madsen, Richard, and Strong, Tracy B., eds. The Many and the One: Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ethical Pluralism in the Modern World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 219-28.

Shlaim, Avi. The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001).

Silberstein, L. The Postzionism Debate: Knowledge and Power in Israeli Culture. London: Routledge, 1999.

Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1985). English translation from the Hebrew text, while consulting other famous translations like the Septuagint and the Targum. Fine preface on translation history, including Christian efforts, and choices.

The BBC’s site on Judaism.

5. Recent  Articles:

"Reform Jews Hope to Unmix Mixed Marriages," New York Times, February 12, 2006. Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, recently called for Reformed synagogues to increase their effort to convert non-Jewish spouses. High intermarriage rate and uneasiness about conversion in this less strict interpretation.

"Conservative Jews Allow Gay Rabbis and Unions," New York Times, December 7, 2006. Highest Conservative legal body passes resolutions which both support and criticize gay rabbis and same-sex commitment ceremonies. Result is local option as to which resolutions to follow.

"Lovingly Observant," America, June 18-25, 2007. Interview with Susannah Heschel, daughter of great ecumenical Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel, about her father, who came to the U.S. in 1940. He was a colleague of Reinhold Niebhur and influential on Vatican II document on Jewish relations. Books included The Prophets, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, and Man's Quest for God.

"In Poland, a Jewish Revival Thrives--Minus Jews," New York Times, July 22, 2007. The story of contemporary Poland's revival of Jewish culture, mostly by non-Jews, and its significance for Poland and for international Judaism. The Warsaw festival was founded and is directed by the son of a Catholic family, with Polish and American Jewish funding. About seventy percent of Ashkenazi have Polish ancestors, and one in ten Poles was Jewish before the Nazis.

 

See Israel/Palestine.

List of other Religions

October 28, 2009.