Class Notes (839,626)
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Religion (238)
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David Perley (141)

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David Perley

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Religion notes pp. 141-162; 239-259 Conversion to Judaism - During the Babylonian exile, living in Hebrew kingdoms would have been considered Israelites, now it was possible to be a Jew while living elsewhere - We know that conversions took place because there are reports of them and because rabbinic law contains a very detailed set of procedures for accepting converts - Perhaps it was the need to live as members of a minority, as guests in foreign nations, that dampened the Jewish urge to proselytize, since any effort to convert the children of the host country would surely have been seen as hostile - Jews since ancient times have been willing to receive converts who truly desire to join the Jewish people - Rabbinic Judaism came to specify three conditions for conversion: male circumcision, ritual immersion (baptism) and acceptance of the commandments - They verified that converts were willing to cast their lot with this unfortunate and endangered people - When a male student is ready, the ceremony of circumcision is performed, even a man who has already been circumcised must undergo a symbolic shedding of blood - The next requirement is baptism by total bodily immersion - Orthodox Jews, who still rely on ritual immersion for a variety of purifying purposes, build special facilities for the purpose - Men and women visit these baths (mikvehs) separately at specific times during the week - The first ritual immersion they undergo symbolizes the purification required for the transition from gentile to jewish life - Every mikveh must contain a certain amount of living water from streams or rainfall - When a convert enters a mikveh, a court of three rabbis is usually convened at the site - The rabbis question the candidate, from behind a curtain if she is a woman - They ask about the convert’s willingness to perform Jewish rites and responsibilities - They also allow the convert to demonstrate the knowledge he or she has learned from instruction - Then the candidate submerges him or herself completely in the mikveh several times and on coming up is a je in every respect - Converts are given complete jewish names Interaction and Adaptation Judaism and Modernity - Both the sabbatian movement and Hasidism may be seen as reform movements within Judaism that emerged in the early modern era - A more far-reaching desire to reform Judaism developed as Jews came into closer contact with European life - The real opportunity to join European society began in the Napoleonic period when the ideals of the French revolution spread throughout Europe - Before this time, jews in Europe had been living in various degrees of isolation from their host societies, concentrated in enclaves that in some cases were legally separate entities The reform movement - Reform Judaism arose with the belief that Jewish life should parallel that of modern Europe - Many jews who left the ghetto simply disappeared into European society and converted to Christianity - First and most influential reformer – moses Mendelssohn, whose ideas preceded the French revolution, may be seen as the father of modern orthodoxy, as well as reform Judaism, because his formula for the relationship between jewish identity and European nationality became the model almost everywhere - He argued that the jews of Germany should absorb as much as possible of german culture, and should enjoy the same kind of intellectual freedoms that other germans did - He also argued that Judaism was a religion not a nationality or an ethnicity, and that Jews could be germans in exactly the same way that protestants and catholics were germans - Progress towards toleration and equal rights for german jews took roughly a century, sometimes helped and sometimes hindered by the lack of a single german political state - In 1807, Napoleon called for an assembly of Jewish rabbis and laymen, modeled on the ancient Sanhedrin, to determine whether the Jews of france were truly committed to French citizenship - The delegates’ answers suggestion that they wanted the privileges of French nationality, which was what the French state wanted as well - But as rabbis had feared, growing freedom brought both increasing dilution of Jewish life and growing numbers of defections to Christianity - The reform movement sought to minimize the temptations of conversion by creating a new kind of Jewish religious life, more in tune with the times, that came to be known as reform or liberal Judaism - They reformed synagogue services to resemble church services, introducing western musical instruments as well as vernacular prayers and sermons and cut out numerous repetitions - Even experimented with changing the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, though most reform congregations eventually went back to the traditional Friday night and Saturday morning Sabbath observance - Reformers adopted western dress and treated traditional jewish dietary and purity observances as personal or congregational decisions rather than immutable laws - The emphasis on freedom of religion and equality of opportunity in north America, however imperfectly those principles were put into practice, served as a great support for reforming Judaism - Inherent in reform Judaism and characteristic of north America especially in a philosophical preference for ethics over ritual - Emphasizing the moral value of the commandments, it sees ethical behaviour as the essence of Judaism and tends to regard various traditions, customs and ceremonies as non-essential artifacts of a particular historic context, not necessarily eternally valid - The reform movement’s emphasis on the present rather than the past was clearly in the principles set out at a meeting of American reform rabbis in Pittsburgh in 1885: 1. The bible reflects primitive ideas of its own age, clothing conceptions of the divine Providence in miraculous narratives 2. The laws regulating diet, priestly purity and dress do not conduce to holiness and obstruct modern spiritual elevation 3. We are no longer a nation but a spiritual community and therefore expect no return to Palestine Conservative Judaism - Another approach to reform Judaism called itself the judische wissenschaft (science of Judaism) - It was founded in Germany in 1819 by leopold zunz - Instead of actively promoting change, these men preferred to look at the tradition in question to see if its retention could be justified - Frankel, argued that there were legal and asthetic grounds for retaining some of the ancient rituals - At first the two reform movements were separated primarily by taste and style, but in 1889 the reformers met in Cincinnati at a banquest where the menu included shrimp which was biblically forbidden to Jews - Those who stayed and ate became identified with the American reform movement, while those who refused were in the American conservative movement - Conservative Judaism takes an intermediate position between reform and orthodoxy - If a particular custom can be shown to be fairly recent or secondary, then there is a precedent for further changing or even eliminating it th - Since the black caftans worn by Hasidic jews did not become customary until the 15 century or later, they are not obligatory - On the other hand, the order of prayers in the Jewish service goes back at least as far as the first-century temple service and therefore is seen as firmly established by Jewish law - Hence most conservative synagogues pray largely though not entirely in Hebrew and keep the traditional order of Jewish service - Some aspects of the liturgy have been modified in response to changing social realities - Many expressions that reflect patriarchal assumptions have been changed or eliminated and most conservative congregations in the united states and Canada now seat women and men together, allow women to participate in the services as freely as men, and train women to lead worship as cantors and rabbis - Most conservative jews are similar to reform jews in their practice, a small minority choose to live a life much closer to orthodoxy Orthodox Judaism - Emphasizes the preservation of Jewish tradition - Many orthodox jews in north america have adopted modern styles of dress, they still conduct services in Hebrew, observe Sabbath obligations based on the ancient rules found in the Talmud, insist on kosher meals and maintain traditional distinctions in gender roles, reserving the leadership roles in worship and ritual exclusively for males - They rejected reform programs and the conservative as betrayals of authentic Judaism, they have tried to find a modern idiom for the preservation of their traditions th - Among the most effective spokespersons for this perspective in the 19 century was Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch - He outlined a positive program for modern orthodoxy - Essentially he gave credence to the modern world as well as the traditional sources of Jewish identity, calling for both Torah and Derekh Eretz - Living in a separate community in the german city of Frankfurt am main, Hirsch maintained that jews should enjoy many of the advantages of modern European life, but that some separation from that was necessary for Jewish survival - The traditional rituals and observances were the tried and true ways of educating a person who is both a good person and a good jew – a yisroel mensch - His balanced view of the role of tradition and modernity in a general way set the pattern for the modern orthodox movement as a whole - Politically, Israel today is a modern, western style democracy - Its religious life is officially orthodox - Even though the principal political parties are secular in their ideology, none of them has been able to hold power for long without the help of one or more of the small ultra- traditionalist religious parties - Matters such as marriage and divorce are controlled exclusively by the orthodox communities 20 century theology - The life of franz rosenzweig is a good example of the kinds of forces that helped to promote Jewish philosophical speculation in Europe and north America - Decided that if he were going to convert, he should do so not as a pagan but a jew - He decided that Judaism was preferable to Christianity because jews were already with ‘the father’ and therefore had no need to apply to ‘the son’ for mediation - Argued that both Judaism and Christianity play a particular role in the world - By constantly projecting the purposes of God into the world, the politically powerful countries of Christendom are constantly helping to convert and transform it - He characterizes jews as politically powerless but clear sighted in their ritual and liturgical concerns - They are in eternal communication with God through the eternally repeated rituals of Judaism and the halakha, the Jewish law - The jews covenant with god to him is eternal and timeless because the rules governing jewish life have served to insulate Judaism and prevent the dilution of its spiritual power - Christianity however has had the job of bringing the word of God to other nations - It enjoys the benefits of its engagement with world, but also risks the diminution and dilution that Judaism has avoided - Solomon buber suggest that all human beings have two ways of relating to the world - Most of our interactions are functional, aimed at manipulation and control; these buber describes as “I-It experiences” but there are also moments of epiphany, or “I-Thou experiences”, in which the divine presence and dialogue with God are felt - The bible may record I-thou experiences, but it cannot produce them in its readers: however carefully we study it, we are just as likely to have an I-Thou experience when examining a piece of mica as when studying the prophet Micah - In the 1930s, a former conservative rabbi named mordecai Kaplan founded a movement known as reconstructionism - Attempted to define Judaism as a religious civilization or in todays terms a religious culture - He felt that belief in God was important to the people’s self-understanding but was not in fact essential to the definition of the group Zionism - Mid 19 century, when nationalism became a powerful cultural and political force in Europe, that jews first began to explore the idea of leaving Europe and returning to their ancient homeland in the near east - The idea of return was hardly new: medieval Jewish literature frequently evoked the sense of absence from the land of Israel - In the bible, zion is the name of a ridgetop in Jerusalem that is said to be gods dwelling place - Today that place is known as the temple mount and what tourist guides call mount zion a hill just outside the walls of the old city of Jerusalem - The modern movement to return to the ancient land of Israel, to found a nation there on the model of modern European nationalism is called Zionism - A significant factor in the emergence of Zionism was the revival of the Hebrew language - The only language all jews had in common was Hebrew, which was still used extensively in prayer and for literary and intellectual purposes - Peretz smolenskin argued that to remain a people, the jews would have to develop practical as well as spiritual ties to Palestine - One immediate step they could take, which would at the same time serve to bind them to one another, and to their tradition was to speak Hebrew - Another common 19 century current was the desire for political experimentation - Moses Hess was an early socialist thinker whose ideas had an influence on the thought of Karl Marx - He argued that the Jews as a people needed statehood and called on them to create a polity that would be a model of socialist principles for the world - The desire for a haven from persecution was frequently expressed, but perhaps no more dramatically than by Leo Pinsker - He contended that the jews were not safe in the countries in which they lived as minorities - Cultural assimilation was not enough: the only safeguard of Jewish security and dignity would be a separate homeland - The haven from persecution theme had been central to the modern Zionist movement - Some orthodox jews believed that in the absence of the messiah, the jews’ return to zion could not be legitimate - They refused to work for the creation of a modern state and after it came into being in 1948, they refused to acknowledge its existence - Many settled in Israel anyway because it housed many of the important sites of jewish history and was the only asylum available to them after the second world war - Even today there are some orthodox jews in Israel who live as if the state did not exist, although they accept its subsidies for household life and education - Many jews without any religious commitments still feel ethnically or nationally attached to Israel and consider its continued existence important to their jewish identity - Many reform jews in Europe or north America who initially felt somewhat estranged from Zionism because they were completely at home in their own societies eventually came to accept many Zionist premises Judaism in the Americas - Assimilitation and acculturation are two distinct social processes that help to account for the differences among Jews in their understanding of their jewish identity - Assimilation assumes that incorporation into the mainstream necessarily entails a loss of previous identity - Acculturation, by contrast, assumes many possible outcomes of the encounter between two cultures, including the eventual rejection of parts of all of the new culture by the host society - Jews from different European countries have quite different understandings of their jewish identities - The first wave of jewish immigration to the americans, mainly to south America, the Caribbean th islands, and the united states came from spain and Portugal in the 18 century - Most of the jews in curaco today trace their roots to those Sephardic immigrants - In north America, their descendants assimilated long ago - The only traces of their presence are a few jews with spanis names like costas and seixas - It was this wave of jewish settlement in the Americas that produced the great german jewish mercantile families of the late 19 century - The next and largest wave of jewish immigration to America arrived from eastern Europe some from the shetlach and some from the jewish quarters of the major cities - The 3 million jews living in areas controlled by Russia had not benefitted from the social changes that allowed for Jewish liberation in western Europe and the Americas - Although a cultural reform movement known as the Haskalah (‘enlightenment’) had flourished during the relatively benign rule of Czar Alexander II, his successor alexandar III openly encouraged pograms, massacres and deportations of Jews - His policies were directly responsible for the enormous wave of Jewish immigration that landed mostly on the eastern coasts of Canada and the US - Most of the new arrivals went to new York - Jews arriving from eastern Europe have tended to think of themselves as Jewish by nationality as well as religion - The doors of the US remained largely shut to jews fleeing from Nazi oppression in the 1930s, and Canada too refused most Jewish refugees during the second orld war The holocaust - Adolf hitler whose nationalist socialist party came to power in 1933, was able to convince many germans that their countries economic woes should be blamed not on the worldwide depression or on government policy, or on the punishing reparations that it was required to pay after the first world war, but on the nation’s jews - The Nazi’s fearing that that jewish presence among them would sully their ‘racial’ superiority, passed a series of laws that were ever more cruel to jews - They stripped Jews of german nationality - They sent jews to concentration camps to work as slaves - They erected gas chambers and crematoria to kill the Jews, a program the Nazis called die entlosung - A major factor in the success of Hitler’s campaign of course was European christianity’s long tradition of vilifying the Jews as “Christ killers” - Those wishing to foment hatred against the jews for their on purposes could find ample ammunition in the New testament, whose editors painted Jews in an extremely bad light for their own theological reasons - The jews had always assumed that, even though they might sin, the eternity of the people Israel was a sign of Gods continuing favour - Fackenheim believes it is no longer acceptable for Jews to accept martyrdom no matter how good the cause, because the people Israel must look to its own survival The state of Israel - The founding of the state of Israel is closely associated with the terrible tragedy of the holocaust - The neighbouring arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon vied with each other as well as Israel for control of all the area, but were unable to defeat Israel military - The Palestinians have not been able to agree on a policy to deal with Israel’s occupation of the lands gained either in the 1948 or the 1967 war North America - American culture has assumed that assimilation should be the goal of every immigrant and that all ethnic groups should blend together in one great melting pot - Jews have much to gain by staying out of the melting pot - Jewish leaders have traditionally railed against intermarriage - And for two generations, most American jews did marry within their own community - If enough non-jewish spouses ere to convert, that would help to stabilize the jewish population - Some predict that within a few generations, the jewish community will consist only of those most resistant to intermarriage: the orthodox - The Canadian jewish community is younger in that it arrived in great numbers only after the doors of immigration were closed in the united states Judaism in the modern world - Modernity has transformed Judaism, allowing it to develop many different denominational groups, for the same reason that denominations developed in the Hellenistic period: to provide jews with intelligent choices about how to live their lives jewishly - The modern world offers many different ways of living, which appeal to jews in different ways and demand different ways of being jewish - Creative jewish minds have therefore found ways to accommodate these lifestyles with Judaism - A major difference between north American Judaism and Israeli Judaism is often overlooked - There is also a small but growing minority of jews who have entirely given up on the idea of accommodation with modern life -
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