Nineteenth century political emancipation brought citizenship rights to European Jews. In How Judaism Became a Religion, Leora Batnitzky explores how this new political reality affected Jewish philosophy and the Jewish people. The prospect of secular citizenship challenged Judaism’s premodern integrity, and drove Jewish writers, intellectuals, and rabbis to grapple with how to recast Judaism as a “religion,” emphasizing its private faith over its national call to public practice. The transformation of Judaism as a religion – and reactions to it – is the driving question of modern Jewish thought to this day. What does Judaism gain and lose as a religion? What effects, positive and negative, has this modern transformation yielded? How does conceiving of Judaism as a religion relate to Zionism and the refounding of a Jewish State for the Jewish People?
Watch as Leora Batnitzky, Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies, Professor of Religion, and Chair of the Department of Religion at Princeton University, discusses the intellectuals who recast Judaism as a modern religion, those that opposed the change, and the legacy of modern Jewish thought today. The event was recorded before a live audience on February 20, 2014 at the Tikvah Center in New York City. For information on other upcoming Tikvah events, please check our Events page.Watch the event here.
A dilemma: What do you do when the categories in which you are accustomed to think already commit you to certain conclusions – conclusions that, when stated explicitly, you are inclined to resist? Such a dilemma is at the heart of Professor Leora Batnitzky’s illuminating and erudite study of modern Jewish thought, entitled How Judaism Became a Religion. It is also suggested by the title of a review by Professor Michah Gottlieb, published in Summer 2012 in the Jewish Review of Books: “Are We all Protestants Now?” Rav Kook? Solomon Maimon? Rabbi Soloveitchik? The Ba’al Shem Tov? … Protestants, all?
Peruse Professor Gottlieb’s summary and critique of the argument here and then join us at the Tikvah Center on February 20th for a discussion with Professor Batnitzky of the book and of its implications for dilemmas facing the Jewish people today. RSVP for that event through this website, while seats still remain.Read the full essay here.
Last week on Shabbat, synagogues around the world turned the page from parshat Yitro (Exodus 18:1 – 20:23) to parshat Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1 – 24:18). The steady flow of narrative, beginning with The Beginning and moving through Noah, the Patriarchs, the birth of Moses and his call from the burning bush, the plagues and exodus from Egypt, the arrival at Sinai and the epiphany that sounds forth in the Decalogue – this current of sublime narrative gives way to lengthy descriptions of law and ritual. How should we think about this pivot in style? What does it reveal about the deep character of Judaism’s sacred text and about Judaism itself? In this Jewish Review of Books essay, Hillel Halkin offers his characteristically erudite and luminous perspective.Read the full essay here.
On January 8, Tikvah Fund executive director Eric Cohen sat down to talk with George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Weigel is one of the country’s most prolific thinkers and writers about religion, ethics, and contemporary culture. His 17 books include a biography of Pope John Paul II and analyses of the “just war” doctrine and the challenges posed by modern jihadism; his most recent work examines evangelical Catholicism in the 21st century.
The Cohen-Weigel conversation gives a sense of the breadth of Mr. Weigel’s interests. It covers just war theory, which Mr. Weigel thinks is in “rather robust shape as an intellectual tradition” but, because of its uncertain reception in the mainline churches, is “not in such good shape” as a politically influential body of thought. The conversation also touches on Christian-Jewish relations, where Mr. Weigel thinks that for the first time in 2,000 years the two religions are able to transcend matters of historical misunderstanding and “reconvene” to talk about fundamental questions of faith. Finally, the conversation touches on the critical question facing modern Islam: whether it can draw on resources of its own to develop modern doctrines of religious tolerance and a separation between religious and political authorities.You can listen to the conversation here.
Jonathan Yudelman is 2013-2014 Tikvah Fellow. His article, “The Christian Theologian of Zion,” will appear in the February issue of First Things. The article explores the life and thought of Marcel Dubois, an important 20th century Catholic theologian in Israel. In the course of doing so, it raised issues about Jewish-Catholic relations generally:
Israel could not have hoped for as passionate an admirer as Fr. Marcel-Jacques Dubois, this most Israeli of traditionalist Catholic theologians, yet received at the same time almost as passionate a critic. His story and its theological legacy bring into sharp relief some of the permanent obstacles in Jewish–Christian relations.Read the full article here
Christmas was this week and God’s love is in the air. But do Christian sources and Jewish ones think of the love of God in overlapping or opposing ways? Renowned Harvard bible scholar and Tikvah faculty regular Jon Levenson is working on a new book on the love of God—what it means for God to love human beings and for human beings to love God. What is being commanded when a Jew is enjoined to love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” Is passion an imperfection, unworthy of God? What is the “pretty dirty” love poem Shir haShirim (Song of Songs) doing in the Bible?
Professor Levenson sat down with Tikvah’s Director of University Programs Alan Rubenstein in Princeton last summer to discuss this profound subject. You can watch the 28 minute conversation here.Watch the full video here
Is there a philosophical or theological justification for the traditional Jewish doctrine of matrilineal descent? Meir Soloveichik, in an article published in Azure in 2005, makes the case that there is, drawing together phenomenological observations and rabbinical sources to illuminate the distinct dignity of mothers and fathers. Rabbi Soloveichik will be teaching in a Tikvah Advanced Institute this summer called The Future of the Family, alongside Eric Cohen, Gil Meilaender, Dara Horn, and others.Read Azure Article
The Hasidic group known both as Lubavitch, after a town in Russia, and as Chabad, an acronym for the three elements of human and divine intelligence, Chochma (wisdom), Bina (understanding), and Da’at (knowledge), is not just the most successful contemporary Hasidic sect. It might be the most successful Jewish religious movement of the second half […]Read More
One of the most remarkable things about the Jewish and Christian traditions is that they both revere figures who predated the central events of their redemptive histories. Both hold in high esteem the patriarchs of Genesis—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob— even though these figures precede Moses or Jesus. The cases of Isaac and Jacob are complicated […]Read More
The transformations of Jewish life in the last two-and-a-half centuries still boggle the mind. Deep ruptures opened to separate the present from the past, modernity from tradition, setting terms that have defined the contours of Jewish life until today. How did people try to think their way through the change? That vital question is central […]Read More
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