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Intellect in Quest of Understanding 

Program in Judaic Studies 

Brown University 


Edited by 

Jacob Neusner 

Wendell S. Dietrich, Ernest S. Frerichs, William Scott Green, 

Calvin Goldscheider, David Hirsch, Alan Zuckerman 

Project Editors (Projects) 

David Blumenthal, Emory University (Approaches to Medieval Judaism) 

William Brinner (Studies in Judaism and Islam) 

Ernest S. Frerichs, Brown University (Dissertations and Monographs) 

Lenn Evan (joodman, University of Hawaii (Studies in Medieval Judaism) 

William Scott Green, University of Rochester (Approaches to Ancient Judaism) 

Norbert Samuelson, Temple University (Jewish Philosophy) 

Jonathan Z. Smith, University of Chicago (Studia Philonica) 

Number 175 


Intellect in Quest of Understanding 

Edited by 

Jacob Neusner 

Ernest S. Frerichs 

Nahum M. Sama 


Intellect in Quest of Understanding 

Essays in Honor of Marvin Fox 

Volume Four 

The Modern Age: 




Edited by 

Jacob Neusner 

Ernest S. Frerichs 

Nahum M. Sarna 

Managing Editor 
Joshua Bell 

Scholars Press 
Atlanta, Georgia 

Intellect in Quest of Understanding 

© 1989 
Brown University 

The editors acknowledge with thanks the support of the 
Tisch Family Foundation in the publication of this volume. 

Library of Congp'ess Cataloging in Publication Data 

From ancient Israel to modern Judaism : intellect in quest of 
understanding : essays in honor of Marvin Fox / edited by Jacob 
Neusner, Ernest S. Frerichs, Nahum M. Sama. 

p. cm. -- (Brown Judaic studies ; no. 159, 173-175) 

Contents: v. 1. What is at stake in the Judaic quest for 
understanding. Judaic learning and the locus of education. Ancient 
Israel. Formative Christianity. Judaism in the formative age: 
religion -- v. 2. Judaism in the formative age: theology and 
literature. Judaism in the Middle Ages: the encounter with 
Christianity, the encounter with Scripture, philosophy, and theology 
-- V. 3. Judaism in the Middle Ages: philosophers. Hasidism, 
Messianism in modern times. The modern age: philosophy -- v. 4. The 
modem age: theology, literature, history. 

ISBN 1-55540-343-3 (v. 4 : alk. paper) 

1. Judaism-History. 2. Philosophy, Jewish. 3. Fox, Marvin. 
I. Fox, Marvin. II. Neusner, Jacob, 1932- . IE. Frerichs, 
Ernest S. IV. Sarna, Nahum M. V. Series: Brown Judaic studies ; 
no. 159, etc. 
BM157.F76 1989 
296'.09-dc20 89-6111* 

Printed in the United States of America 
on acid-free paper 


Preface xiii 

Bibliography of the Works of Marvin Fox xvii 

Part Fifteen 

43. Samson Raphael Hirsch's Doctrine of Inner Revelation 3 

Walter S. Wurzburger, Yeshiva University 

44 . Non-Jews in a Jewish Polity: Subject or Sovereign? 13 

David Novak, University of Virginia 

45. Tikkun: A Lurianic Motif in Contemporary Jewish 

Thought 35 

Lawrence Fine, Mount Holyoke College 

46. From Tanakh to Modern Times: Aspects of Jewish Religion 55 

Moshe Goshen-Gottstein, Hebrew University of Jerusalem 

47. Universal Mission and Jewish Survivalism in American 

Zionist Ideology 61 

Allon Gal, Ben Gurion University of the Negev 

Part Sixteen 

48. Paradise Lost as a Midrash on the Biblical Bride of God 87 

Sylvia Barack Fishman, Brandeis University 

49. "Sacred Sriptures or Bibles of Mankind" in Walden by 

Henry David Thoreau 105 

Pier Cesare Bori, University of Bologna 

50. L. A. Arieli and the Literature of the Second Aliyah 115 

Gila Ramras-Rauch, Hebrew College 

51. In Search of "Authentic" Anglo-Jewish Poetry: The Debate 

over A. M. Klein's Poems (1944) 125 

Jonathan D. Sarna, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute 

of Religion, Cincinnati 

52. Tadeusz Rozewicz Faces the Holocaust Past 137 

David H. Hirsch, Brown University 

Part Seventeen 

53. The Pohtics of Yiddish in Tsarist Russia 155 

David E. Fishman, Jewish Theological Seminary of 
America and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research 

54. From Yishuv to Sovereign State: Changes in the Social 

Structure of the Jewish State in the 1940s 173 

Jehuda Reinharz, Brandeis University 

55. The Ideology of Antisemitism: The American Jewish View ....189 
Gary A. Tobin, Brandeis University 

56. French Jewry and the Centrality of The State of Israel: 

The Public Debate, 1968-1988 203 

Phyllis Cohen Albert, Harvard University 

Index 229 


Preface xui 

Bibliography of the Works of Marvin Fox xvii 


1. History as a Jewish Problem 3 

Ben Halpem, Brandeis University 


2. Judaic Studies and the College Curriculum 25 

William Scott Green, University of Rochester 

3. The University as a Locus for the Judaic Life of Intellect: Why the New Is Not 

Necessarily Better than the Old, but Only Different 41 

Jacob Neusner, Brown University 


4. The Role of Inspiration Relative to Other Explanations of the Formation of the 

Hebrew Bible 59 

Ernest S. Frerichs, Brown University 

5. Genesis 21:33: A Study in the Development of a Biblical Text and its Rabbinic 

Transformation 69 

Nahum M. Sarna, Brandeis University 

6. "He Should Continue to Bear the Penalty of That Case:" An Interpretation of Codex 

Hanmiurabi Paragraphs 3-4 and 13 T7 

Tsvi Abush, Brandeis University 

7. Dealing with Fundamental Regime Change: The Biblical Paradigm of the Transition 

from Tribal Federation to Federal Monarchy under David 97 

Daniel J. Elazar, Bar Ilan and Temple Universities 


8. The Transformation of a Religious Document: From Early Christian Writings to 

Canon 133 

Mauro Pesce, University of Bologna 

9. Anti-Semitism in John's Gospel 149 

William A. Johr«on, Brandeis University 

10. The New Testament, the Early Church, and Anti-Semitism 171 

John T. Tovmsend, Episcopal Divinity School 

11. Four Christian Writers on Jews and Judaism in the Second Century 187 

Robert MacLennon, Hitchcock Prasbyterian Church, Scarsdale 


12. "Teach Us to Count Our Days:" A Note on Sefirat HaOmer 205 

Harold Fisch, Bar Ilan University 

13. Are Women Property in the System of the Mishnah? 219 

Paul V. M. Flesher, Northwestern University 

14. Three Stages in the Development of Early Rabbinic Prayer 233 

Tzvee Zahavy, University of Minnesota 

15. Architectxu-e and Laws: The Temple and its Courtyards in the Temple Scroll 267 

Lawrence H. Schiffman, New York University 

Index 285 


Preface xiii 

Bibliography of the Works of Marvin Fox xvii 


16. Judaism in Crisis? Institutions and Systematic Theology in Rabbinism 3 

Roger Brooks, University of Notre Dame 

17. The Problem of Originality in Talmudic Thought 19 

Robert Goldenberg, State University of New York at Stony Brook 

18. On Man's Role in Revelation 29 

David Weiss Halivni, Columbia University 


19. Did the Talmud's Authorship Utilize Prior "Sources"? A Response to Halivni's 

Sources and Traditions 53 

Jacob Neusner, Brov^^n University 

20. The Rabbis of the Babylonian Talmud: A Statistical Analysis 81 

Harold Goldblatt, University of Maryland 

21. Matching Patterns at the Seams: A Literary Study 95 

Herbert Basser, Queens University 

22. Recent and Prospective Discussion of Memra 119 

Bruce Chilton, Bard College 

23. The Am Ha'Arets as Literary Character 139 

Peter Haas, Vanderbilt University 




24. The Christian Position in Jacob Ben Reuben's Milhamot Ha-Shem 157 

Robert Chazan, New York University 




25. Tradition or Context: Two Exegetes Struggle with Peshat 173 

Martin I. Lockshin, York University 

26. "Introduction to the Commentary on Song of Songs Composed by the Sage Levi Ben 

Gershom" - An Annotated Translation 187 

Menachem Kellner, University of Haifa 

27. Late-Fourteenth Century Perception of Classical Jewish Lore: Shem Tob ben Isaac 

Shaprut's Aggadic Exegesis 207 

Lester A. Segal, University of Massachusetts-Boston 


28. Creation in Medieval Philosophical, Rabbinic Commentaries 231 

Norbert M. Samuelson, Temple University 

29. Some Forms of Divine Appearance in Ancient Jewish Thought 261 

Michael Fishbane, Brandeis University 

30. Female Imaging of the Torah: From Literary Metaphor to Religious Symbol 271 

Elliot Wolfson, New York Uiuversity 

Index 309 


Preface xiii 

Bibliography of the Works of Marvin Fox xvii 




31. Aspects of Maimonidean Epistemology: Halakah and Science 3 

Isadore Twersky, Harvard University 

32. Intellectual Perfection and the Role of the Law in the Philosophy of Maimonides 25 

Howard Kreisel, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev 

33. Maimonides and the Alternatives Concerning the World's Being Everlasting 47 

Keith E. Yandell, University of Wisconsin 

34. Maimonides' Fundamental Principles Redivivus T7 

Charles M. Raffel, American Jewish Committee 

35. Another More Nevukhim: The Italian Background and the Educational Program of 

Leon Modena's More Nevukhim Bikhtivah Bilshonenu Hakodosh 89 

Howard Adelman, Smith College 


36. Judah Halevi and Karaism Ill 

Daniel J. Lasker, Ben Gurion University of the Negev 

37. The Superiority of Oral over Written Communication: Judah Ha-Levi's Kuzari and 

Modern Jewish Thought 127 

Raphael Jospe, The Open University of Israel 


38. Hasidism as the Image of Demonism: The Satiric Writings of Judah Leib Mises 159 

Yehudah Friedlander, Bar Ilan University 

39. When a Rabbi Is Accused of Heresy: R. Ezekiel Landau's Attitude toward R. Jonathan 

Eibeschuetz in the Emden-Eibeschuetz Controversy 179 

Sid Z. Leiman, Brooklyn College 


40. The Character and Status of the Concept of History in Three Twentieth Century 

Systems of Judaic Thought: Cohen, Rosenzweig, Levinas 197 

Wendell S. Dietrich, Brown University 

41. Heschel's Critique of Kant 213 

Lawrence Perlman, Vassar College 

42. Ararat and its Fortress: Excerpts from the Rawidowicz-Margulies Correspondence 227 

Benjamin Ravid, Brandeis University 

Index 249 


In these essays, collected in four volumes, we honor as principal and 
leader of Judaic Studies in our generation Professor Marvin Fox, Philip 
W. Lown Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Director of the Lown 
School of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, 
because in our generation. Professor Fox has occupied the position of 
doyen of Judaic Studies in the academy. This position has come to him 
through force of character and conscience and is one that expresses the 
man's moral authority, as much as his acknowledged excellence as 
scholar and teacher. His scholarship is attested by the bibliography 
that follows, his teaching by the excellent contributions to this volume 
of many of his doctoral students. But while in learning and teaching he 
competes on equal terms with many, in stature and universal respect 
there is none anywhere in the world of Judaic Studies, at home or in the 
State of Israel, who compares. It is a simple fact that the scholars who 
contributed to these volumes, have nothing whatsoever in common save 
that they concur in expressing esteem for this remarkable colleague. 
This is a scholars' tribute to a great man; in paying this honor to 
Marvin Fox, we identify the kind of person we want as our 
representative and academic avatar. In our generation, this is the sort 
of scholar we have cherished. 

The facts of his career do not account for the honor in which he is 
held, even though he has pursued, and now pursues, a splendid career in 
higher education. But the facts do explain something about the man. 
Professor Marvin Fox received his B.A. in philosophy in 1942 from 
Northwestern University, the M.A. in the same field in 1946, and the 
Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1950 in that field as well. His 
education in Judaic texts was certified by rabbinical ordination as Rabbi 
by the Hebrew Theological College of Chicago in 1942. He taught at 
Ohio State University from 1948 through 1974, rising from Instructor to 
Professor of Philosophy. During those years he served also as Visiting 
Professor of Philosophy at the Hebrew Theological College of Chicago 
(1955) and also at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar lian 

xiv Intellect in Quest of Understanding 

University (1970-1971). In 1974 he came to Brandeis University as 
Appleman Professor of Jewish Thought, and from 1976 onward he has 
held the Lown Professorship. From 1975 through 1982 and from 1984 
through 1987 he was Chairman of the Department of Near Eastern and 
Judaic Studies at Brandeis. From 1976 he has also served as Director of 
the Lown School of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. In 1980-1981 he 
was Visiting Scholar in Jewish Philosophy at the Center for Jewish 
Studies of nearby Harvard University. 

He has received numerous academic awards, a selected list of 
which includes the following: 1956-1957: Elizabeth Clay Howald Post- 
Doctoral Scholarship; 1962-1963, Fellow of the American Council of 
Learned Societies; 1975-1978, Director of the Association for Jewish 
Studies regional conferences, funded by the National Endowment for 
the Humanities; 1977-1980, Director of the project, "For the 
Strengthening of Judaic Studies at Brandeis and their Links to the 
General Humanities," also funded by the National Endowment for the 
Humanities. From 1979 he has been Fellow of the Academy of Jewish 
Philosophy; 1980-1981, Senior Faculty Fellow, National Endowment 
for the Humanities. He has served on the editorial boards of the A}S 
Review, Daat, Judaism, Tradition, Journal for the History of 
Philosophy, and other journals. He has lectured widely at universities 
and at national and international academic conferences and served as 
Member of the National Endowment for the Humanities National 
Board of Consultants for new programs at colleges and universities. 
Over the years he has counseled various universities and academic 
publishers as well. 

His ties to institutions of Jewish learning under Jewish sponsorship 
are strong. He has served on the Advisory Committee of the Jewish 
Studies Adaptation Program of the International Center for University 
Teaching of Jewish Civilization (Israel), since 1982; International 
Planning Committee of the Institute for Contemporary Jewry of the 
Hebrew University since that same year; member of the governing 
council of the World Union of Jewish Studies since 1975; secretary, 1971- 
1972, vice president, from 1973-1975, and then president, from 1975- 
1978, of the Association for Jewish Studies; and he has been on the 
board of directors of that organization since 1970. From 1964 through 
1968 he served on the Executive Committee of the Conference on Jewish 
Philosophy; from 1970 to the present on the Executive Committee of the 
Institute of Judaism and Contemporary Thought of Bar Ilan University; 
from 1972 as member of the Academic Board of the Melton Research 
Center of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America; member of the 
board of directors of the Institute for Jewish Life from 1972 through 
1975; member of the board of directors of the Library of Living 

Preface xv 

Philosophers, from 1948; Associate of the Columbia University 
Seminar on Israel and Jewish Studies from 1968 through 1974; and many 
other organizations. 

His committee service at Brandeis University has covered these 
committees: Graduate School Council; Philosophy Department 
Advisory Committee and Reappointment and Promotions Committee; 
University Tenure Panels; Academic Planning Committee (Chairman, 
1982-1984); Faculty Committee for the Hiatt Institute; Tauber Institute 
Faculty Advisory Committee and its academic policy subcommittee; 
Committee on University Studies in the Humanities; Faculty 
representative on the Brandeis University Board of Trustees (1978- 
1980). His professional memberships include the American 
Philosophical Association, the Metaphysical Society of America, the 
Medieval Academy of America, as well as the Association for Jewish 
Studies, Conference on Jewish Philosophy, and American Academy for 
Jewish Research. 

The editors of this volume bear special ties of collegiality and 
friendship with Professor Fox. In this project Professor Sarna represents 
Brandeis University and also has been a close and intimate colleague 
and friend for many years. Professors Frerichs and Neusner have called 
upon Professor Fox for counsel in the fifteen years since Professor Fox 
came to Brandeis University. And Professor Fox has responded, always 
giving his best judgment and his wisest counsel. Professor Fox has been a 
good neighbor, a constant counsellor, and valued friend. In the sequence 
of eight academic conferences, run annually at Brown University in the 
1970s, Professor Fox played a leading role in the planning of the 
programs and in scholarly interchange. Through him and the editors of 
this volume Brown and Brandeis Universities held a conference at 
which graduate students in the respective graduate programs met and 
engaged in shared discussion of common interests. Professor Fox 
moreover has taken a position on numerous dissertation committees in 
Brown's graduate program in the History of Judaism. His conscientious 
and careful reading of these dissertations give to the students the 
benefit not only of his learning but also of his distinct and rich 
perspective on the problem of the dissertation. Consequently, among 
the many other universities besides Ohio State and Brandeis at which 
Professor Fox has made his contribution. Brown University stands out as 
particularly indebted to him for wisdom and learning. 

The editors express their thanks to President Evelyn Handler of 
Brandeis University for sponsoring the public event at which the 
contributors to these volumes presented the books to Professor Fox and 
enjoyed the opportunity of expressing in person their esteem and 
affection for him; and to the Max Richter Foundation of Rhode Island 

xvi Intellect in Quest of Understanding 

and the Program in Judaic Studies at Brown University for financial 
and other support in organizing and carrying out this project. Mr. Joshua 
Bell, Verbatim, of Providence, Rhode Island, produced the camera 
ready copy with the usual attention to aesthetic excellence and also 
accuracy of detail that have characterized all of his work for Brown 
Judaic Studies, Brown Studies in Jews and their Societies, Brown 
Studies in Religion (Scholars Press), and also Studies in Judaism 
(University Press of America). The staff of Scholars Press, particularly 
Dr. Dennis Ford, gave to this project their conscientious attention. 
Professors Frerichs and Neusner therefore express thanks to Verbatim, 
Scholars Press, and University Press of America, which in the past ten 
years have made Brown University's Judaic Studies Program the 
world's largest publisher of scholarly books and monographs in the 
field of Judaic Studies. All three editors thank the contributors to these 
volumes for their willingness to collaborate in what we believe is an 
important tribute to greatness in our field and in our time. 

Jacob Neusner Nahum M. Sama 

Ernest S. Frerichs Department of Near Eastern 

Program in Judaic Studies and Judaic Studies 

Brown University Brandeis University 

Providence, Rhode Island Waltham, Massachusetts 

Bibliography of Marvin Fox 

1. "Three Approaches to the Jewish Problem," Antioch Review, 6(1), Spring 
1946, pp. 54-68. 

2. "Towards a Life of Joy: A Theological Critique," Menorah Journal, 36(2), 
Spring 1948, pp. 248-251. 

3. "On Calling Women to the Reading of the Torah," The Reconstructionist, 
13(19), January 1948. An exchange of letters with Robert Cordis. For 
Cordis' reply see idem., 14(7), May 1948. 

4. Kant's Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, edited with an 
introduction (Liberal Arts Press, 1949). Reprinted in numerous editions by 
the original publisher, then acquired by Bobbs-Merrill, and most recently 
by Macmillan. 

5. Review of Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error, in Heritage, Spring 1949, 
pp. 16-18. 

6. Review of Morris R. Cohen, Reason and Law, in Illinois Law Review, 
45(2), May 1950, pp. 305 -307. 

7 . Moral Fact and Moral Theory: A Study of Some Methodological Problems 
in Contemporary Ethics. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of 
Chicago, 1950. 

8. Review of John A. Nicholson, Philosophy of Religion, in Philosophy and 
Phenomenological Research, 11(3), March 1951. 

9. Review of Maxwell Silver, The Way to God, in Philosophy and 
Phenomenological Research, 11(4), June 1951. 

10. "On the Diversity of Methods in Dewey's Ethical Theory," Philosophy and 
Phenomenological Research, 12(1), September 1951. 

11. Review of Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone, in Commentary, 
12(2), August 1951, pp. 193-195. 

12. "Kierkegaard and Rabbinic Judaism," Judaism, 2(2), April 1953, pp. 160- 


xviii Intellect in Quest of Understanding 

13. "Day Schools and the American Educational Pattern," The Jewish Parent, 
September 1953. 

14. Review of J. Guttmann, Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed, in Judaism, 
2(4), October 1953, pp. 363-367. 

15. "Moral Facts and Moral Theory," in Perspectives (Ohio State University 
Press, 1953), pp. 111-127. 

16. Review of Martin Buber, At the Turning, New Mexico Quarterly, 24(2), 
Summer 1954, pp. 217-220. 

17. "What Can the Modem Jew Believe?" Alfred Jospe, ed., Judaism for the 
Modern Age (B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundations, 1955). 

18. "Our Missing Intellectuals: Another View," National Jewish Monthly, 
December 1954, pp. 10-13. 

19. Review of Abraham Cronbach, Judaism for Today, in Judaism, 4(1), 
Winter 1955, pp. 82-84. 

20. "Amicus Jacobus, sed Magis Amica Veritas," Conservative Judaism, 
10(3), Spring 1956, pp. 9-17. 

21. "The Trials of Socrates: An Analysis of the First Tetralogy," Archiv fuer 
Philosophic, 6(3/4), 1956, pp. 226-261. 

22. "What's Wrong - and Right - with Deweyism," The Jewish Parent, 
December 1956. 

23. Review of Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy 
of Judaism, in Judaism, 6(1), Winter 1957, pp. 77-81. 

24. "Can Modem Man Believe in God," in Alfred Jospe, ed.. The Jewish 
Heritage and the Jewish Student (New York, 1959), pp. 40-50. 

25. "Who is Competent to Teach Religion," Religious Education, 54(2), 
March- April 1959, pp. 112-114. 

26. "Torah Jews in the Making," The Jewish Parent, April 1960, pp. 4-5, 22. 

27. "Heschel, Intuition, and the Halakhah," Tradition, 3(1), Fall 1960, pp. 5- 

28. "Tillich's Ontology and God," Anglican Theological Review, 43(3), July 
1961, pp. 260-267. 

29. "Ve-al ha-Medinot Bo Ye'amer," Panim el Panim, No. 124-125, 
September 10, 1961, pp. 18-19. A symposium with Professor Salo 

30. Review of Samuel Dresner, The Zaddik, in Conservative Judaism, 15(4), 
Summer 1961, pp. 39-42. 

31. Review of Robert Cordis, A Faith for Moderns, in Commentary, 32(4), 
October 1961. 

Bibliography of Marvin Fox xix 

32. "Modem Faith," Commentary, 33(2), February 1962. An exchange of 
letters with Robert Cordis. 

33. Review of Jakob Petuchowski, Ever Since Sinai, Judaism, 10(4), Fall 

34. Review of Harry A. Wolfson, Religious Philosophy: A Group of Essays, 
in The Classical Journal, 58(2), November 1962. 

35. "Einige Probleme in Buber's Moralphilosophie," in Paul A. Schilpp and 
Maurice Friedman, eds., Philosophen des 20. Jahrhunderts: Martin Buber 
(Kohlhammer, 1963), pp. 135-152. German translation of # 47. 

36. "Theistic Bases of Ethics," in Robert Bartels, ed., Ethics in Business 
(Ohio State University Press, 1963). 

37. Reviews of Joseph Blau, The Story of Jewish Philosophy, and Gerald 
Abrahams, The Jewish Mind, in Commentary , 35(1), January 1963. 

38. Review of Arthur A. Cohen, The Natural and the Super-Natural Jew, in 
Commentary, 35(4), April 1963. 

39. Review of Ephraim Shmueli, Bein Emunah Likfirah, in Commentary, 
36(2), August 1963. 

40. "Religion and Human Nature in the Philosophy of David Hume," in 
William L. Reese and Eugene Freeman, eds.. Process and Divinity: 
Philosophical Essays Presented to Charles Hartshorne (Open Court, 
1964), pp. 561-577. 

41. "Character Training and Environmental Pressures," in The Jewish Parent, 
October 1964. 

42. Review of W. Gunther Plaut, The Rise of Reform Judaism, in 
Commentary, 31(6), June 1964. 

43. Review of Max Kadushin, Worship and Ethics, in Commentary, 38(6), 
December 1964. 

44. Review of Israel Efros, Ancient Jewish Philosophy, in Commentary, 
40(1), July 1965. 

45. "Religion and the Public Schools - A Philosopher's Analysis," in Theory 
into Practice, 4(1), February 1965, pp. 40-44. 

46. Review Essay on Maimonides" Guide to the Perplexed, Shlomo Pines, tr., 
with introductory essays by Leo Strauss and Shlomo Pines, in Journal of 
the History of Philosophy, 3(2), October 1965, pp. 265-274. 

47. "Some Problems in Buber's Moral Philosophy," in Paul A. Schilpp and 
Maurice Friedman, eds., The Philosophy of Martin Buber (Open Court, 
1966), pp. 151-170. 

XX Intellect in Quest of Understanding 

48. "The Case for the Jewish Day School," in Judah Pilch and Meir Ben- 
Horin, eds., Judaism and the Jewish School (New York, 1966), pp. 207- 

49. "The State of Jewish Belief: A Symposium," Commentary, 42(2), August 
1966, pp. 89-92. 

50. "Heschel's Theology of Man," Tradition, 8(3), Fall 1966, pp. 79-84. 

51. "Jewish Education in a Pluralistic Community," Proceedings of the 
Rabbinical Assembly of America, 30, 1966, pp. 31-40, 47-51. 

52. Review of Arnold Jacob Wolf, ed.. Rediscovering Judaism: Reflections on 
a New Theology, Commentary, 41(2), February 1966. 

53. "Sakkanah Lishelemutah shel ha-Yahadut," Hadoar, 47(38), October 1967. 

54. Chapter in The State of Jewish Belief (Macmillan, 1967), pp. 59-69. 
Reprint of #49. 

55. "Heschel, Intuition, and the Halakhah," in Norman Lamm and Walter S. 
Wurzburger, eds., A Treasury of Tradition (New York, 1967), pp. 426- 
435. Reprint of #27. 

56. Review of Harry Austryn Wolfson Jubilee Volumes, in Judaism, 16(4), 
Fall 1967. 

57. "Prolegomenon" to A. Cohen, The Teachings of Maimonides (New York, 
1968), pp. xv-xliv. 

58. "The Meaning of Theology Today," Bulletin of the Central Ohio Academy 
of Theology, January 1968. 

59. Review Article on Sidney Hook, in Religion in a Free Society, The 
Journal of Value Inquiry, 2(4), Winter 1968, pp. 308-314. 

60. "The Function of Religion," Congress Bi-Weekly, 36(3), February 1969, 
pp. 56-63. 

61. "La Teologia Dell'uomo Nel Pensiero di Abraham J. Heschel," La 
Rassegna Mensile di Israel, 25(4), April 1969. Italian translation of #50. 

62. Review of Zvi Adar, Humanistic Values in the Bible, in Commentary 
47(1), January 1969. 

63. Review of Richard L. Rubenstein, After Auschwitz and The Religious 
Imagination, in Commentary, 47(6), June 1969. 

64. "Religion and the Public Schools," Kaoru Jamamotie, ed.. Teaching 
(Houghton Mifflin, 1969), pp. 239-248. Reprint of #45. 

65. "The 'Commentary' Problem," Judaism, 18(1), Winter 1969, pp. 108-1 10. 

66. Review of Nathan Rotenstreich, Jewish Philosophy in Modern Times, in 
Commentary, 49(5), May 1970. 

Bibliography of Marvin Fox xxi 

67. "Naturalism, Rationalism and Jewish Faith," Tradition, 11(3), Fall 1970, 
pp. 90-96. 

68. "Day Schools and the American Educational Pattern," in Joseph 
Kaminetsky, ed., Hebrew Day School Education: An Overview (New 
York, 1970). Reprint of #13. 

69. "Day Schools and the American Educational Pattern," in Lloyd P. Gartner, 
ed., Jewish Education in the United States (Teachers College, Columbia 
University Press, 1970), Classics in Education Series, No. 41. Reprint of 

70. "Continuity and Change in Jewish Theology," Niv Hamidrashia, Spring- 
Summer 1971, pp. 15-23. 

71. Review of Mendell Lewittes, The Light of Redemption, in The Jerusalem 
Post Magazine, April 9, 1971. 

72. "Moral Facts and Moral Theory," in Julius Weinberg and Keith Yandell, 
eds.. Problems in Philosophical Inquiry (Holt Rinehart Winston, 1971), 
pp. 368-381. Reprint of #15. 

73. "Freedom and Freedom of Thought," Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 7, 1 19- 

74. "God, Conceptions of," Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 7, 670-673. 

75. "God in Medieval Jewish Philosophy," Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 7, 

76. "God in Modem Jewish Philosophy, " Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 7, 662- 

77. "God, Names of in Medieval Jewish Philosophy," Encyclopaedia Judaica, 
Vol. 7, 684-685. 

78. "God, Names of in Modem Jewish Philosophy, Encyclopaedia Judaica, 
Vol. 7. 685. 

79. "Maimonides and Aquinas on Natural Law," Dine Israel: An Annual of 
Jewish Law, Tel-Aviv University, Vol. 3, 1972, pp. 5-36. 

80. "Kierkegaard and Rabbinic Judaism," in Robert Cordis and Ruth B. 
Waxman, eds.. Faith and Reason (New York, 1972), pp. 1 15-124. Reprint 
of #12. 

81. "Tillich's Ontology and God," in Keith Yandell, God, Man and Religion 
(McGraw-Hill, 1972). Reprint of #28. 

82. Review of Nathan Rotenstreich, Tradition and Reality, in Commentary, 
55(2), February 1973. 

83. "Philosophy and Contemporary Jewish Studies," American Jewish 
Historical Quarterly, 53(4), June 1974, pp. 350-355. 

xxii Intellect in Quest of Understanding 

84. "Berkovits on the Problem of Evil," Tradition, 14(3), Spring 1974, pp. 

85. "God in Modem Jewish Philosophy," Jewish Values (Keter, Jerusalem, 
1974). Reprinted from #76. 

86. "Conceptions of God," Jewish Values (Keter, Jerusalem, 1974). Reprinted 
from #74. 

87. "The Future of Hillel from the Perspective of the University," in Alfred 
Jospe, ed.. The Test of Time (Washington, 1974). 

88. "Philosophy and Contemporary Jewish Studies," in Moshe Davis, ed., 
Contemporary Jewish Civilization on the American Campus (Jerusalem, 
1974). Reprinted from # 83. 

89. Modern Jewish Ethics: Theory and Practice (Ohio State University Press, 
1975). Edited with introduction. 

90. "Judaism, Secularism and Textual Interpretation," in M. Fox, ed.. Modern 
Jewish Ethics: Theory and Practice, pp. 3-26. 

91. "On the Rational Commandments in Saadia: A Re-examination," in M. 
Fox, ed.. Modern Jewish Ethics: Theory and Practice, pp. 174-187. 

92. "Philosophy and Religious Values in Modem Jewish Thought," in Jacob 
Katz, ed.. The Role of Religion in Modern Jewish History (AJS, 1975), 
pp. 69-86. 

93. Review of The Code of Maimonides: Book fV, The Book of Women, in 
Journal of the American Academy of Religion, March 1975. 

94. "Maimonides and Aquinas on Natural Law," in Jacob I. Dienstag, ed.. 
Studies in Maimonides and St. Thomas Aquinas (New York, 1975), pp. 
75-106. Reprint of #79. 

95. "Law and Ethics in Modern Jewish Philosophy: The Case of Moses 
Mendelssohn," Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish 
Research, Vol. 43, 1976, pp. 1-13. 

96. "Translating Jewish Thought into Curriculum," in Seymour Fox and 
Geraldine Rosenfeld, eds.. From the Scholar to the Classroom (Jewish 
Theological Seminary, 1977), pp. 59-85. 

97. Discussion on the "Centrality of Israel in the Worid Jewish Community," 
in Moshe Davis, ed,. World Jewry and the State of Israel (New York, 

98. "On the Rational Commandments in Saadia's Philosophy," Proceedings of 
the Sixth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Vol. 3 (Jemsalem, 1977), 
pp. 34-43. Slight revision of #91. 

99. "Ha-Tefillah be-Mishnato shel ha-Rambam," in Gabriel Cohn, ed., Ha- 
Tefillah Ha-Yehudit (Jemsaltm, 1978). pp. 142-167. 

Bibliography of Marvin Fox xxiii 

100. Review of Louis Jacobs, Theology in the Responsa, AJS Newsletter, No. 
22, March 1978. 

101. Review of Frank Talmage, David Kimhi: The Man and his Commentaries, 
Speculum, 53(3), July 1978. 

102. "The Doctrine of the Mean in Aristotle and Maimonides: A Comparative 
Study," in S. Stem and R. Loewe, eds., Studies in Jewish Intellectual and 
Religious History. Presented to Alexander Altmann (Alabama, 1979), pp. 

103. Foreword to Abraham Chill, The Minhagim (New York, 1979). 

104. The Philosophical Foundations of Jewish Ethics: Some Initial 
Reflections. The Second Annual Rabbi Louis Feinberg Memorial Lecture 
in Judaic Studies at the University of Cincinnati, 1979, pp. 1-24. 

105. "Reflections on the Foundations of Jewish Ethics and their Relation to 
Public Policy," in Joseph L. Allen, ed.. The Society of Christian Ethics, 
1980 Selected Papers (Dallas, 1980), pp. 23-62. An expansion of #104. 

106. Introduction to the Collected Papers of Rabbi Harry Kaplan (Columbus, 

107. Review of Jacob Neusner, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Women, 5 
Vols., in AJS Newsletter, No. 29, 1981. 

108. "Human Suffering and Religious Faith: A Jewish Response to the 
Holocaust," Questions of Jewish Survival (University of Denver, 1980), 
pp. 8-22. 

109. "The Role of Philosophy in Jewish Studies," in Raphael Jospe and 
Samuel Z. Fishman, eds.. Go and Study: Essays and Studies in Honor of 
Alfred Jospe (Washington, D.C., 1980). pp. 125-142. 

1 10. "Consei'vative Tendencies in the Halakhah," Judaism, 29(1), Winter 1980, 
pp. 12-18. 

111. Review of Isadore Twersky, Introduction to the Code of Maimonides, AJS 
Newsletter, No. 3\, 1982. 

112. "The Moral Philosophy of MaHaRaL," in Bernard Cooperman, ed., Jewish 
Thought in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 1983), pp. 167-185. 

113. Review of Michael Wyschogrod, The Body of Faith: Judaism as Corporeal 
Election, in The Journal of Religion, 67(1), January 1987. 

114. "Change is Not Modem in Jewish Law," Sh'ma, 13/257, September 16, 

115. "Graduate Education in Jewish Philosophy," in Jacob Neusner, ed.. New 
Humanities and Academic Disciplines: The Case of Jewish Studies 
(University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), pp. 121-134. 

xxiv Intellect in Quest of Understanding 

116. "Some Reflections on Jewish Studies in American Universities," Judaism, 
35(2), Spring 1986, pp. 140-146. 

117. "The Holiness of the Holy Land," Jonathan Sacks, ed.. Tradition and 
Transition: Essays Presented to Chief Rabbi Sir Immanuel Jakobovits 
(London, 1986), pp. 155-170. 

118. "The Jewish Educator: The Ideology of the Profession in Jewish Tradition 
and its Contemporary Meaning," in Joseph Reimer, ed.. To Build a 
Profession: Careers in Jewish Education (Waltham, 1987). 

119. "A New View of Maimonides' Method of Contradictions," in Moshe 
Hallamish, ed., Bar-Ilan: Annual ofBar-Ilan University Studies in Judaica 
and the Humanities: Moshe Schwarcz Memorial Volume, 22-23 (Ramat- 
Gan, 1987), pp. 19-43. 

120. "Law and Morality in the Thought of Maimonides," in Nahum Rakover, 
ed., Maimonides as Codifier of Jewish Law (Jerusalem, 1987), pp. 105- 

121. "Maimonides on the Foundations of Morality," Proceedings of the 
Institute for Distinguished Community Leaders (Brandeis University, 
1987), pp. 15-19. 

122. Foreword to Morris Weitz, Theories of Concepts (London & New York, 
1988) pp. vii-xi. 

123. "The Doctrine of the Mean in Aristotle and Maimonides: A Comparative 
Study," in Joseph A. Buijs, ed., Maimonides: A Collection of Critical 
Essays (University of Notre Dame Press, 1988), pp. 234-263. Reprint of 

124. "Nahmanides on the Status of Aggadot: Perspectives on the Disputation at 
Barcelona, 1263," Journal of Jewish Studies, 40(1), Spring 1989. 

125. "The Holiness of the Holy Land," in Shubert Spero, ed.. Studies in 
Religious Zionism (Jerusalem, 1989). Reprint of #117. 

126. Interpreting Maimonides: Studies in Methodology, Metaphysics and Moral 
Philosophy (Jewish Publication Society, 1989). 

127. "The Unity and Structure of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik's Thought," 
Tradition, 24(3), Fall 1989. 

128. "Rav Kook: Neither Philosopher nor Kabbalist," in David Shatz and 
Lawrence Kaplan, eds.. Studies in the Thought of Rav Kook (New York, 

Part Fifteen 


Samson Raphael Hirsch's Doctrine 
of Inner Revelation 

Walter S. Wurzburger 
Yeshiva University 

It is widely taken for granted that Samson Raphael Hirsch's 
insistence upon the eternal validity of the Sinaitic Revelation clashes 
head-on with any doctrine which acknowledges the legitimacy of 
progress in the realm of religious truth. Hirsch categorically rejected 
the thesis of Reform theologians who adapted to their needs the 
Hegelian conception that the "spirit of the time" represents the 
Revelation of the Absolute in the historic process. He, therefore, 
vigorously protested against the then so fashionable doctrine of 
"progressive revelation" which stipulated that the norms of the Torah 
be evaluated in terms of their compatibility with the ethos of a given 
age, which, according to Hegel, functions as the medium of divine 
Revelation. As a champion of Orthodoxy, he ridiculed the suggestion 
that Judaism accommodate itself to the value-system of a specific 
historic era. For Hirsch there was no doubt that the binding authority 
of the Torah derived from an eternally valid act of divine Revelation. 
Hence, its norms were impervious to the vicissitudes besetting the 
world of time and change. 

Polemics against those who regard "the spirit of the time" as a 
factor to be reckoned with in the the determination of religious norms 
recur throughout his voluminous writings. He bitterly objects to the 
relativization of religious truth which results from the Reform thesis 
that the content and meaning of divine Revelation is not static but is 
modified by historic developments. For Hirsch such an extreme 
historicism represents the height of absurdity, because it fails to take 
account of basic postulate of Judaism - the acceptance of the Sinaitic 


4 The Modern Age: Theology 

Revelation as a Supernatural event sui generis that must be conceived 
as an incursion of eternity into the realm of time and space rather than 
a link in the causal nexus between historic phenomena. 

It therefore is hardly surprising that the repeated emphasis upon 
the immutable nature of the Torah as the very essence of Judaism gave 
rise to the impression that the historic process v/as divested by him of 
all intrinsic religious significance and meaning. As Professor 
Rotenstreich put it, the Hirschian approach "reflects a tendency to 
withdraw the essence of Judaism from the historic process, posing it as 
incontrovertibly as divinely revealed, eternal statute."^ Rotenstreich 
equated the emphasis upon the centrality of an immutable and 
eternally valid divine law with the adoption of a radical a-historical 
stance. He therefore alleges that, according to Hirsch, "the inner life of 
the Jew remains untouched by the historic process. An Orthodox Jew 
prays, as it were, outside the world in which he lives and returns to the 
world to which his prayers do not pertain."- Similarly, Yitzchak 
Breuer, Hirsch's grandson, constantly harped upon the a-historical 
character of the Jewish people, whose arena is in meta-history rather 
than history. He never tired of pointing out that Judaism relates to 
eternity rather than time, because the Sinaitic Revelation constitutes 
an incursion of eternity into the spatio-temporal world. ■^ That a great- 
grandson of Hirsch chose Timeless Torcih^ as the title of an anthology 
of Hirsch's writings is further evidence of the extent to which a- 
historism was perceived to be the hall-mark of his ideology. 

The wide acceptance^ of this view both among devotees and critics 
of Hirsch appears, however, to be based upon a total misunderstanding 
of the Hirschian ideology, which in large measure can be attributed to 

^Nathan Rotenstreich, Ha-machshavah Ha-x/ehudit Ba-et Ha-chadashah, Tel 

Aviv, 1966, p. 115. 

^Tradition and Reality, New York, 1972, p. 113. 

^Isaac Breuer, The Concepts of ]iidaism, edited and selected by Jacob S. 

Levinger, Jerusalem, 1974, pp. 27-107. Cf. Arthur Cohen's characterization of 

Hirsch's attitude to history in his The Natural and Supernatural Jew, New York, 

1962, pp. 50-54. 

^Timeless Torah, An Anthology of the Writings of Samson Raphael Hirsch, 

edited by Jacob Breuer, New York, 1957. 

^I wish, however, to point to a notable exception to his tendency. In his 

invaluable study, Juedische Orthodoxie im Deutschen Reich 1871-1918, pp. 81- 

83, Mordechai Breuer calls attention to this misinterpretation. But he does not 

support his thesis, as I have attempted in this paper, by analyzing the doctrine 

of "inner Revelation." I have also greatly benefited from I. Grunfeld's 

discussion of "innner Revelation" in his Translator's Introduction, to Horeb, 

London, 1962, pp. 81-118. 

Samson Raphael Hirsch's Doctrine of Inner Revelation 5 

the utter disregard of the doctrine of an "inner Revelation," which is 
interspersed in many of Hirsch's writings. To be sure, references to this 
doctrine occur only sporadically. But it must be remembered that Hirsch 
was essentially a man of affairs whose preoccupation with communal 
and educational activities made it impossible for him to find the time 
needed for a systematic and comprehensive formulation of his religious 
ideology. His literary activities, however extensive, essentially 
responded to pressing, practical concerns. They frequently were 
exercises in polemics designed to vindicate his controversial positions. 
His other writings consisted largely of sermons or addresses, which, 
while attesting to the rhetorical prowess of an brilliant orator, hardly 
were suited for the thorough examination of theoretical issues. It must 
also be borne in mind that even his Bible Commentaries, which are 
widely read even in our time, were intended for the edification of the 
general public and were, therefore, more of a homiletical than 
scholarly nature. Since this type of writing does not lend itself to the 
balanced and systematic presentation of the various ingredients that 
went into the makings of his ideology, it is hardly surprising that he 
suffered the fate of so many other prominent religious leaders who 
have been far more adulated than understood, especially by their most 
ardent devotees. 

It is quite possible that Hirsch's doctrine of an "inner Revelation" 
was widely ignored because of its popularity and lack of originality. As 
a matter of fact, the terminology "innere (internal)" and "auessere 
(external)" revelation was already employed by Hirsch's teacher, 
Isaac Bernays.^ Moreover, in the age of Enlightenment statements such 
as "Truth and justice are the first revelation of God in your mind"^ or "a 
general conception of Right, of what man owes to his fellow man is 
planted in the conscience of every uncorrupted human being, and this 
general consciousness of Right, is also the voice of God"^ were so 
commonplace that they hardly would attract attention. He merely 
echoed the widely accepted ethos of his time when he declared in his 
inaugural sermon: "God teaches us: His voice is heard like a trumpet in 
conscience, in nature, in history.. .."^ He similarly described justice as 
"an expression of what man recognizes from his inner revelation to be 

^Isaac Heinemann, Taamei Hamitzvot Be'safnit Yisrael, Jerusalem, 1956, vol. 2, 

p. 95. 

'^Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, paragraph 325. 

^Commeyitary on the Torah, Leviticus, 18:4. 

^Samson Raphael Hirsch, Jeshurun, 1, 1914, pp. 73ff. Quoted by Isaac 

Heinemann in "Samson Raphael Hirsch," Historia Judaica, 13, 1951, 

pp. 33-34. 

6 The Modern Age: Theology 

the just claim of his fellow-man."^ ^ One can easily recognize in such 
statements the impact of Butler, Kant and, especially, Hegel, who, as 
Noah Rosenbloom^^ has shown, exerted such a powerful influence upon 
the formation of Hirsch's thought. 

It must also be remembered that the doctrine of an "inner 
Revelation" was bound to be perceived by readers familiar with Jewish 
medieval philosophy as a restatement of views expressed by numerous 
scholastics, who acknowledged reason as an independent source of 
religious truth that supplemented the teachings obtained through 
Supernatural communication. It was in this spirit that Saadya had 
argued that, although the "rational commandments" theoretically 
could have been discovered by human reason unaided by Revelation, it 
was necessary for them to be included in the Sinaitic Revelation in 
order to make them available to the Jewish people even before they 
had reached the intellectual level required to apprehend these truths 
rationally. In other words, in so far as the rational commandments were 
concerned. Revelation merely served as a shortcut to what in due time 
could been ascertained by properly qualified individuals solely by 
recourse to their own intellectual resources.^ ^ Bahja Ibn Pakuda went 
even further and insisted that the "duties of the heart," which are 
indispensable to the proper fulfillment of our religious responsibilities, 
are not reducible to explicit norms of the Torah and, therefore, can be 
apprehended only by the human conscience. ^-^ In a similar vein, Meiri 
treated the promptings of the human conscience as an authoritative 
source for ascertaining the will of God. To employ his own striking 
formulation, "the commandments apprehended by the human heart are 
like the letters of the Torah scroU."^'^ Especially telling is the widely 
quoted statement of the legist Vidal Yom Tov of Tolossa, who 
maintained that Jewish law must take account of the inevitable 
evolution of conceptions of moral propriety caused by transformation of 
socio-economic and cultural realities. ^^ 

There is no justification for the belief that, according to the above 
mentioned classical Jewish thinkers, historic developments left no 
impact upon the capacity of the human intelligence to intuit ethical 
insights. Seen against this background, it is highly implausible to 
impute to Hirsch the view that the historic process exerts no influence 

^^Hirsch, loc. cit. 

^^Noah H. Rosenblooom, Tradition in an Age of Reform, Philadelphia, 1976. 

^^Saadya, Emuytot Ve'deot, Chapter 3. 

^•^Bahja Ibn Pakuda, Chovot Halevovot, Introduction. 

i^Meiri ad B.T., Shahhat 105b. 

^^Vida Yom Tov of Tolosa, Maggid Mishneh, Hilchot Shechenim, 14:4. 

Samson Raphael Hirsch's Doctrine of Inner Revelation 7 

whatsoever upon the apprehension of religiously significant truth. 
Nothing in Hirsch's writings justifies the thesis that the 
"timelessness" which characterizes the Sinaitic revelation applies to 
the "inner revelation" as well. In this connection it is important to point 
out that Hirsch, rejecting Mendelssohn's rationalism with its accent 
upon "eternal verities," enthusiastically embraced Lessings' 
philosophy of history, which revolved around the belief in the 
intellectual and moral progress of mankind.^ ^ 

The religious significance of the historic process is also a implicit 
in the Hirschian thesis that the Commandments represent not merely 
statutory laws but function as divinely ordained instrumentalities for 
Bildung (the formation of a harmonious personality). Since the purpose 
of the Torah is not merely to provide an immutable normative system 
that is to be obeyed for its own sake but also to direct man towards ever 
higher levels of moral consciousness, the very meaning of Torah 
involves the historic arena. Moreover, in the Hirschian scheme, it is 
only the content of the purely supernatural Revelation (the "external 
revelation" in his terminology) as contained in the Torah which is 
perceived as being totally independent of all cultural factors and as 
being hermetically insulated from the historic process. But the 
situation is entirely different with respect to other facets of divine 
revelation, e.g., nature, history and culture, which, according to 
Hirsch, represent religious truth as long as they are compatible with 
the teachings of the external revelation contained in the Torah. 

In this connection it should be mentioned that Hirsch vehemently 
opposed all mystic tendencies, which denigrated the participation in 
various socio-economic and cultural activities. Denouncing asceticism, 
and for that matter, all forms of withdrawal from worldly concerns, he 
appealed to his follower to plunge into "an active life that is always 
intended to progress and flourish."^'' Time and again he proclaimed 
with all the impressive rhetorical skills at his command that the 
ultimate goal of Judaism was not to provide an escape mechanism from 
this-worldly realities, but to apply the norms and teachings of the 
Torah to the Derech Eretz of the world, so that human progress in 
science, technology, the arts, etc., would lead truly to the enhancement 
of mankind's spiritual and moral welfare. 

It must be realized that Hirsch's advocated Torah im Derech Eretz 
not merely as a counsel of expediency to find a modus operandi for 
Judaism in an era of Enlightenment and Emancipation, but as the very 
essence of Judaism. In his opinion, Torah im Derech Eretz was not an 

^^Mordechai Breuer, op. cit., p. 62. 

^'^Quoted by Isaac Heinemann in Historia Judaica, ibid., p. 36. 

8 The Modem Age: Theology 

amalgam of two distinct elements but a corollary of the traditional 
notion that the Torah was a "Torah of life," which he interpreted as 
the demand that Torah address all facets of human culture and harness 
them towards the advancement of God's Kingdom. In the words of 
Yitzchak Breuer, "Torah im Derech Eretz is merely a slogan. 
Actually.. .a Judaism which does not separate itself from nature and 
history... but understands itself from its relationship to life. This is a 
Judaism which affirms culture and every creation of the human spirit. 
It looks upon them as values if they can stand the scrutiny of the Torah 
which is the divine instrument for our self-understanding in nature and 
history."^ ^ 

To be sure, with the resurgence of fundamentalism in the Orthodox 
community there have come into vogue revisionist, rather far-fetched 
re-interpretations of Hirsch which argue that Torah im Derech Eretz 
was offered by Hirsch merely as a temporary expedient (Hora'at 
Sha'ah) in the attempt to salvage as much as possible from the tidal 
waves of assimilation that had inundated German Jewry. It is 
important, however, to realize that Hirsch looked upon Torah im 
Derech Eretz not merely as a legitimate option but as a form of piety 
which was superior to what was advocated by the "unenlightened" 
traditionalists who espoused the cause of isolation from the 
mainstream of modern culture. This is evidenced by the fact that in his 
polemics against Rabbi Seligmann Baer Bamberger on the issue of 
secession from the non-Orthodox community, he complains about his 
antagonist's failure to appreciate the religious merits of Hirsch's more 
enlightened approach. ^^ 

Within this context it is important to refer to Hirsch's attitude 
towards the Emancipation, which many leading exponents of 
Orthodoxy had viewed as a threat to the survival of Judaism. They 
were afraid that the removal of the ghetto walls and the ensuing 
dissolution of an autonomous Jewish community would ultimately lead 
to the erosion of Jewish observance and assimilation into the 
surrounding culture. 

In contradistinction to this negative assessment of the historic 
developments of his time, Hirsch went all out in hailing the 
Emancipation as a boon not merely for Jews as individuals but for the 
cause of Judaism. He welcomed the opening of the gates to full 
participation in cultural, and socio-economic activities, because they 

^^Yitzchak Breuer, in Jakob Rosenheim Festschrift, Frankfort, 1930, pp. 206-211. 
^^See Mordechai Breuer's discussion in Torah Im Derech Eretz - Hatenuah 
Ishehah Vera'ayonotehah, Ramat Gan, 1987, pp. 85ff. See also Jacob Katz's, "Sh. 
R. Hirsch, Miyetnin U'mismol, ibid., p. 16. 

Samson Raphael Hirsch's Doctrine of Inner Revelation 9 

afforded Jews the opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of Torah to 
life in areas which previously were closed to them. 

With the acceptance of Torah im Derech Eretz as an authentic 
religious ideal, the historic process, which is responsible for the 
development of various cultural phenomena to which Torah must be 
applied, emerges as an important factor in the determination of the 
meaning of Torah for a given era. Significantly, Hirsch compares the 
data contained in the Sinaitic Revelation of Torah to those comprising 
the Divine Revelation in the laws of nature. Just as a scientific theory 
must seek an explanation of the data obtained by observation of nature, 
so must any explanation of the meaning of Judaism be based upon the 
data, namely, the content of the supernatural Revelation. But it must be 
borne in mind that, while the natural law remains constant, scientific 
conceptions undergo constant revision as additional data become 
available. By the same token, the interaction between Torah and the 
particular Derech Eretz of a given era is bound to affect our 
understanding of the meaning of the data of the Torah insofar as it 
relates to their application to the culture of the time. 

Hirsch's passionate endorsement of the religious import and 
significance of cultural advancements is eloquently expressed in the 
ringing declaration that "Judaism welcomes every advance in 
enlightenment and virtue wherever and through whatever medium it 
may be produced. "^^ Similarly, Judaism is extolled as "the only 
religion the adherents of which are taught to see a revelation of the 
Divine in the presence of a man who is distinguished for knowledge and 
wisdom, no matter to what religion or nation he belongs."^^ 

The religious significance of human history and progress is also 
implicit in the Hirschian ideal of "Mensch-Jissroel" (sic), which, in 
turn, rests upon the premise that the proper observance and 
understanding of the divine Commandments results in the cultivation of 
the attitudes and insights leading to higher levels of human 
development.'^- It is only through submission to the discipline and 
guidance of the theonomous commandments that we can truly do justice 
to the requirements of human nature and make progress on the road to 
genuine self-realization. While history could be dismissed as 
religiously irrelevant by a Mendelssohn, who maintained that 
observance of the divinely given law had no impact at all upon the 

^^Collected Writings, ed. by N. Hirsch, vol. 2, p. 454. 

^^Judaism Eternal, translated by I. Grunfeld, London, 1956, vol. 1, 

p. 207. 

^^See Isaac Heinemann, Ta'amei Hamitzvot, op. cit., pp. 106-107. I also learned 

much from his discussion of Hirsch's conception of theonomy. 

10 The Modern Age: Theology 

metaphysical and ethical beliefs of Jews, because by virtue of the total 
absence of all dogmatic elements in Judaism, they were identical with 
the postulates of natural religion which were embraced by all rational 
human beings, for Hirsch, the situation was completely different. The 
degree to which the Commandments can succeed in infusing individuals 
with the value system needed to properly discharging their worldly 
responsibilities in keeping with the ideal of "Jissroel-Mensch" hinges 
upon a variety of factors involving historic contingencies. It is precisely 
because he places the center of gravity of Judaism within the flux of 
temporal events that he so strenuously objects to Mendelssohn's 
rationalism with its reliance on "eternal verities." 

It thus becomes clear that for all his opposition to the "spirit of the 
time" as the sole determinant of religious truth, Hirsch, nonetheless, 
reckons with it as an important factor. It is one thing to assert the 
primacy of the Sinaitic Revelation not only as a guide to normative 
practice but also as a source of religious truth, and another to 
delegitimize completely the "inner Revelation." For Hirsch, the 
latter, to the extent that it supplements the former, is a vital 
ingredient of a wholesome religious approach. In the words of I. 
Grunfeld, one of the outstanding expositors of the Hirschian ideology, 
"while we can and should rely on our moral conscience as an 'inner 
revelation,' we must, however, never undertake to deny our obligations 
to the Divine will as manifested in the 'outer revelation' - that is the 
Revelation at Sinai."^-^ 

We must, however, part company with I. Grunfeld when he 
attributes to Hirsch the Kantian notion of autonomy and declares that 
for Hirsch, "the human will is autonomous only in so far as it does not 
contravene the Divine will."^'^ The very term 'inner revelation,'which 
is contrasted with 'external Revelation,' possesses a theonomous rather 
than an autonomous connotation. The human conscience is seen not as an 
independent source of authority but as the instrument through which 
the Divine Will is disclosed. As Hirsch put it in his chapter on 
"justice" in his Horeb, "Justice simply means allowing each creature all 
that it may expect as the portion allotted to it by God."^^ The 
theonomous nature of morality is also eloquently formulated in the 
statement: "God's will has been revealed to you.. ..He has implanted in 
your mind the general principles of truth and right.. .and you.. .carry 
within yourself a voice demanding... to discharge the task of justice."^^ 

^l. Grunfeld, "Introduction to Horeb," op. cit., vol. 1, p. 91. 


^^Horeb, vol. 1, p. 217. 

^^Ibid. p. 219. 

Samsoti Raphael Hirsch's Doctrine of Inner Revelation 11 

It must also be taken into consideration that, unlike Kant, Hirsch 
did not believe that it was possible to build a moral system on purely 
rational foundations of a priori propositions. While rationality may 
provide man with the general conception of right and justice, it cannot 
yield adequate moral rules. "To some extent one can carry out the 
Torah-conception of social Right even before one has studies the Laws 
which God has revealed to us.. ..But the laws of social Right, on which 
alone the whole human social happiness can truly flourish and 
blossom... require study from the revealed word of God."^^ Even more 
pronounced is the emphasis upon the inadequacy of a morality which is 
grounded upon purely rational foundations when commenting on Psalm 
19:2 he declares: "By merely looking at the heavens and earth, man 
will never discover the Divine Law which governs his task in the 
world. Whatever answer he would derive from this kind of study 
would enmesh him in hopeless confusion. "^^ There can be little doubt 
that this rejection of a purely rational foundation of morality points to 
the influence of Hegel, who, criticizing the a-historical stance of the 
Kantian formalistic ethic, replaced it with the conception of 
"Sittlichkeit" to underscore the role of the historic dimension in the 
moral domain. 

^^Commentary ad Psalm, 19:1. 
^^Commentary ad Leviticus 18:5. 


Non-Jews in a Jewish Polity: 
Subject or Sovereign? 

David Novak 
University of Virginia 

I. Scholarship and Normativeness 

It is only during the past forty years, since the establishment of the 
State of Israel, that the question of the status of non-Jews in a Jewish 
polity could be one that is more than merely theoretical. Before this 
time, such a question could only be one for historical research or 
theological reflection. From the time of the final Roman takeover of 
the Hasmonean kingdom in 37 B.C.E. until the establishment of the 
State of Israel in 1948, no group of non-Jews lived until the control of a 
Jewish poUty. (The status of individual non-Jewish slaves living under 
the rule of individual Jewish slaveowners, in earlier periods of Jewish 
history, is an altogether different issue and need not concern us here.^) 
The normative question, in a Jewish sense, has always been one 
concerning the status of Jews in a non-Jewish polity - at least until 1948. 
Indeed, for the majority of world Jewry, who do not live in the State of 
Israel, that is still the religious question, namely, the justification and 
application of the principle "the law of the non-Jewish state {dina de- 
malkhuta) is binding on Jews (dina)."'^ (The question of Jewish rights in 
a non-Jewish polity, one which has concerned Jews since the 
Emancipation, is an altogether different question, one decided by non- 

All translations, unless otherwise noted, are by the author. 

^See D. Novak, "The Transformation of Slavery in Jewish Law," Law and 

Theology in Judaism (New York, 1976), 87ff. 

^See B. Baba Batra 54b and parallels. 


14 The Modem Age: Theology 

Jewish criteria.) However, for the growing number of Jews who now Hve 
in the State of Israel, the presence there of a population of non-Jews 
(mostly Arab, either Muslim or Christian) requires a careful 
examination of the sources of Jewish tradition concerning the status of 
non-Jews in a Jewish polity for purposes that are now more practical 
(halakhah le-ma'aseh) than just theoretical (talmud). And, the 
question is now more practical too - although less directly to be sure - 
for the majority of Jews who live outside the State of Israel since, for 
most of them, the State of Israel is the Jewish state not just the Israeli 
state. (Whether or not most Israelis share that view is debatable.) 

For the more familiar religious question of the status of Jews in a 
non-Jewish polity, legal precedent is extremely important. If one 
consults S. Shilo's comprehensive study of this complex subject,^ it will 
become evident that the responsa literature here is vast and detailed. 
As such, even new specific questions can and must be placed at the 
cutting edge of an uninterrupted normative sequence. 

For our question of non-Jews in a Jewish polity, however, legal 
precedent - and by "legal precedent" I mean case law {ma 'aseh she- 
hay ah) as opposed to codified law - is irrelevant because it does not 
exist. Indeed, there are no such precedents even in the rabbinic sources, 
much less in the responsa literature, simply because there has been no 
Jewish experience in this area for 2,000 years. "^ Whatever has been 
written in this area in the last century - such as the brief discussions by 
R. Yehiel Michal Epstein (the author of the popular halakhic work, 
'Arokh Ha-Shulhan), or by the religious Zionist theoretician. Dr. 
Simon Federbush, or by the late Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of the State of 
Israel, R. Isaac Halevi Herzog^ - all of these discussions have had to 
leap over 2,000 years of specifically normative silence back into the 
more general classical Scriptural and rabbinic sources en this overall 

As I indicated above, discussions of this question of non-Jews in a 
Jewish polity have been heretofore theoretical: either historical 
research or theological reflection. Therefore, if they are all we have 
for the new task at hand, which one is primary and which one is 
secondary for our methodological purposes? 

^Dmfl De-Malkhuta Dina (Jerusalem, 1974), passim. 

^See D. Novak, The Image of the Non-Jew in ludaism: An Historical and 
Constructive Study of the Noahide Laws (New York and Toronto, 1983), llff. 
5See R. Yehiel Michal Epstein, 'Arokh Ha-Shulhan He'Atid (Jerusalem, 1973), 
89ff; R. Simon Federbush, Mishpat Ha-Melukhah Be-Yisrael, 2nd ed. 
(Jerusalem, 1973), 56ff; R. Isaac Ha-Levi Herzog, "The Rights of Minorities 
According to Jewish Law" (Heb.), Techumin (Summer, 1981), 2:169ff. See also, B. 
Wein, Hiqray Halakhah (Jersualem, 1976), 9ff. 

Non-Jews in a Jewish Polity: Subject or Sovereign? 15 

Clearly, beginning with historical research and making it the 
determining factor in our method of inquiry will lead us to a normative 
dead-end. For historical research qua objective science can only tell us, 
somewhat convincingly, what has happened and, much less 
convincingly, what might happen. It cannot, however, by its own 
"value-free" criteria, tell us what is-to-be, which is the normative 
form any moral answer must take.^ Modern philosophers, since Hume, 
have for the most part taken as axiomatic that one can never derive an 
"ought" from an "is," a prescription from a description. And, although I 
would dispute that axiom on the metaphysical level,'' it is difficult to 
dispute when one looks at the more empirical "is" with which modern 
historians deal, as Prof. Yosef Yerushalmi has recently reminded us in 
his seminal book, Zakhor.^ I mention this obvious point simply because 
modern Jewish scholarship has such a heavy investment in the whole 
historical enterprise that it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the 
study of history is itself not Torah. Even in the type of historical 
research we find in the process of determining halakhic precedent, the 
enterprise is not essentially "historical" in the modern sense; for the 
normative sources and the normative content of these precedents are 
always considered by those who accept their authority to be 
superhistorical. Historical research, then, can only be a "handmaid" to 
the Torah itself.^ And, for our question at hand, only Torah will suffice. 

What we are left with, then, in our normative quest, is theological 
reflection, that is, reflection on the various Scriptural and rabbinic 
discussions of the status of non-Jews in a Jewish polity. Unlike 
historical research, this theological reflection is not that of an 
uncommitted spectator, but rather that of a committed participant in a 
normative reality. As such, one can suggest "oughts" because of its 
vision of the overall "to-be" of Torah. Nevertheless, it is not 
Halakhah in the narrow sense {pesaq din) because it does not deal with 
specific cases. ^^ It is, rather, an exegesis of primary sources and a 
philosophical concern with their fundamental truth. And, what is 
especially exciting about such reflection here and now is that it can 

^See Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1-2, q. 94, a. 2; also, Leo Strauss, 

Natural Right and History (Chicago, 1953), 9ff. 

^See D. Novak, 'Theonomous Ethics: A Defense and A Critique of Tillich," 

Soundings, 69 A (Winter, 1986), 441 ff. 

^Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (Seattle, 1982), esp., 87ff; also, D. 

Novak, "The Role of Dogma in Judaism," Theology Today, 45.1 (April, 1988), 


^For the notion of any secular discipline functioning as ancilla theologiae, see 

H. A. Wolfson, Philo (Cambridge, MA, 1947), l:144ff. 

i^See B. Baba Batra 130b and Rashbam thereon. 

16 The Modern Age: Theology 

lead to practical norms. ^^ Indeed, the move from theory to practice is 
imminent. Thus, our reflection is more than academic. 

I consider the clearest and most suggestive paradigm for such 
theological reflection in this area to be the dispute betw^een 
Maimonides and Nahmanides on whether non-Jews in a Jewish polity 
are subject or sovereign. 

II. Maimonides' Theory of Non-Jews in a Jewish Polity 

Maimonides' theory of the status of non-Jews in a Jewish polity is 
largely presented in a theological-political treatise, "the laws of kings 
and their wars" (Hilkhot Melakhim u-Milhamotayhern), which is 
the last section of The Book of Judges {Sefer Shoftim), the last division 
of his encyclopedia of Jewish law and theology, Mishneh Torah. This 
treatise is theological-political rather than strictly halakhic (and, 
thus, by including it and other such treatises in Mishneh Torah, 
Maimonides surely meant Mishneh Torah not to be a "legal code" in the 
same sense that Tur and Shulhan 'Arukh are legal codes^^). 

This treatise is theological-political for two reasons: (1) it did not 
involve any possible contemporary cases and was, thus, inapplicable in 
his time; (2) it has not been the subject of subsequent legal review in the 
way other areas of the Law, whose operation has been uninterrupted, 
have been subject to such review. Therefore, it is, in essence, an exercise 
in philosophical exegesis for the sake of a political theology. As such, 
one cannot cite Maimonides' rulings here as being immediately 
normative in the same way many rulings of the Shulhan 'Arukh are 
immediately normative. ^^ This is quite important to bear in mind 
because Nahmanides takes issue with Maimonides in the context of an 
exegetical work, his Commentary on the Torah, rather than in a 
strictly halakhic work. 

^^See B. Kiddushin 40b and parallels; also, R. Isaiah Ha-Levi Horowitz, Shenay 
Luhot Ha-Berit, Torah She-bi-Khtav: R'eh (Jerusalem, 1963), 2:82b-83a. 
^^See I. Twersky, Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (New Haven, CT, 
1980), 188ff; also, I. Klein, The Code of Maimonides VII: The Book of 
Agriculture (New Haven, CT, 1979), intro., xxiii- xxv. 

^^Therefore, R. loseph Karo, e.g., who certainly considered himself to be a 
follower of Maimonides on most halakhic issues, states about Maimonides' 
view of the beatitude reserved for Noahides who observed Noahide law as 
divine law {Hilkhot Melakhim, 8.11), that it seems to him to be Maimonides' 
"own opinion" {me-sebara de-nafshayh), i.e., his taking sides in an earlier 
rabbinic dispute {Kesef Mishneh thereon re T. Sanhedrin 13.2 and B. 
Sanhedrin 105a) - even though Karo himself agrees with this opinion of 
Maimonides. In more practically relevant decisions of Maimonides, however, 
Karo argued for Maimonides' conclusions in much more legally compelling 
language. See, e.g., Hilkhot Tefillah, 11.1 and Kesef Mishneh thereon. 

Non-Jeios in a Jewish Polity: Subject or Sovereign? 17 

The classical term for a non-Jewish participant in a Jewish polity- is 
a ger toshab, which is a rabbinic term combining two Scriptural terms, 
ger and toshab, to designate what we would call a "resident-alien."^'^ 
For Maimonides, one becomes a ger toshab in one of two ways: either at 
one's own individual initiative, or as the result of being part of a non- 
Jewish society conquered by a Jewish polity in war. 

The first way, that is, by individual initiative, is essentially 
Maimonides' restatement of two Talmudic sources. 

Who is a ger toshab? He is a gentile who accepts upon himself not to 
engage in idolatrous worship, along with acceptance of the rest of the 
commandments commanded to the Noahides, and who has not been 
either circumcised or immersed. Such a person is to be accepted and 
he is one of the pious of the nations of the world {me-hasiday 'ummot 
ha'olam). Why is he called ger toshab [literally, "alien-dweller"]? It is 
because it is permitted for us to have him dwell among us in the Land 
of Israel.. ..We only accept a ger toshab at a time when the Jubilee is in 
effect, but at this time, even if he accepted upon himself all the Torah 
in its entirety except for one detail, we not not accept him.^^ 

As he points out in a closely related text, voluntary membership in 
a Jewish polity (or any Jewish community now) must be full conversion 
to Judaism or nothing at all.^^ For the institution of the ger toshab to be 
operative, we are not only required to have a Jewish polity in the Land 
of Israel, we are required to have a Jewish polity in the Land of Israel 
with all twelve tribes in residence, which is the prerequisite for the 
Jubilee system to be operative. That is why Maimonides would 
eliminate the possibility of a ger toshab even in a Jewish polity such as 
we now have in the State of Israel, and even if that Jewish polity were 
governed by the Torah. 

However, when it comes to the institution of the ger toshab as the 
result of being part of a non-Jewish society conquered by a Jewish polity 
in war, Maimonides seems to construct a more probable political 
scenario. And, here he goes far beyond the Scriptural and rabbinic 

And so it is with a non-Jewish city that has made peace with us, a 
covenant (berit) is not to be made with them until they renounce 
idolatry and destroy all its shrines and accept the rest of the 
commandments commanded to the Noahides. For any nation that 

^^For the still separate designations of ger and toshab in a Tannaitic source, see 

Sifra: Behar, ed. Weiss, 11 Oa re Lev. 25:47. For ger toshab as one designation, 

see Encyclopedia Talmudit, 6:289ff. 

^^Hilkhot Isuray Bi'ah, 14.7-8 re B. 'Abodah Zarah 64b and Arakhin 29a. (This 

latter text stipulates the Jubilee requirement.) 

^^Hilkhot 'Abodah Zarah, 10.6. 

18 The Modern Age: Theology 

has not accepted the commandments commanded to the Noahides is 
to be killed if under our power.. ..And so did Moses our Master 
command by word from God {mi-pi ha-Geburah) to force (la-kof) all 
the inhabitants of the world to accept the commandments 
commanded to the Noahides. And whoever does not accept them is to 
be killed. The one who accepts them is called a ger toshab wherever 
{be-khol maqom), and he must accept them upon himself in the 
presence of three rabbinic judges Qiaberim)}'^ 

This scenario is more probable because Maimonides does not make the 
prior applicability of the Jubilee-system a conditio sine qua non for this 
type of ger toshab. And, as is well known, Maimonides regarded the 
reestablishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel to be without 
religious impediment.^ ^ Thus, we have before us the assumption of an 
universal moral law, one to be enforced by Jews wherever they have 
political power over non-Jews. 

Furthermore, the enforcement of this universal moral law is to be in 
tandem with the Jewish subjugation of a captured people. 

War is not to be conducted with anyone in the world until peace has 
been offered to them, whether in a permitted offensive war {milhemet 
reshut) or in a mandated war {milhemet mitzvah). If they made peace 
and accepted the seven commandments commanded to the 
Noahides, not even one life is to be killed. ...If they accepted the 
payment of tribute {mas) but not servitude {he'abdut) or vice-versa, 
they are not to be heard until they accept both. The servitude that they 
are to accept is that they will be despised {nibzim) and be at the lowest 
level of society and will not be able to lift their heads in Israel but will 
be subgated {kebushim) under them. They are not to be appointed to 
any offices where they have authority {ve-lo yitmanu) over Jews for any 
reason whatsoever. The tribute to be received from them is that they 
are to be ready for the service of the king with their bodies and with 
their property, such as the building of walls and the strengthening of 

^^Hilkhot Melakhim, 8.9-10. 

^^See ibid., 11.1. Also, Maimonides {ibid., 6.1) does not require the presence of 
the Urim ve-Tumim oracle for the king to declare a permitted war {milhemet 
reshut) as was mentioned in the Talmud re King David (B. Berakhot 3b-4a and 
B. Sanhedrin 16a-b). He only requires king and Sanhedrin {Commentary on the 
Mishnah: Sanhedrin 2.4), both institutions having no present religious im- 
pediment to prevent their being reinstituted whenever it became politically 
feasible. Cf. Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, shoresh 14 (end), where he also mentions the 
requirement of the high priest. However, even here he does not mention the 
specific requirement of the Urim ve-Tumim. Indeed, it was not necessarily the 
high priest who used it (see B. Yoma 73a). For Nahmanides, on the other hand, 
the Urim ve-Tumim is essential. See Sefer Ha-Mitzvot: "Negative Command- 
ments According to Nahmanides," no. 17 re B. Shebu'ot 16a. 
^^Hilkhot Melakhim, 6.1. Cf. Sifre: Debarim, no. 199, ed. Finkelstein, 237 re 
Deut. 20:10 (see Rashi thereon). See R. Abraham de Boten, Lehem Mishneh on 

Non-Jeios in a Jewish Polity: Subject or Sovereign? 19 

Non-Jewish subjects of Jewish rulers seem to have the same status as 
Jewish and Christian subjects have under MusHm rulers, that is, they 
have the status of dhimmis.^^ They are a tolerated group of second- 
class aliens subject to a constitutionally structured authority over them. 
Indeed, Maimonides emphasizes how that authority is to be lawful 
and equitable, not capricious and deceitful. "It is forbidden to be 
deceitful in the covenant with them and to lie to them because ('ahar) 
they have made peace and accepted the Noahide laws."^^ 

Maimonides has here achieved a major tour de force in reworking 
the Scriptural and rabbinic sources on this issue. The question that 
remains, however, is whether the acceptance of the Noahide laws is 
for the sake of subjugation, or whether subjugation is for the sake of 
acceptance of the Noahide laws. In other words, the question is the 
perennial question facing all political theory, that is, the question of 
whether might makes right, or right makes might - the question of 
whether political power needs to be rationalized or justified.^^ 

In the Scriptural sources, there seem to be two kinds of war against 
gentiles: one with the seven Canaanite nations and the Amalekites; 
the other with all other enemies of the people of Israel. Both kinds of 
war are presented as offensive enterprises.^^ 

In the first case, absolute annihilation seems to be the only 
mandated course of action, with no compromise of any kind possible. In 
this case, that is, with the Canaanites and the Amalekites, the reason 
for this uncompromising imperative seems to be the inherent moral 
wickedness of these peoples, not just their animosity to the people of 
Israel. Thus, the Amalekites are considered those who "do not fear 
God" (Deuteronomy 25:18) in the sense of not fearing divine retribution 
for their immorality towards and with other human beings. ^^ The 
Canaanites are to be totally dispossessed from the Land of Israel 
because of "all these abominations {to 'ebot) they have done" (Leviticus 
18:27), such as incest and child sacrifice. Nevertheless, what exact 
body of law they violated, and whether they knew in advance that 
what they were doing was evil and subject to divine punishment, are 
not spelled out in these early sources. Also, the option of their 

Maim., loc. cit. re Nahmanides' comment on Deut. 20:10, who interpets the 

verse as does Maimonides. 

2*^See S. W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 2nd rev. ed (New 

York, 1957), 3:120ff. 

^^Hilkhot Melakhim, 6.3. 

22See Plato, Republic, 336Bff. 

23see Deut. 20:1; 25:19. 

24See Gen. 20:11. 

20 The Modern Age: Theology 

rectifying their past sins does not seem to be presented as a possibility 
leading to their being treated by less harsh means than annihilation. 

In the second case, that is, non-Canaanite/Amalekite societies 
conquered by a Jewish polity, compromise is possible, but that 
compromise seems to be based on the purely external political 
consideration of subjugation, not on the internal morality of the 
subjugated people itself. It seems to be an issue of might not right. Thus, 
in the text from Talmud Yerushalmi, which Maimonides cites, the two 
cases are essentially conflated, but that conflation is based on political 
not moral criteria. 

Before entering the Land, Joshua sent three letters. In the first one he 
sent to them, he offered the option of flight to whomever wanted to 
flee. The second option he then offered was that whoever wanted to 
make peace could make peace. The last option he then offered them 
was that whoever wanted to wage war, war would be waged with 

This seems to be based on the earlier qualification of the Sifre 
concerning the mandate to annihilate the Canaanite nations based on 
the Scriptural reason, namely, "in order (lema'an) that they not teach 
you to practice all their abominations which they practised for their 
gods and, thus, you will sin against the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 
20:18). The Sifre sees this as a condition antecedent so that "if they 
repentedCflsw teshubah), they are not to be killed. "^6 Whether that 
"repentance" is for the general moral violation of the Noahide laws, or 
particular resistance to Israel's political power, is still unclear.27 

Maimonides' great innovation is to make Jewish subjugation of non- 
Jewish captive peoples a matter of morality: a morality as binding on 
the conqueror as it is on the conquered. Both the power of the conqueror 
and the powerlessness of the conquered are now subject to the rule of 
law: the former being restrained; the latter being protected. For any 
Jewish subjugation of non-Jews as the result of military victory is only 
justified by joint adherence to the seven Noahide laws. These laws, for 

^^Hilkhot Melakhim, 6.5 re Y. Shebiit 6.1 /36c; also, Debarim Rabbah 5.13. 
^^Sifre: Debarim, no. 204, ed. Finkelstein, 238. Rashi (B. Sotah 35b, s.v. "ve- 
katbah"), however, takes this condition to only apply to Canaanites (and all 
gentiles) outside the Land of Israel, but not to those inside the Land of Israel 
since their repentence would always be suspect (see Est. 8:17 and B. Yebamot 
24b). This interpretation is rejected by Nahmanides in his Commentary on the 
Torah: Deut. 20:10. 

^''For the modern distinction employed here between "morality" and "politics," 
see Strauss, Natural Right and History, 177-180 re Machiavelli. What moderns 
call "politics" in the amoral sense, the ancients called "tyranny." See Strauss, 
On Tyranny, rev. ed.(Ithaca, NY, 1968), 22-24. 

No7t-}eivs in a Jewish Polity: Subject or Sovereign? 21 

Maimonides, are the maximal moral standard for all non-Jews (benay 
Noah), and they are the minimal moral standard for Jews, the Mosaic 
Torah being their full actualization.^^ 

This insistence upon a moral justification for Jewish subjugation of a 
non-Jewish society highlights a seeming contradiction between two 
related passages in Hilkhot Melakhim u-Milhamotayhem concerning 
the initial justification of a war with a gentile society - what in 
Western political theory is called ius ad bellum.^^ This is important 
for us to analyze here because, it will be recalled, for Maimonides, the 
only way one can become a ger toshab in a non-Jubilee observing Jewish 
polity is when that person or group of persons came under Jewish rule as 
the result of a Jewish victory in war. 

In the rabbinic sources, there are three kinds of war: (1) milhemet 
hobah, that is, a mandated offensive war against the Canaanites and 
the Amalekites;^^ (2) milhemet mitzvah, that is, a defensive war, 
minimally conditioned by a threat to the security of the Jewish state 
(an example would be the Israeli preemptive strike against the 
Egyptian forces in the Sinai poised for attack in June, 1967);^^ (3) 
milhemet reshut, that is, a permitted war, seemingly authorized by 
pure self-interest, namely, the expansion of military power for 
political or even economic ends.^^ 

Maimonides reduces the kinds of war from three to two: milhemet 
mitzvah (mandated war) and milhemet reshut (permitted war). This 
can be understood if one recalls that, for Maimonides, the type of 
mandate designated by the rabbinic term hobah is a totally 
unconditional imperative. ^^ However, if the repentance of even the 
Canaanite/Amalekites is always possible, acceptable, and even 
encouraged, then there can be no milhemet hobah in this unconditional 

Now in the case of a mandated war, there is moral justification: 
either self-defense or the refusal of the Canaanites /Amalekites to 
abide by the Noahide laws. However, in the case of permitted war. 

28See Hilkhot Melakhim, 9.1. 

2^See John Langan, S. ]., "The Elements of St. Augustine's Just War Theory," 

Journal of Religious Ethics, 12.1 (Spring, 1984), 25ff. 

30m. Sotah 8.7; B. Sotah 44b. See Maim., Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, pos. no. 187 for why 

this commandment is perpetual {noheg le-dorot) even though there are no 

more "Canaanites" left in the world (re M. Yadayim 4.4). However, he seems to 

imply that the Amalekites are still extant (see ibid., no. 188). 

3iSeeY. Sotah 8.1 0/23a. 

3^See ibid.; also, B. Berakhot 3b-4a and B. Sanhedrin 16a-b. 

^^Hilkhot Berakhot, 11.2. This seems to answer the surprise expressed by R. 

Joseph Karo in Kesef Mishneh on Hilkhot Melakhim, 5.1. 

22 The Modern Age: Theology 

Maimonides here simply repeats the Talmudic justification, which 
seems to be based on pure self interest. 

The king's first duty is to fight a mandated war {milhemet mitzvah). 
What is a "mandated war?" It is the war against the seven Canaanite 
nations and the war against the Amalekites and the aid of the Jewish 
people from the hand of an enemy who has come upon them. 
Thereafter, he may fight a permitted war {milhemet reshut) with the 
rest of the nations, in order (keday) to enlarge the border of Israel and 
to increase his power (gedulato) and fame (ve-shom'o)?'^ 

However, it would seem, as we saw earlier when examining a 
related passage from this very treatise, that the only justification for a 
Jewish war of subjugation of a non-Jewish society is "to force all the 
inhabitants of the world to accept the commandments that were 
commanded to the Noahides."-^^ 

Nevertheless, there is a possible solution to this seeming 
contradiction within this treatise on kingship and war. For, 
Maimonides, also following the Talmud, indicates that the head of a 
Jewish state-^^ must have the parliamentary approval of the 
Sanhedrin before he can legally declare a permitted, offensive war. 

In a mandated war {milhemet mitzvah) he need not receive the 
permission {reshut) of the court, but he may go out on his own 
initiative at any time and force the people to go out. But, in the case of 
a permitted war, he cannot bring the people out except with the 
consent of the court of seventy-one. ^ 

Now the question is: What sort of objections could a Sanhedrin 
(that is, the Great Court of seventy-one)-^^ raise against the proposal 
by the head of state to declare a permitted war? Obviously, pragmatic 
political objections could be raised, such as the nonfeasibility of 
victory, too great a cost in lives and materials, negative diplomatic 
results, etc., etc. However, Maimonides himself, just before setting down 
this principle, states that the only acceptable reason for the head of 
state to engage in any offensive military enterprise is a moral one. 

^^Hilkhot Melakhim, 5.1. Nevertheless, that the king not act for personal 

aggrandizement, see ibid., 3.6. Re "breaking the power of the wicked," see ibid., 

3.10. For a thorough presentation and analysis of these sources, see G. 

Blidstein, 'Eqronot Mediniyyim Be-Mishnat Ha-Rambam (E'er Sheva, 1983), 


^^Hilkhot Melakhim, 8.10. 

^^Re whether or not a president of the State of Israel has the status of a king, 

see R. Obadiah Yosef, Responsa Yehaveh Da'at (Jerusalem, 1978), 2:106-109 

(no. 28). 

^"^Hilkhot Melakhim, 5.2. 

38See Hilkhot Sanhedrin, 1.3; also, Hilkhot Mamrim, 1.1. 

Non-Jews in a Jewish Polity: Subject or Sovereign? 23 

And in all these things the king's law (dino) is law. In all of them his 
deeds should be for the sake of God, and his purpose {magamato) and 
thought are to be to elevate the status (le-harim) of the true faith {dat 
ha 'emet)and to fill the world with what is right (tzedeq), and to break 
the power of the wicked, and to fight the wars of the Lord. For a king is 
not made king initially except to implement justice {la'asot mishpat) 
and conduct wars.^^ 

Therefore, it would seem a Sanhedrin member could raise moral 
objections to a royal proposal of war, such objections as: Is the proposed 
war's moral justification a true reason or a rationalization? What will 
be the proposed war's moral effect on the Jews engaging in it? Will it 
provide too great a diversion from such prior Jewish needs as Torah 
study or the rectification of injustices within Jewish society? Will it 
needlessly brutalize the recruits called up to fight this war?'^'^ - The 
burden of proof is clearly on the head of state for he is making a claim 
on the lives, property and integrity of his own people.'^^ 

This being so, a careful reading of all of Maimonides' statements on 
the subject of war and the subjugation of the non-Jews defeated therein 
seems to indicate that the only justification for any war and, therefore, 
the only justification for any act of subjugation of non-Jews is a moral 
one. The ramifications of this conclusion from Maimonides' political 
theology are considerable. 

Despite the fact that the law applies both to the Jewish conquerors 
and the non-Jews conquered in a Jewish polity, the administration of 
that law always lies in the hands of the Jewish authorities or those 
non-Jews they designate as subordinate authorities. 

The Jewish court is obligated (hayyabim) to appoint judges for these 
resident-aliens (ha-gerim ha-toshabim) to judge them according to 
these laws so that civilized society (ha 'olam) not be destroyed. If the 
court sees fit (ra'u) to appoint non-Jewish judges from the non-Jews, 
they may do so. But, if they see fit to appoint for the non-Jews Jewish 
judges, they may do so.^^ 

This is a point that Mairrionides emphasizes a bit earlier in this 
treatise, namely, the obligation of the Jewish authorities to interfere 
in the quasi-judicial independence of their non-Jewish subjects, if need 

^^Hilkhot Melakhim, 4.10. See ibid., 7.15. Re da'at 'emet, see Hilkhot Hagigah, 

3.1, 6. Re da'at 'emet, as universal monotheism, see ibid., 7.15 and Sefer Ha- 

Mitzvot, pos. no. 191; also, Blidstein, op. cit., 217ff. 

'^^See, esp., Nahmanides, Commentary on the Torah: Deut. 23:10. 

'^^See B. Baba Kama 46a. 

^'^Hilkhot Melakhim, 10.11. 

24 The Modern Age: Theology 

How are the non-Jews commanded concerning adjudication {ha- 
dinin)? They are obUgated to place various kinds of judges {dayymiin 
ve-shoftim) in every district to adjudicate according to these six 
commandments and to admonish the people concerning them. And a 
Noahide who violated any one of these seven commandments is to be 
executed by decapitation {yehareg be-sayyaf). Because of this, all of 
the citizens (ba'alay) of Shechem deserved {nithayyabu) to be 
executed for Shechem [their prince] robbed [Dinah] and they saw it, 
they knew about it, but they did not judge him.*^ 

This obligation, tlien, is morally justified, not just politically 
rationalized. For the justification of the execution of the Shechemites 
by Simeon and Levi, the brothers of Dinah, is not because of the 
Shechemites' tacit approval of what Shechem did to their sister, but 
because of the tacit approval of his rape of any woman. 

It is because of the assumption of this type of moral culpability on 
the part of non-Jews, a moral culpability that itself requires Jewishly 
administered punishment whenever possible, that non-Jewish subjects 
have legal status in a Jewish polity. They have such status because it is 
assumed that they have moral personality. This moral personality 
comprises freedom of choice and responsibility for adherence to an 
objective body of law fairly applied. Nevertheless, this legal status 
entails neither political equality nor political independence. 
Furthermore, Maimonides constitutes neither a right nor a duty of the 
Jewish authorities to allow their non-Jewish subjects to be their 
political equals in the same polity, or even to be their politically 
independent neighbors in a separate state of their own. Ordered 
subjugation seems to be the only acceptable course of action when Jews 
have political power over non-Jews, in the view of Maimonides.'^'^ That 
subjugation, however, may never be arbitrary. It may never dispense 
with the due process of law. 

III. Nahmanides' Critique of Maimonides' Political Theology 

It can be said, with considerable justice I believe, that Nahmanides 
was Maimonides' most profound critic. For not only was his critique of 
Maimonides the most extensive of all, but that critique was the result 
of a carefully thought out theological system. Thus, he countered many 
of Maimonides' theories from an unified theological perspective of his 

43/bzd., 9.14. 

'^^Therefore, the Jewish philosopher, Hermann Cohen (d. 1918) was incorrect 
when he claimed that the ben Noah/ger toshab implies citizenship in the 
modern sense, viz., equality based on secular criteria. See his "Naechstenliebe 
im Talmud," Juedische Schriften (Berlin, 1924), l:159ff. 

Non-Jews in a Jewish Polity: Subject or Sovereign? 25 

Since Nahmanides' most comprehensive work was his Commentary 
on the Torah, he usually began his critique of Maimonides' theology at 
the exegetical point of difference between them. In our case at hand, he 
begins his critique of Maimonides' view of the obligation of Jewish 
interference in the political life of subject peoples as follows, 
questioning his interpretation of the execution of the citizens of 
Shechem by Simeon and Levi. After indicating that many have 
questioned the moral propriety of what Simeon and Levi did, 
Nahmanides accurately states Maimonides' view and then begins his 
critique of it. 

And these points are not correct, as far as I am concerned. For if the 
matter were so, Jacob our Father would have himself been obligated 
to have the merit of being the first {qodem ve-zokheh) to kill them. 
And, if he was afraid of them, then why was he angry with his sons and 
cursed their wrath such a long time later, and he punished them by 
separating and dispersing them? Did they not [according to 
Maimonides' theory] meritoriously fulfill a commandment, and did 
they not trust their God, who saved them?^^ 

Nahmanides then continues with his own view of what role Jews 
should play or not play in the political morality of a non-Jewish 
society subject to their power. 

In my opinion, the obligation of adjudication (ha-dinin) that was 
assigned to the Noahides in their seven commandments not only 
required that they place judges in every district, but He commanded 
them concerning such matters as stealing and cheating,. ..etc., just like 
the obligation of adjudication for which Jews were commanded.^^ 

Moreover, even if the citizens of Shechem were indeed guilty of 
violations of the seven Noahide laws, including tacit approval or 
passive indifference to a crime committed in their midst, Nahmanides 
concludes his thought on this subject by most emphatically stating that 
"the matter is not assigned (masur) to Jacob and his sons to exercise 
legal judgment against them (la 'asot hahem ha-din)."^'^ In other words, 
Jewish political powers will inevitably invite political disaster when 
they attempt to exercise moral authority over a society of non-Jews. 
Thus, he makes a far sharper distinction between moral law and 
political authority than Maimonides does. Non-Jews, even non-Jews 

"^^Commentary on the Torah: Gen. 34:13, ed. Chavel (Jersualem, 1959), 1:191. For 
rabbinic embarassment with the act of Simeon and Levi, see B. Megillah 9a re 
Gen. 49:6 (in the name of LXX; cf. LXX, ed. Rahlfs thereon) and Y. Megillah 
1.9/71d; also, Mekhilta: Bo, ed. Horovitz-Rabin, 50-51; Bere'sheet Rabbah 98.6, 
ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1256 and note 6 thereon. 
^^Op.cit., VA92. 

26 The Modern Age: Theology 

over whom Jews have power (as was the case with the Shechemites) 
are definitely bound by a moral law, but the task of its political 
enforcement belongs to them not to the Jews. For Nahmanides seems to 
be implying, at least, that when Jews do enforce that law, political 
considerations of self-interest, imperialism if you will, inevitably 
outweigh the moral zeal which originally was invoked in the 
justification of the subjugating policy. The assumption of the moral 
personality of non-Jews seems to imply that their political sovereignty 
is preferable to their subjugation by even Jewish rulers. 

IV. The Basic Theological Issue in the Dispute 

The difference we have seen between Maimonides and Nahmanides 
on this point is more than an exegetical dispute about the propriety or 
impropriety of the killing of the Shechemites by Simeon and Levi. It 
is, rather, a theological dispute about the relation of Jewish 
normativeness and non-Jewish normativeness, or the relation between 
the more general universal law and the more singular law of the Torah. 
The question at issue is: Does the true normativeness of non-Jews require 
their being subject to Torah constituted Jewish rule whenever possible, 
or does their true normativeness only entail their political 

This theological dispute can be seen as rooted in the differing views 
of views of Maimonides and Nahmanides on the Jewish criterion of non- 
Jewish normativeness: the seven Noahide laws. The precedent for their 
difference seems to be found in the locus dassicus of the Noahide laws 
in the Babylonian Talmud. 

What is the Scriptural basis of these commandments? R. Yohanan 
said that Scripture states, 'And the Lord God commanded the human 
being (ha'adam) saying that from every tree in the garden you may 
surely eat' (Genesis 2:16). 'He commanded' {va-yitzav): this refers to 
the commandment of adjudication (ha-dinin); and so Scripture also 
states, 'For I know him that he will command (yitzaveh) his children,' 
etc.. ..'God' i'Elohim): this refers to the prohibition of idolatry; and so 
Scripture also states, 'You shall have no other gods' (Exodus 20:3). ...But 
some taught it differently. 'He commanded': this refers to the 
prohibition of idolatry; 'God': this refers to the commandment of 
adjudication.. .as it is written, 'and the householder shall approach the 
judges {'elohimY (Exodus 22:7). But, if 'He commanded' refers to the 
prohibition of idolatry, how does Scripture let us know this {m'ay 
mashma)? R. Hisda and R. Isaac bar Abdimi [spoke on this point], one 
of them saying that it comes from this verse, 'they quickly turned away 
from the path I commanded them (tzivitim), they made for 
themselves [a molten calf], etc' (Exodus 32:8); the other one saying 

Non-}eivs in a Jewish Polity: Subject or Sovereign? 27 

that it comes from this verse, 'Ephraim is persecuted, deprived of just 
redress, because he has followed after nought {tzav).' (Hosea 5:11).'*^ 

That the dispute between these Talmudic authorities is more than 
a strictly exegetical difference about the meaning of tvv^o words in a 
Scriptural verse is brought out by the sixteenth century scholar, R. 
Moses Isserles. 

It is clear as the noonday sun that R. Yohanan... thinks that a Noahide 
is only commanded to observe the judicial procedure of society (ha- 
minhag ha-medini) and to adjudicate between persons equitably 
{mishpat ha-yosher), but not in the way of the Jewish laws that Moses 
gave us from Sinai, but only by the rule of law (hoq n/mws/)... Jewish law 
is one thing and Noahide law is something else.'*^ 

The view of R. Isaac, on the other hand, assumes something else. 

Noahide laws are the same as the laws the Jews were commanded at 
Sinai and, therefore, he derives them from a verse (Exodus 22:7) said 
at Sinai. ..except where there is direct evidence of a difference.^^ 

For R. Yohanan, non-Jewish normativeness is essentially independent; 
for R. Isaac, it is essentially dependent on Jewish interpretation and, 
ideally, on Jewish enforcement. 

Now it is clear that Maimonides builds his view of Noahide law 
upon the view of R. Isaac. 

The first human being was commanded concerning six things: (1) 
concerning idolatry.. ..(6) and concerning adjudication. Even though all 
of them are ours because of a tradition (qabbalah) from Moses our 
master and reason inclines {ve-ha-da'at noteh) towards them, it can be 
generally inferred from the words of Scripture that he was 
commanded concerning these things.^^ 

Although, as is his frequent procedure, Maimonides eliminates the 
actual exegesis of Genesis 2:16 found in the Talmud, he nevertheless 
agrees with R. Isaac that the foundation of the Noahide law is the 
prohibition of idolatry. And, that prohibition, along with its 
corresponding positive commandment to affirm God's existence, is 
something of which Judaism has the clearest monotheistic vision - even 
though these two commandments per se are considered by Maimonides 

48b. Sanhedrin 56b. 

^^Responsa Rema, ed. Ziv (Jersualem, 1970), 45-46 (no. 10). 


^^Hilkhot Melakhim, 9.1. 

28 The Modern Age: Theology 

to be rationally evident to human reason and, thus, not dependent on 
revelation to Israel.^^ 

This can be seen in Maimonides' famous statement in this treatise 
about the metaphysical status of the Noahide laws. 

Whoever accepts the seven commandments and is careful to practice 
them, such a person is one of the saints of the nations of the world, and 
he has a portion in the world-to-come. But, he is one who accepts them 
because the Holy-One-blessed-be-He commanded them in the Torah 
and made them known through Moses our master that Noahides are 
commanded regarding them. If, on the other hand, he practised them 
because of rational inclination {hekhre ha-da'at), he is not a ger 
toshab, and he is not one of the saints of the nations of the world, but 
he is only one of their sages i'ela jne-hakhmai/hefn).^^ 

A number of commentators, both medieval and modern, have 
misunderstood this passage and have concluded that, for Maimonides, 
all morality can only be derived from specific revelation. However, if 
this were the case, Maimonides would not have spoken of the 
possibility of discerning the Noahide laws by what might be termed 
ordinary human reason. Clearly, such discernment is possible, although 
it is not wholly sufficient to fulfill the ultimate end of human 
existence, which is the direct knowledge of God in a realm transcending 
ordinary human existence on earth.^'^ Furthermore, as I have argued in 
my extensive treatment of the Noahide laws, for Maimonides, 
revelation is not essentially distinct from human reason, but it is its 
final realization. 5^ Therefore, when Jews, who have the truest 
revelation (even if most of them do not properly understand its 
metaphysical truths), also have political power over non-Jews, these 
non-Jews should not be left to their own moral devices. For their own 
moral devices are based on either insufficient human reasoning in the 
strictly moral sense, or incomplete revelation in the metaphysical 
sense. (This can be seen in Maimonides' interest in Jewish proselytizing 
of both MusHms and Christians.^^). In the case of both Jews and non- 
Jews, the improvement of the body {tiqqun ha-guf) - including the body 
politic - is always for the sake of the improvement of the soul {tiqqun 

^^See Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, pos. no. 1 and neg. no. 1; Moreh Nebukhim, 2.33 re B. 

Makkot 23b. 

^^Hilkhot Melakhim, 8.11. For a full discussion of this text, see Novak, The 

Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism, 276ff. 

54See Hilkhot Teshubah, 8.3ff. 

^^Novak, op. cit., 280ff. 

^^See Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, pos. nos. 3, 9; Teshubot Ha-Rambam, ed. Blau 

(Jerusalem, 1960), 1:282-285 (nos. 148-149), 2:726 (no. 148). 

Noii-Jeios in a Jewish Polity: Subject or Sovereign? 29 

ha-nefesh).^'^ As such, we can see that being the great systematic 
theologian he was, Maimonides' view of the political, moral and 
metaphysical status of non-Jews is consistently correlated. 

Conversely, for Nahmanides, the realms of morality and 
revelation are much more separate. In terms of revelation, this 
separation is for the sake of laying greater emphasis on the essential 
difference between the natural and the supernatural. Nahmanides' 
emphasis of a greater independent role for nature {teha) - which is the 
whole realm of ordinary human experience {minhago shel 'olam), 
including political-moral experience - is for the sake of his emphasis of 
the realm of the supernatural (nissim) by contrast.^^ Nevertheless, 
what emerges from this emphasis is a very different view of the moral 
relationship between Jews and non-Jews. 

This view of a more independent natural/rational morality comes 
out in Nahmanides' treatment of the paradigmatic non-Jewish sin, the 
violence (harnas) which brought about the punishment of the Flood. 

Violence is robbery and oppression. And He gave the reason (ha- 
ta'am) to Noah as being violence, but he did not mention sexual 
perversion {hash'hatat ha-derekh), because violence is the sin that is 
known and evident (ha-i/adua ve-hameforsam). And our rabbis said 
that because of it their doom was sealed. The reason for this is that its 
prohibition is a rational commandment {mitzvah muskelet), one for 
which they had no need of a prophet to admonish them. Furthermore, 
it is evil against God and humanity. ^^ 

Now Maimonides, too, emphasized in the section of Mishneh Tor ah 
concerning murder that the prohibition of violence and bloodshed is 
something immediately evident to any rational person.^^ One need not 
be skilled in metaphysics to appreciate the evident reason for its 
prohibition. Nevertheless, Maimonides rejects the notion of rational 
commandments (rnitzvot sikhliyot) as defined by Saadyah Gaon and 
those who follow him (and Nahmanides by anticipation) precisely 
because it assumes that nonmetaphysically grounded morality is 
sufficient as well as evident.^^ For Nahmanides, it is sufficient, at 
least within its own context, even though revelation is needed to 
constitute the human relationship with God. But, for Nahmanides, 

^'^Moreh Nebukhim, 3.27. See ibid., 2.40. 

^^See, e.g.. Commentary on the Torah: Lev. 26:11; also, D. Berger, "Miracles and 

the Natural Order" in Rabbi Moses Nahmanides (Ramban): Explorations in 

His Religious and Literary Virtuosity, ed. I. Twersky (Cambridge, MA, 1983), 


^^Commentary on the Torah: Gen. 6:13, ed. Chavel, 2:52. See, also, ibid.: Gen. 6:2. 

^^Hilkhot Rotzeah U-Shemirat Ha-Nefesh, 4.9. 

^^See Commentary on the Mishnah: Shemonah Peraqim, chap. 6. 

30 The Modern Age: Theology 

revelation is not the culmination of a rational continuum as it is for 
Maimonides.^^ Hence, in the ordinary realm of human political 
experience, basic norms do not need revelation in the same way non-Jews 
do not need Jews for their moral well-being. Ultimately, the differing 
views of Maimonides and Nahmanides about the moral independence 
of non-Jews stem from their differing views of the essence of revelation. 
For both, however, theology and politics are most definitely 

V. Subjugation or Sovereignty? 

It would be less than candid of me if I did not state that my own 
preference is for the approach of Nahmanides on this whole question, 
and this is for theological, philosophical and political reasons. It 
seems to provide a basis for rethinking the whole enterprise of Zionism 
as a truly religious program for the Jewish people at this point in our 
history. Moreover, its credibility is enhanced by the fact that in 
Nahmanides' system, the settlement of the Land of Israel {yishub 
'Eretz Yisrael) is one of the 613 commandments of the Written Torah, 
one binding on all Jews at all times.^^ It is not so in Maimonides' system. 
And this is consistent with the far greater role that the sanctity of the 
Land of Israel plays in Nahmanides' theology than it does in 
Maimonides' theology. ^^ Hence, we have a model of how greater 
Zionist commitment can indeed be developed in tandem with a rejection 
of the subjugation of any other people, even on moral grounds. 

Leaving the matter at this point would seem to offer two divergent 
opinions, neither having any greater prima facie claim than the other. 
However, in traditional rabbinic style, I am going to conclude by 
attempting to demonstrate that Maimonides' whole approach might 
not be supportive after all of the position of those who would attempt 
to religiously justify a policy of Jews subjugating a non-Jewish people. 

^^This can be seen in Nahmanides' refusal to count belief in God as one of the 
613 commandments of the Written Torah, even the first in the series, as did 
Maimonides. See note on Maim., Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, pos. no. 1 and 
Commentary on the Torah: Exod. 20:2; also, D. Novak, Law and Theology in 
Judaism (New York, 1974), l:136ff. For Nahmanides, revelation itself is the only 
"proof of God's existence. For Maimonides, on the other hand, God's existence 
can be inferred from the existence and/or order of the universe. See Moreh 
Nebukhim, 2, intro. ff. 

^^See Maim., Sefer Ha-Mitzvot: "Positive Commandments According to 
Nahmanides," no. 4; Commnetary on the Torah: Num. 33:53 (cf. Rashi thereon). 
^"^E.g., see Commentary on the Torah: Deut. 6:10 re Hullin 17a. Cf. Maim., 
Hilkhot Melakhim, 8.1 and note of Radbaz thereon. 

Non-Jews in a Jewish Polity: Subject or Sovereign? 31 

It will be recalled that for Maimonides any subjugation is only 
justified on moral grounds, not political ones. Thus, might can only be 
exercised when it is right. The rightness of any such exercise is 
dependent on the proper intention of the head of state proposing it. 
"And in all wars, his deeds should be for the sake of God, and his 
purpose and thought are to be to elevate the status of the true faith and 
to fill the world with what is right."^^ In another passage, from his 
"Laws Concerning the Sanhedrin," where Maimonides presents the 
legal power of a court to suspend individual privileges in case of a 
grave emergency, he similarly warns. 

All of these things are to be done according to what the judge will see 
as proper (ra 'uy) under the circumstances and what the hour requires. 
And in all of them, let his deeds be for the sake of God; let not the 
dignity of human beings be light in his eyes.. .but let him only act to 
add to the honor of God.^^ 

Therefore, if the intention of the head of state is doubtful, then it is 
also doubtful whether any subjugation is morally justifiable. 

For this type of suspension of authorized right, there is specific 
rabbinic foundation. Thus, in the case of the right of a brother to take 
his deceased brother's wife if they had been childless together 
iyibum), the Talmud notes. 

In earlier times, when their intention (mitkavvniii) was for the sake of 
the commandment, the commandment of the levirate took 
precedence over the commandment of release {halitzah). But now 
that their intention is not for the sake of the commandment, the 
rabbis said that the commandment of release takes precedence over 
the commandment of the levirate.. ..As it was taught: Abba Saul said 
that one who marries (ha-kones) his dead brother's childless widow 
iyebimto) for the sake of her beauty, or for the sake of marriage per se, 
or for the sake of anything else, it is as if he had relations with 
someone prohibited to him {k'ilu pogea b'ervah).^^ 

Even though Maimonides does not accept this reasoning here, other 
important medieval halakhic authorities do accept it.^^ He obviously 
did not regard proper intention as determinate in this specific matter. 
Nevertheless, he himself seemed to be using the same type of 
qualifying reasoning presented here in this Talmudic text in his 
treatment of the limits of political, judicial and military power. That 

^^Hilkhot Melakhim, 4.10. 

^^Hilkhot Sanhedrin, 24.10. For the similar functions of Sanhedrin and king, see 

Hilkhot Mamrim, 1.2. 

^^B. Yebamot 39b re T. Yebamot 6.9; see Y. Yebamot 1.1 /2d. 

^^See Maim., Hilkhot Yibum Ve-Halitzah, 1.2. Cf. B. Yebamot 39b, Tos., s.v. 

"Amar Rab"; Rosh: Yebamot, chap. 4, no. 17. 

32 The Modern Age: Theology 

is why I have quoted it in this context. Indeed, there are other 
examples in the Taln^ud where our moral inadequacy disqualifies us 
from exercising certain powers initially granted to us by the Torah.^^ 

The problem of the exercise of political power over non-Jews is a 
relatively new problem for Jews. We are much more experienced in 
suffering Jewish powerlessness. In the mere fifty year span from 1938 to 
1988 we have run the full gamut of power. Yet we, more than any other 
people on earth, know in our very flesh how easily the most vicious 
abuse of power in all of human history was so easily rationalized by 
religious rhetoric. Although we do not derive norms from history 
directly, as I argued at the beginning of this paper, surely historical 
experience can vividly illustrate what we already know from the 
Torah to be true. Moreover, even by Maimonidean standards, are we so 
sure of our own moral purity that we can now embark on a program of 
subjugation of any other people without fear for our souls? Are we not 
afraid of seeming to resemble ever so much the moral refuse of our age, 
they who have shed and are shedding so much human blood? Has not 
our tradition added restrictions to our lives when the old leniencies 
might make us morally odious in the eyes of the world?'^*^ We are a 
people only because of the Torah, as Saadyah Gaon succinctly put it,'^^ 
and the Torah's highest value is shalom7^ The Torah requires neither 
our suicide nor our brutalization. For at a time in our history, one far 
more dangerous for our survival than this time, when the Roman legions 
were preparing to destroy the Temple and disperse our people, Rabban 
Yohanan ben Zakkai, in direct defiance of the zealots and miUtarists 
of that day, made his Realpolitik the proposition, "let us go forth and 
make peace with them" (nai/foq ve-na'ahayd shelama be-hacii/}/hu)7^ 

^^See, e.g., M. Sotah 9.9, T. Sotah 14.1 and B. Sotah 47b re Num. 5:31 and Hos. 

4:14; B. Kiddushin 12b re Deut. 24:1 (see Tos. s.v. "mishum"; Sifre: Debarim, no. 

268; Y. Yebamot 5.2/6d; B. Ketubot 8b); B. Baba Kama 8a re Deut. 24:11; B. 

Baba Metzia 47b and parallels, B. 'Erubin 81b (and Rashi, s.v. "debar Torah") re 

Lev. 27:19 (see B. Shabbat 128a, Tos., s.v. "ve-natan"); also, M. Berakhot 2.5 and 

Tur: 'Orah Hayyim, 70. 

''^See, e.g., B. Baba Kama 38a and Novak, The Image of the Non-Jew in 

Judaisjn, 60ff.; B. Baba Kama 113a-b; Y. Baba Metzia 2.5/8c; Maim., Hilkhot 

Gezelah V'Abedah, 11.3 and Karo, Kesef Mishneh thereon; R. Moses Isserles, 

Rema on Shulhan 'Arukh: 'Orah Hayyim, 334.26 and I. Jakobovits, "A Modern 

Blood-Libel - L Affaire Shahak," Tradition, 8.2 (Summer, 1966), 58-65. 

'^^'Emunot Ve-De'ot,3.7. 

''^See Sifre: Debarim, no. 199, ed. Finkelstein, 237 (and note thereon) in the very 

context of the obligation of "and you shall offer peace terms to her" (Deut. 


''^B. Gittin 56a. This text is invoked by Dr. Mordecai Breuer in his "Notes on the 

Issue of Returning the Territories of the Land of Israel and the Saving of 

Non-Jews in a Jewish Polity: Subject or Sovereign? 33 

By that policy he was able to secure "Yabneh and her sages," an 
achievement that saved both the Jewish body and the Jewish soul. His 
policy bespoke the true tendency of the Torah {da 'at Torah) then. I 
believe that it still bespeaks the true tendency of the Torah now. 

Human Life" (Heb.) published in a pamphlet, 'Af She-'Al: Mitzvah min Ha- 
Torah? by the religious peace movement in Israel, 'Oz Ve-Shalom (Jerusalem, 
1978), 15-16. In other words, one can see the action of Rabban Yohanan ben 
Zakkai as being normative. For historical analysis of this crucial episode in the 
life and career of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, see Jacob Neusner, A Life of 
Yohanan ben Zakkai, 2nd rev. ed. (Leiden, 1970), 145ff. Along the lines of 
rabbinic personal precedent being normative, see, e.g., B. Mo'ed Qatan 27b. 


Tikkun: A Lurianic Motif in 
Contemporary Jewish Thought 

Lawrence Fine 
Mount Holyoke College 

Isaac Luria (1534-1572) was the preeminent kabbalist of the 
sixteenth century, and the most prominent figure of the great 
renaissance of mystical life which took place in Safed from about 1530 
forward. As is well known, the influence of Luria's teachings - both his 
mythological conceptions and his ritual innovations - extended well 
beyond the geographical confines of the land of Israel, and well beyond 
his own lifetime. Assessing Lurianism, Gershom Scholem wrote that its 
influence "on Jewish history has certainly been no less considerable 
than that of Maimonides' 'Guide of the Perplexed'...."^ Elsewhere, 
Scholem asserted that Luria's "personal and historical influence went 
far deeper [than that of Moses Cordovero], and in the whole history of 
Kabbalah only the influence of the Zohar can measure up to his."^ 

Indeed, in diverse ways and on various levels, from the realm of 
popular piety to the arena of theological speculation, Lurianic 
Kabbalah exerted a tremendous impact upon Judaism in the 17th 
century in practically all parts of the Jewish world, and well into the 
18th amongst Eastern European Jewry. While important progress has 
been made in exploring this rich and complex subject, much remains to be 
learned about the repercussions of Lurianic Kabbalah in the variety of 
pre-modem contexts in which it took root.^ My purpose in the present 

^G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York, 1941), p. 251. 
^Scholem, Kabbalah (Jerusalem, 1977), p. 74. 

^The best known work in this regard is Scholem's monumental study of 
Sabbatianism in his Sabbatai Sevi (Princeton, 1973). Scholem believed that 


36 The Modern Age: Theology 

study is to ask about an altogether different chapter in the history of 
Lurianic Kabbalah, namely, the emergence of one of its major motifs, 
the notion of Tikkun, in contemporary Jewish thinking. What are some 
of the ways in which this Lurianic conception has been appropriated? 
And how can we make sense of the broad appeal which this language 
has for contemporary Jewish thinking? 


The outlines of the Lurianic myth have been recounted often 
enough, for the English reader, primarily through the scholarly 
expositions of Gershom Scholem.'^ Nevertheless, it will be worth our 
while to rehearse - even if briefly - the essential features of these 
exceedingly complex and elaborate teachings. This will permit 
comparisons between the original meaning of Luria's ideas and their 
contemporary transformations. 

Isaac Luria taught what amounts to a 16th century version of a 
gnostic myth, organized around three main themes, zimzum, shevirat 
ha-kelim, and tikkun. In contrast to the mythological conceptions of 
early Kabbalah, which conceived of the initial theogonic activity as 
an outward act of emanation, Luria describes the first action of divinity 
as an inward one. Zimzum refers to the process by which the Godhead 
contracts its essence, so to speak, by retreating "from Himself into 
Himself," abandoning a space in order to create an "empty" region. This 
step inward sought to solve the question of how the existence of the 
world is possible if divinity, which is Infinite, fills all space. The 
answer which Lurianic Kabbalah provides is that by an act of 
withdrawal, a space - infinitesimally small in comparison to God's 
infinity - is created in which all dimensions of existence can unfold. 

Sabbatianism must be understood primarily as a repercussion of Lurianism. 
Thus, the first hundred pages of this book are devoted to a discussion of 
Lurianic teachings in their original context, as well as to consideration of the 
spread of Lurianism in the first half of the 17th century, all for the purpose of 
establishing the background for Sabbatianism. While Scholem's views on this 
subject have come under challenge (see Moshe Idel, Kabbalah - New 
Perspectives (Yale, 1988), pp. 264-66), there can be no doubt that Sabbatian 
theology, if not the movement as a whole, owed a fundamental debt to Lurianic 
teachings. Important studies treating the influence of Lurianism upon a range 
of Italian thinkers in the 17th century include Tishby's work on the writing of 
Aaron Berechiah Modena and Abraham Azulai. See I. Tishby, Hiqrei 
Kabbalah ve-Sheluhoteha (Jerusalem, 1982). 

*G. Scholem, Major Trends, lecture 7. A more elaborate description of the 
Lurianic myth is I. Tishby, Torat ha-Ra we-ha-qelipah be-qabbalat ha-Ari 
(Jerusalem, 1971). 

Tikkun: A Lurianic Motif in Contemporary Jewish Thought 37 

Prior to this event, the different powers of divinity were 
harmoniously balanced without any apparent individuation or 
differentiation. In particular, the opposing forces of Mercy (Hesed) and 
Stern Judgment (Din) existed in a state of complete unity. But in the 
course of zimzum, Ein-Sof gathered in one place all the "roots" of Stern 
Judgment, leaving them behind in the region now abandoned. In 
addition, a positive residue of divine light, known as reshimu 
("traces"), remained in the empty space. This resulted in a separation 
between Din and Hesed and the establishment of a measure of 
independence for the forces of Din. Thus, from one point of view, the 
zimzum can be regarded as an act of purification in which the "dross" 
within God was purged from His innermost being. 

Following this, a third element, a ray from God's hidden essence 
(Ein Sof), entered the empty space and acted upon the existing mixture 
of reshimu and Din. This illuminating ray serves as a permanent link 
between Ein Sof and the empty space. The form of the divine produced 
by this first ray of light is termed the "Primordial Man" (Adam 
Qadmon). The latter is described with vivid anthropomorphic detail. 
The lights shining from Adam Qadmon' s "ears," "nose," and "mouth" 
constituted a collective or perfectly unified structure. But the light 
issuing from the "eyes" emanated in a different manner. They were 
atomized or separated into different sefirot so as to require their 
containment in special vessels or qelim. These vessels, composed of a 
"thicker" light, were to serve as "shells" for the purer light. In the 
process of emanation, however, some of these vessels were unable to 
contain the Hght within them, and consequently shattered under the 
pressure, scattering themselves into the empty space. This event is 
known in the Lurianic texts as "shevirat ha-qelim," or the "breaking of 
the vessels." 

In the wake of this event most of the light that had been contained 
in the vessels returned to their divine source, while the remainder fell 
below into the empty space and attached themselves to the now broken 
shards of vessels. From these shards of broken vessels the powers of the 
qelipot, that is, "husks" or "shells" were produced. These are the evil 
forces of the "other side," the sitra ahra. In addition to constituting the 
source of evil, the broken shards are also the basis for the material 
world. The sparks of light that failed to return to their source above 
remained trapped, as it were, among the qelipot. The qelipot, in turn, 
are constantly nourished and strengthened by the holy sparks attached 
to them. Indeed, were it not for these sparks the qelipot would lose 
their life and power altogether. 

The challenge which Lurianic teaching now faced was to determine 
how to mend the injury suffered by the Godhead. Tikkun refers to the 

38 The Modern Age: Theology 

processes by which restoration and repair were to be accomplished. 
They constitute the greatest part of Lurianic theory and are complex in 
the extreme. According to Lurianic teaching, the soul of the first man, 
Adam, was composed of all the various "worlds" or levels of divine 
reality, and was intended to extricate and reintegrate the divine 
sparks that remained within the qelipot. When Adam was created the 
cosmic process of tikkun had virtually been completed. It was his 
project to finalize the restorative process through contemplative 
exercises. He was capable of doing so as he was a perfect microcosm of 
Adam Qadmon. Through his mystical activities Adam could have 
separated the sparks from their demonic shells, thus reestablishing 
the primordial unity of all things. Having purged the realm of hoUness 
of the final vestiges of dross, the qelipot would have sunk beneath the 
lowest spiritual worlds and lost all their power. The cosmos would 
have achieved the original state of perpetual communion with the 
divine light, and the historical process as we know it would have 

None of this came about, however, due to Adam's sin. His 
transgression interrupted his own communion with the upper spheres 
and brought about his attachment to the lower worlds. Moreover, the 
processes of tikkun which had already taken place were reversed; the 
"worlds" which had begun to rise and to return to their proper position 
once again fell below. Good and evil were again thoroughly mixed in 
with each other. Humanity and all reality in the lower world of 
Asiyah became materialized. And the sin of Adam caused the sparks of 
all human souls that had been contained within his own to fall and 
become imprisoned as well within the qelipot. 

Tikkun, therefore, entails two separate but related processes. First, 
it means the gathering of the divine lights that had fallen into the 
realm of the qelipot as a result of the "breaking of the vessels." Second, 
it means the gathering of all the holy souls likewise imprisoned in the 
qelipot. Tikkun is to be achieved by human beings through their 
contemplative action. Every religious act requires contemplative 
concentration on the various dimensions of divinity and the various 
combinations of the divine name in order to "raise up the fallen 
sparks." The focus of concentration is the inner dynamics of 
reorganization and restructuring that takes place in the course of acts of 
devotional piety. The kinds of activities by which the kabbalist seeks 
to accomplish these goals include a) liturgical prayer; b) the 
performance of all other mitsvot; and c) the practice of certain special 
exercises, such as those known as yihudim. The same general 
contemplative idea characterizes each of these types of activity, and 

Tikkun: A Lurianic Motif in Contemporary Jewish Thought 39 

Hayyim Vital's versions of Luria's teachings spell out the proper 
mystical intentions (kavvanot) in great detail.^ 

On the basis of the above account, several general observations 
pertinent to the present study may be made. 

1) The condition of disarray in which the cosmos finds itself, 
according to Lurianic Kabbalah, is a result of two different 
catastrophic "falls," one of an intra-divine nature, prior to and 
independent of human behavior, the other a consequence of 
human sin. 

2) The material world as we know it, as was the case with the 
gnostic myths of late antiquity, is deemed repugnant, evil, 
inhospitable, opposed in every way to that which is 
immaterial, divine light and the soul. 

3) The project of human life is to separate the holy from the 
material world, and thus divest that world of all existence. All 
existence will return to its original spiritual condition, a state 
synonymous with the messianic age. Lurianism is thus, again, 
like the gnostic myths of an earlier time, a complete rejection of 
the world as we know it, and of the historical process. The 
vision of redemption is a fundamentally spiritual one in which 
all things return to olam ha-tikkun. Thus, the tikkun of which 
Lurianic Kabbalah speaks is not that of this world, but of 
"worlds" beyond it. 

4) The responsibility for bringing all this about is a human one, 
not a divine one. Divinity is, in effect, a passive beneficiary of 
the actions of human beings. 

^Studies by the present author concerning Lurianic techniques of 
contemplation include "The Contemplative Practice of Yihudim in Lurianic 
Kabbalah," in Jezoish Spirituality, vol. II, ed. A. Green (Crossroad, 1987), pp. 64- 
98, and "The Study of Torah as a Rite of Theurgical Contemplation in Lurianic 
Kabbalah," in Approaches to Judaism in Medieval Times, vol. Ill, ed. D. 
Blumenthal (Scholars Press, 1988), pp. 29-40. On closely related matters, see my 
articles "The Art of Metoposcopy: A Study in Isaac Luria's Charismatic 
Knowledge," Association for Jewish Studies Review II (1986), 79-101; "Maggidic 
Revelation in the Teachings of Isaac Luria," in Mystics, Philosophers, and 
Politicians: Essays in Honor of Alexander Altmann, eds. J. Reinharz and D. 
Swetschinski (Duke, 1982), pp. 141-57, and "Recitation of Mishnah as a Vehicle 
for Mystical Inspiration: A Contemplative Technique Taught by Hayyim Vital," 
Revue des Etudes Juives 141 (1982), 183-99. 

40 The Modern Age: Theology 


Tikkun and Theological Discourse 

One of the arenas in which the language of Lurianic Kabbalah has 
come to play a part in recent years is that of theological discourse. I 
want to illustrate this phenonienon by reference to its use as a resource 
for theological reflection on the Holocaust. In a major work published 
in 1982, To Mend The World - Foundations of Future Jewish Thought, 
Emil Fackenheim produced his most ambitious statement to date. This 
work continues Fackenheim's project of several decades in which he 
seeks to come to grips religiously with the Holocaust. The 
philosophical complexity of this work hardly lends itself to an easy 
presentation of its point of view in the present context. What interests 
us, however, is the central place which Lurianic notions have in this 
book, particularly the conception of tikkun. Indeed, Fackenheim's 
fascination with, and commitment to the category of tikkun, is evident 
in the very title of the book, nothing less than an adaptation of the 
words tikkun olam. 

In part four of his book, entitled "Historicity, Rupture, and Tikkun 
Olam ("Mending the World"): From Rosenzweig Beyond Heidegger," 
Fackenheim organizes his ideas around the themes of rupture and 
mending. The key which unlocks the door for Fackenheim in this 
crucial part of his book is his assertion that "the pivotal fact for us 
will be this, that a novum too is to be found in the resistance offered by 
the most radically singled-out victims [of the Nazis]. "^ According to 
Fackenheim, the victims resisted - in various ways, on various levels - 
what Jean Amery called the Germans' "logic of destruction." The fact of 
this resistance, when grasped, leaves us with "no choice but to be 
radically, permanently astonished."^ Even more, it leads beyond the 
impasse which the Holocaust otherwise creates with respect to both 
"thought" and "life." 

Authentic thought was actual during the Holocaust among resisting 
victims; therefore such thought must be possible for us after the event: 
and, being possible, it is mandatory. Moreover, their resisting thought 
pointed to and helped make possible a resisting life; our post- 
Holocaust thought, however authentic in other respects, would still 
lapse into unauthenticity if it remained in an academically self 
enclosed circle - if it failed to point to, and help make possible, a post- 
Holocaust life.^ 

^Emil Fackenheim, To Mend the World (Schocken, 1982), p. 201. 


^Ibid, p. 249. 

Tikkun: A Lurianic Motif in Coutemporanj Jewish Thought 41 

The Holocaust represents "a total rupture" insofar as "the idea of 
man" died at Auschwitz, and because "'our estrangement from God' has 
become so 'cruel' that, even if He were to speak to us, we have no way of 
understanding how to 'recognize' Him." It is this conviction that a 
complete rupture has occurred which leads to Fackenheim's fascination 
with the Lurianic notions of the "breaking of the vessels" and tikkun. 
He is impressed by the fact that Kabbalah goes beyond a view found in 
rabbinic Midrash according to which God weeps at midnight on account 
of the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel. For the 
Kabbalah, of course, Divinity itself suffers by virtue of the exile of the 
Shekhinah. Fackenheim correctly understands this kabbalistic notion 
as referring to a rupture of cosmic dimensions "that involves no less than 
the 'life and action' of Divinity itself."^ 

The kabbalists, says Fackenheim, "practiced their Tikkun," their 
"impulse below" - "Torah, prayer and mitsvot" - calling forth an 
"impulse from above". ...^*^ Since Fackenheim insists on the radical 
uniqueness of the Holocaust, he argues that no Tikkun is possible of that 
rupture. But in the wake of this assertion he makes a paradoxical 
claim, and writes that the impossible Tikkun is also necessary. Writing 
of the victims, he asserts: 

Then and there, many doubtless thought of their "Torah, prayer and 
mitsvot" quite consciously in terms of a Tikkun. Others, when engaged 
in the act of kiddush ha-hayyim, doubtless did not. Yet we on our part 
must think of all such acts of kiddush ha-hayyim as a Tikkun.... A 
Tikkun, here and now, is mandatory for a Tikkun, then and there, was 
actual. It is true that because a Tikkun of that rupture is impossible we 
cannot live, after the Holocaust, as men and women have lived before. 
However, if the impossible Tikkun were not also necessary, and hence 
possible, we could not live at all.^^ 

This, then, is the crucial fact for Fackenheim. A mending is both 
possible and necessary now only because acts of mending, deliberate and 
otherwise, took place then. For Fackenheim, the Tikkun which is 
mandatory transcends all boundaries. The Holocaust "calls into 
question not this or that way of being human, but all ways."^'^ "Hence a 
Tikkun of the Holocaust (if a Tikkun there is) transcends its limited 
context in significance. It is Good News to the world. The thought we 
are in search of - philosophical. Christian, and Jewish itself - will 
therefore have one universality: that of a witness. Its Tikkun will be 

^Ibid., p. 253. 
^^Ibid., p. 254. 
"/b/rf,. p. 254. 
^^Ibid., p. 262. 

42 The Modern Age: Theology 

what in Jewish tradition Tikkun is always meant to be - Tikkun 
Olam."^'^ Fackenheim goes on to discuss at length these several types of 
Tiqqun, Jewish, Philosophical, and Christian. 

It is clear that Fackenheim's views did not arise out of a study of 
Kabbalah; the essential ideas presented here can be traced to his 
earlier work which makes no reference to Kabbalah. What he has 
done, though, is to appropriate Lurianic themes in order to express some 
of those ideas. At the same time there is no reason to rule out the 
possibility that the vivid and radical character of the relevant 
Lurianic motifs may have helped shape his thinking to some degree, at 
least as it expresses itself in this particular work. We do not have to 
guess what the source of Fackenheim's encounter with Lurianic 
mysticism was. Citing Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism he writes that 
"like every other writer on the Kabbalah, I am greatly indebted to 
Scholem's work, all the more so because, in my case, a concern with the 
Kabbalah assumed real seriousness only with the present work."^'^ 

In To Mend the World the conception of Tikkun undergoes a 
fundamental transformation in meaning. While Fackenheim accurately 
recognizes that in its original context Lurianic myth speaks of rupture 
within Divinity itself, he is unconcerned with the fact that the 
mending which Lurianism envisions is different in kind from that 
which he has in mind. For Fackenheim the world to be mended is this 
world. For Philosophy it means the restoration of "the Idea of Man." 
For Christianity, it means a rebuilding of a "broken Church" through 
acts of moral responsibility vis-a-vis the Jewish People, and 
unconditional dedication to the latter's autonomy, integrity, and well 
being. And for Judaism it means, among other things, a recovery of 
Jewish tradition, even if understood differently by reUgious and secular 
Jews. On the other hand, for Lurianism, the mending towards which all 
devotion is directed, as seen earlier, entails the restoration of the 
world of Divinity. With the divestment of all holiness from this 
world, the tikkun of that "world" from which all reality originated 
will be realized. What Lurianism and Fackenheim's theology have in 
common, however, is the conviction that human beings are responsible 
for tikkun. 

In a brief essay, pubHshed in 1981, entitled "The Holocaust and 
Jewish Survival," Ismar Schorsch also explores the meaning of the 
Holocaust for contemporary Judaism. Schorsch includes among his 
concerns the theological challenges raised by the Holocaust, and turns 

^Hhid., p. 253. 

Tikkun: A Lurianic Motif in Contemporary Jewish Thought 43 

to the question of whether Lurianic Kabbalah might serve 
contemporary theological ends: 

The catastrophic expulsion of Spanish Jewry in 1492 has often been 
pointed to as an instructive model for post-Holocaust Jewry. The 
relative size of the communities, the traumatic psychic effects, and 
the length of time required to formulate a viable theological response 
all seem comparable. Conspicuously, however, students of the 
Holocaust have failed to explore the utility of Lurianic Kabbalah for 
neutralizing the theological waste in the debris of Hitler's Europe, 
despite the universal celebration of its primary expositor, Gershom 

After a short exposition of Lurianic myth, Schorsch writes of the Safed 

A devout cluster of gifted spirits dared to craft a theological 
superstructure which accorded with the anguish of their reality. In so 
doing, they have provided us with a seminal theological model for our 
own dilemma. ^^ 

He goes on to identify four features of Lurianic teaching which 
strike him as being important for contemporary theological purposes. 
He asserts that "the Safed Kabbalists brilliantly translated the 
Jewish fate of Galut into resoundingly universal terms," by recognizing 
that "the rootlessness of Jewish existence mirrored the basic flaw of the 
cosmos."^-^ Thus, according to Schorsch, the meaning of Jewish suffering 
was held to lay in its typicality, not its uniqueness. Here, it seems to me 
Schorsch is over interpreting a bit. While it is true that by its nature 
Lurianic myth spoke in cosmic, and thus in some sense "universal" tern\s, 
the Lurianists were not compelled by any sense of "shared fate" with 
humanity at large, as Schorsch appears to imply. The "human 
condition" was not a category which played any role in the 
sensibilities of these particular sixteenth century Jews. One can 
certainly see the appeal, however, from a contemporary point of view, 
of building on what might be called the potential universal 
implications of Lurianic teaching. 

Second, Schorsch points to the fact "the Lurianic system is marked 
by a profound sense of the reality of evil," and "did not allow for 
ignoring or minimizing the power of evil." Moreover, he correctly notes 
that the ultimate source of evil is God Himself. While he doesn't spell 
it out, the obvious point for Schorsch is that Lurianism teaches 
contemporary Jews of the need to confront the reality of evil, and that 

^^Midst ream, ]anuaTy, 1981, vol. xxvii, no. 1, p. 41. 



44 The Modern Age: Theology 

coping with that evil appears to be a necessary part of perfecting 
Divinity. Thus, he says that "Paradoxically, the completeness of 
divine perfection must also entail the presence of evil, which in turn 
gives rise to the need for purification."^^ 

Third, Schorsch points to the fact that "the figure of God in 
Lurianic Kabbalah is surprisingly passive. He is either unwilling or 
unable to prevent the vessels from being shattered. Whatever the 
reason, there is a manifest limitedness to His exercise of power.. .."^^ 
Finally, he recognizes that for Lurianic Kabbalah human beings, most 
specifically Jews, are responsible for "the ultimate defeat of the forces 
of chaos. "20 While he is surely correct in this assertion, as I have 
already indicated with reference to Fackenheim, Schorsch again goes 
beyond Lurianic conceptions when he asserts that "the exilic existence 
of the Jew is not a punishment but a mission to raise the sparks of divine 
light helplessly trapped in the world of darkness. "^^ On the contrary, 
Luria did teach that the situation in which human beings find 
themselves is a direct consequence of sin. Were it not for Adam's 
transgression, humanity would never have taken on material form in 
the first place. And were it not for perpetual human transgression, the 
task of tikkun would have been accomplished long ago. Thus, it is true 
that human beings have a great mission, but it is also true that this 
mission is, in significant part, necessitated by sin. 

The appeal of Lurianic theology, then, for Schorsch, lies in its 
acknowledgement of the reality of evil, the limitations of God's own 
power, as well as the centrality and efficacy of human action. On a 
broader level, Schorsch implies that the very fact that the 
individuals who espoused these teachings were able to confront their 
situation in religiously creative terms, is itself exemplary for 
contemporary Judaism: 

This Lurianic conception of the cosmos was born of religious despair 
and not of shallow rationalism. Yet rarely has a spiritual response to 
crisis been more creative. Driven by the dismay of an age in which 
history had leveled inherited theological structures, Lurianic 
Kabbalah incorporated and transcended that calamitous reality by 
means of an inspired, new validating myth, which soon revitalized 
Judaism. It is self evident that we cannot transpose the graphic and 
intricate metaphoric rhetoric of that myth to our own intractable 
predicament, though ultimately myth may be the only way to 
approximate the tragedy of a chaotic world. 

^^Ibid., p. 42. 

Tikkun: A Lurianic Motif in Contemporary Jewish Thought 45 

Even though Schorsch does not explicitly employ the expression 
tikkun olam, it is clear that the notions of evil and exile on the one 
hand, and world-healing through the activity of human beings on the 
other, derive from his imderstanding of the Lurianic notions of shevirat 
ha-qelim and tikkun as characterized in his essay. It is worth pointing 
out that, as with Emil Fackenheim, Schorsch's acquaintance with 
Lurianism comes not from a confrontation with the original sources 
themselves, but from scholarly expositions of Lurianic teaching. In 
Schorsch's case, reference is made to Scholem's Sabbatai Sevi, as well 
as to Isaiah Tishby's Hebrew monograph on Lurianic myth.'^^ In calling 
attention to this fact, my interest is not to belittle the practice of 
relying on secondary presentations. Rather, it is in raising the question 
about the relationship between critical scholarship and constructive 
religious thinking, a matter to which I will return. 


Tikkun and Moral Discourse 

Another context in which Lurianic language has demonstrated 
considerable appeal is the arena of moral discourse. In his analysis of 
American Jewry entitled Where Are V\fe? The Inner Life of America's 
Jews, Leonard Fein takes up, among many other things, the question of 
ethical commitment. ■^^ Fein begins chapter ten, "Intersections: A 
Formulated Meaning" in the following way: 

A formulated meaning for American Jews: tikkun olam - the repair of 
the world. This is (we say, and mean) God's world, but it does not work 
as it was meant to. The story begins with Eden, and goes on through 
the trials and errors of all the generations since. This exquisitely 
organic whole, this ecological masterpiece, has been fractured a 
thousand times, has been scarred and marred and blighted and 
polluted and bloodied, its beauty transformed, become hideous; it 
does not work, not as it was meant to, not as it might. 
We are called to see the beauty through the blemishes, to believe it 
can be restored, and to feel ourselves implicated in its restoration. We 
are called to be fixers. We are so called whether Eden is fable or fact, 
whether Sinai is law or lore. And all the rest, as it is said, is 

What is fascinating about this passage is that even though its 
author - unlike Fackenheim and Schorsch - does not refer to Luria and 

23l. Fein, YJhere Are y\le? The Inner life of America's Jews (New York, 1988). 
24/b/rf, p. 198. 

46 The Modern Age: Theology 

his teachings (other than by the use of the phrase tikkun olam) in any 
overt way, he is still telling the Lurianic story, after a fashion. Let us 
look at his language. The world has been "fractured," "marred," 
"blemished," but it can be "restored," and we can be its "fixers." Here 
there are no references to sixteenth-century mysticism, no citations of 
Scholem or Tishby, but somewhere along the line, the Lurianic myth 
has been appropriated in a such a way that only the barest bones are 

Indeed, if I am right that the Lurianic story is lurking in the 
shadows of Fein's text, it is a story which has been projected onto 
Judaism as a whole, no longer the property of a very particular time 
and place. "Tikkun Olam is a meaning that carried us through much of 
Jewish history," says Fein.25 Moreover, for Fein tikkun olam refers to 
the values of ethical responsibility and social justice. Thus, he writes 
that "many American Jews have come to view ethics as the very essence 
of Judaism. It is the thread in Judaism's tapestry that weaves most 
neatly into America's own moral claims. ...American Jewry is 
distinguished. the opportunity it is offered, as an empowered 
community, to move from ethics to justice, to define itself as a 
partnership in tikkun olam. In America, in our time, such a partnership 
can serve as our preeminent motive, the path through which our past is 
vindicated, our present warranted, and our future affirmed."'^^ 

In a critical vein, Fein argues that the idea of tikkun olam is not 
the same as the practice of it: 

Ethics as explanation of what Judaism is and as consolation for what 
Jews have been through are not yet ethics as informing purpose, as 
culture, as description of what the Jewish community is about. Tikkun 
Olam as a slogan is not yet tikkun olam as a passion. An empowered 
people must soon rather than later make the transition from promise 
to fulfillment, lest its claims be rendered incredible.^'' 

A similar understanding of tikkun olam in a very different context 
is found in Lawrence Kushner's The Book of Miracles - A Young Person's 
Guide to Jewish Spirituality, published in 1987.^^ The goal of this 
book, writes Kushner, is "to introduce a way of religious thinking that 
need not be outgrown because it is simplistic or juvenile."^^ It constitutes 
"an attempt to introduce or reintroduce some elements of Jewish 

^Hbid, p. 199. 

^^L. Kushner, The Book of Miracles - A Young Person's Guide to Jewish 
Spirituality (New York, 1987). 
29/fc/rf, p. xi. 

Tikkun: A Lurianic Motif in Contemporary Jeioish Thought 47 

spiritual thinking that lately have been ignored or condemned as 
heretical. "•^^ Kushner also indicates that the primary sources which 
serve as the basis for his stories and teachings have been cited, because 
Jewish spirituality depends on the "conversation between student and 
sacred text." The volume is divided into four parts, "Seeing," 
"Hearing," "Doing," and "Person." The second of four chapters in the 
part called "Doing," is entitled "Repairing the World. "^^ I want to 
quote this at some length before discussing it: 

In sixteenth-century Tsefat, Rabbi Isaac Luria observed that in his 
world, like ours, many things seemed to be wrong. People suffered 
from hunger, disease, hatred, and war. "How could God allow such 
terrible things to happen?" wondered Luria. "Perhaps," he suggested, 
"it is because God needs our help." He explained his answer with a 
mystical story. 

When first setting out to make the world, God planned to pour a Holy 
Light into everything in order to make it real. God prepared vessels to 
contain the Holy Light. But something went wrong. The light was so 
bright that the vessels burst, shattering into millions of broken pieces 
like dishes dropped on the floor. The Hebrew phrase which Luria used 
for this "breaking of the vessels" is sh'virat ha-kaylim. 

Our world is a mess because it is filled with broken fragments. When 
people fight and hurt one another, they allow the world to remain 
shattered. The same can be said of people who have pantries filled 
with food and let others starve. According to Luria, we live in a cosmic 
heap of broken pieces, and God cannot repair it alone. 
That is why God created us and gave us freedom of choice. We are 
free to do whatever we please with our world. We can allow things to 
remain broken or, as Luria urged, we can try to repair the mess. Luria's 
phrase for "repairing the world" is tikkun olam. 

As Jews our most important task in life is to find what is broken in our 
world and repair it. The commandments in the Torah instruct us, not 
only on how to live as Jews, but on how to mend creation.... 
When you see something that is broken, fix it. When you find 
something that is lost, return it. When you see something that needs 
to be done, do it. In that way, you will take care of your world and 
repair creation. If all the people in the world were to do so, our world 
would truly be a Garden of Eden, the way God meant it to be. If 
everything broken could be repaired, then everyone and everything 
would fit together like the pieces of one gigantic jigsaw puzzle. But, for 
people to begin the great task of repairing creation, they must first 
take responsibility. 

In this simple, beautiful retelling of the Lurianic story for children, 
Kushner begins by attributing to Isaac Luria motives which are not, of 

^^Ibid., pp. xi-xii. 
^^bid, pp. 47-50. 

48 The Modern Age: Theology 

course, part of Lurianic teachings themselves. On the other hand, he 
takes the Lurianic myth very seriously by placing at the center of his 
story the "breaking of the vessels" as an intra-divine process, without 
reference to human transgression. Only afterwards does he address the 
question of human responsibility by asserting that human failure 
allows the world to reniain shattered. Despite the utter simplicity of 
the story in Kushner's presentation, this retelling thus preserves in 
some measure crucial features of the Lurianic myth. The remainder of 
his story stresses the role of human choice and responsibility in 
mending what has become broken. There is also a tinge of the messianic 
character of Lurianism in Kushner's suggestion that if all people do 
tikkim then "our world would truly be a Garden of Eden."-^^ 


Tikkun as Political Discourse 

In 1986 a new journal of Jewish affairs burst onto the scene. Named 
TIKKUN, it is subtitled "A Quarterly Jewish Critique of Politics, 
Culture and Society." At the top of the cover the following words are 
found: (te kun) To mend, repair and transform the world. The premier 
issue included a lengthy editorial statement by the journal's editor, 
Michael Lerner. In it we find the range of issues and agendas which 
constitute the rationale for TIKKUN . Lerner's statement is an 
unabashed celebration of the liberal tradition in modern Judaism, an 
explicit repudiation of the neo-conservatism of Commentary Magazine, 
and a call for the revitalization of Jewish social and political activism 
on a variety of levels: 

■^-Another interesting and creative educational volume which takes up the 
Lurianic myth is by Joel Lurie Grishaver and Beth Huppin, entitled Tsedakah, 
Gemilut Chasadim, and Ahavah - A Manual for World Repair (Denver, 1983), 
published by Alternatives in Religious Education. This book is devoted in its 
entirety to the notion of mending the world, and begins with a fairly elaborate 
account of the Lurianic myth. Unfortunately, it mistakenly and repeatedly 
attributes these teachings to Sefer Yetzirahil), a work probably produced 
somewhere between the 3rd and 6th centuries, and makes no reference 
whatsoever to Luria or 16th century Safed. In addition, unlike Kushner's simple 
and lucid account, the one here goes into detail in a way which renders it rather 
incomprehensible for a young person. Nevertheless, it makes its point clearly 
enough at the end of the narration when we read that "The Jew is supposed to 
be a fixer - God's partner in completing creation." (p. 5) The rest of the book is 
devoted to an extended series of stories and practical applications of the idea 
of tiqqi-in olam. 

Tikkun: A Lurianic Motif in Contemporary Jewish Thought 49 

The notion that the world could and should be different than it is has 
deep roots within Judaism. But in the late 1980's it is an idea that 
seems strangely out of fashion - and those who still dare to hope often 
view themselves as isolated, if not irrelevant. In the context of 
Western societies too often intoxicated with their own material and 
technological success, in which the ethos of personal fulfillment has 
the status of "common sense," those who talk of fundamental 
transformation seem to be dreaming.. ..T/KKL7N MAGAZINE hopes 
to provide a voice for those who still dare to hope, for those who are not 
embarrassed to dream, for those Jews and non-Jews alike who are still 
moved by the radical spirit of the Prophets and who insist on keeping 
their message alive.^-^ 

The editorial goes on to identify a range of issues w^ith which its 
author is concerned. They constitute an amalgam of political, social, 
theological, and religious problems, all united under the umbrella of a 
liberal/leftish/"prophetic" commitment. This multi-limbed agenda is 
reflected in the responses to a symposium found in the first issue. A 
number of individuals were invited to respond to questions concerning 
what kind of tikkun the world needs, what resources are available to 
bring to that tikkun, and what role TIKKUN can play in this process. 
Their answers are like a Rorschach test; the tikkun which each 
symposiast calls for depends upon the particular preoccupation of the 
person involved. 

Several respondents express overt poHtical concerns as the object of 
their desire for "mending." For Gar Alperovitz, for example, tikkun 
involves a sort of socialist-oriented political, economic, and social 
reorganization in which "there must be a reconstruction of institutions 
accountable to the public at large - and of structures which give 
priority to values other than those of profit."^^ For others the question 
of tikkun has to do with the nature of contemporary Zionism. For Laura 
Gellman and Drorah Setel tikkun is not a matter of geo-political 
concerns, but the "politics" of Jewish feminism. Thus Setel: "Because my 
identity as a Jew and as a feminist is inseparable, my vision of tikkun 
olam is one of Jewish feminist transformation."^^ Setel rejects 
"patriarchal" Judaism since it is, in her view, characterized by 
"dualistic, or separational, ways of thinking," in which dichotomies 
are always being drawn, such as between Israel and the nations, men 
and women. Sabbath and the weekdays, for example. By contrast, 
according to her, there is a compatabihty between feminist values and 
values found in Jewish mystical tradition. 

^^TIKKUN, vol 1, no. 1, p. 3. 
34/bfrf, p. 15. 
35/bid, p. 114. 

50 The Modern Age: Theology 

In a Jewish framework the concepts of unity (ichud) and tikkun olam 
correspond to feminist understandings of the significance of 
relationship.. ..Both world views find meaning in the nature and 
experience of connection and interrelationshp. Both reject the notion 
that individual transformation can take place in the absence of social 
justice or that institutional change is sufficient without a change of 
consciousness. In addressing these processes, both systems provide 
important models and challenges to the other.^^ 

Setel invests the notion of tikkun with an array of meanings which 
one would be hard pressed to discover in the mystical tradition itself. 
Nevertheless, what is interesting is that she seeks a connection at all 
between her conception of tikkun and that tradition, something which 
most of the other participants in this symposium do not do.^'^ Even 
though this symposium generated a variety of concerns, the general 
tendency here is political in the broad sense. These are individuals 
who are interested in changing behaviors and attitudes in the public 
arena, a point of view which is compatible with the spirit of TIKKUN 
as a whole. 


The materials surveyed here provide a fascinating example, in my 
view, of the relationship between contemporary critical scholarship 
and constructive thought. Whatever the ultimate results of the 
revisionism to which his work is currently being subjected, there is no 
dispute that the scholarly research of Gershom Scholem has had an 
immense impact on our understanding of the history of Judaism and 
Jewish history. But Scholem's contribution has gone far beyond the 
confines of scholarly discourse. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 
Sabbatai Sevi, On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism, and his other 
works in English, have been read by a very diverse general audience. 
Thus, a philosophical thinker far removed from mystical interests such 
as Emil Fackenheim, an historian of modern Judaism such as Ismar 
Schorsch, a rabbi/story teller such as Lawrence Kushner, find 
themselves drawing upon Scholem's expositions and formulations of 
esoteric materials in order to present their own creative views on a 
variety of questions. 

While these authors - scholars and teachers of Judaica in their own 
right - have adopted and adapted Lurianic ideas directly from 
Scholem (and from other scholarly expositions of the kabbalistic 

^^Ibid, p. 114. 

^''Two others who do refer, in rather different ways, to the kabbalistic tradition, 

are Daniel Landes and Zalman Schacter, pp. 116-119. 

Tikkun: A Lurianic Motif in Contemporary Jewish Thought 51 

tradition), others have clearly appropriated the notion of tikkun 
without recourse to Lurianism or Scholem. Thus, for example, Michael 
Lerner's original editorial statement in TIKKUN makes absolutely no 
mention of and betrays no interest in the kabbalistic tradition which is 
the source of his journal's name. Leonard Fein can write of tikkun as if it 
were a central conception of Judaism as a whole, one which any Jew 
should be able to recognize automatically. A middle-aged Jewish male 
searching for female companionship can place a personal ad in an 
Indianapolis magazine and identify himself as searching for a woman 
"committed to tikkun olam." 

It seems clear that many who use this expression have derived it 
from sources other than the mystical tradition. As far as I am aware, 
the first use of the expression tikkun olam in this country was by 
Shlomo Bardin, the founder of the Brandeis Camp Institute in 
California.38 Bardin focused on the notion of tikkun olam at least as 
early as the 1950's. Bardin believed that the Alenu prayer was the 
most important expression of Jewish values, particularly the expression 
le-taken olam be-malchut shaddai, typically translated as "when the 
world shall be perfected under the reign of the Almighty." While the 
Alenu clearly has in mind the eradication of idolatry, and universal 
faith in the God of Israel, Bardin understood these words to refer to the 
obligation of Jews' to work for a more perfect world. By 1970 the 
expression tikkun olam was adopted by United Synagogue Youth, the 
national youth organization of the Conservative Movement.^^ In that 
year it changed the title of its social action programs from "Building 
Spiritual Bridges" to Tikkun Olam. To this day United Synagogue 
Youth channels all of its social action activities and zedakah programs 
through the Tikkun Olam project. In the late 1970's the New Jewish 
Agenda, an organization devoted to progressive rehgious and social 
values, employed the slogan Tikkun Olam to capture the spirit of its 
ideology. None of these institutions, however, appear to have been 
influenced by kabbalistic conceptions. However, by the late 1970's and 
early 1980's, as we have seen through many of the writers presented 
here, tikkun olam became identified with Kabbalah. It may be that 
this expression had become commonplace by the 1970's, in part through 
the influence of the language of Alenu, and that authors familiar with 
Lurianic mysticism now began to identify it with that tradition. 

^^My gratitude to Bruce Powell and Hannah Kuhn of the Brandeis Institute for 

information about Shlomo Bardin's thinking. 

3^1 am indebted to Jules Gutin, director of the Tikkun Olam Project of United 

Synagogue Youth, as well as Danny Siegel, a former president of USY, for this 


52 The Modern Age: Theology 

No matter how tikkun olam came to be identified with Lurianism, 
it represents an amazing journey of ideas! The technical language of 
Lurianic Kabbalah, originating in a circle of contemplative mystics in 
the second half of the sixteenth century in Palestine, and representing 
what is arguably the most complex and esoteric literature in all of 
Judaism, is brought to contemporary attention through critical 
scholarship, only to resurface in a personal ad in the American 
Midwest in the second half of the twentieth century. 

What is most fascinating about this journey of ideas is the change 
of meaning which has taken place, and to which I pointed in discussing 
Fackenheim's use of tikkun. As indicated earUer, in its original context 
tikkun had to do with the repair of divinity, and was part of an 
eschatalogical vision of things which anticipated the end of history 
and nature as we know it. The tikkun to be achieved involved the 
dissolution of the material world in favor of a purely spiritual 
existence, similar to that which existed before intra-divine 
catastrophe and before human sin. This conception thus bears little 
similarity to the kind of "mending" which most contemporary 
exponents of tikkun have in mind. For the latter, tikkun is a byword for 
social, moral, or political activism of one sort or another. For some, as 
we have seen, it has deeper theological or spiritual meaning. But for 
all of the individuals whose ideas were discussed here, tikkun clearly 
involves "repairing" the condition of this world, rather than the 
Lurianic mending of olam ha-tikkun, spiritual worlds beyond our 
normal experience. Moreover, if there is still mythical thinking taking 
place here, it is operating at a rather weak level. The highly charged 
mystical symbolism of Lurianic literature, with its endless 
anthropomorphic description of God's inner Hfe, its multiple levels of 
reality, its impressive convictions about the power of the 
contemplative imagination, has given way to the bare bones of 
"rupture" and "mending." 

Despite these essential distinctions, there are important 
resemblances between Lurianic theology and contemporary thought, 
some of which have already been alluded to in the course of this 
discussion. These resemblances, in my view, help explain the attraction 
which Lurianic language has for contemporary Jewish thinking. 

The notion of an ontological rupture and shattering - which stands 
at the heart of Lurianic mysticism - has the capacity to strike a deeply 
sympathetic chord in a generation which experienced the destruction of 
European Jewry, or for a generation confronted by the unprecedented 
danger of global nuclear calamity. Similarly, the focus on human power 
and human responsibility, in place of divine power and responsibility, 
which characterizes Lurianism, is a potent theological tool in 

Tikkun: A Lurxamc Motif in Contemporary Jewish Thought 53 

confronting the dilemma of theodicy in our own time.'*^ Some, like 
Ismar Schorsch, appear to recognize this in rather deliberate ways. But 
even for others, who do not draw such connections, the language of 
"mending," by its nature, implies the centrality of human 
responsibility for improving the condition of things. For a community 
which has serious questions - to put it gently - about the quality of 
Divine Providence and Omnipotence, a preoccupation with the 
resources of the human spirit may be more a theological necessity than 
most are likely to admit. 

Tikkun is also useful because of its malleabiUty; as the materials 
surveyed here demonstrate, it is a conception which can be used to 
justify the widest range of activities and views. We have also seen 
that it can easily be lifted out of its original context and transformed 
into a "normative" Jewish value. A contemporary idea is thus 
legitimated and rendered all the more significant by clothing it in the 
garb of tradition, a process as old as "tradition" itself. 

*^¥oT another interesting use of Lurianic myth for theological purposes, see R. 
Rubenstein, After Auschioitz (Indianapolis, 1966), pp. 230-231. 


From Tanakh to Modern Times: 
Aspects of Jewish Religion 

Moshe Goshen-Gottstein 
Hebrew University of Jerusalem 

One of the amazing aspects of the history of modern developments 
in the overall field of Judaic studies is the extent to which the original 
concepts of the founding fathers of Wissenschaft des Judentums have 
remained unchanged and the manner in which later historic 
developments did change them. The small band of founders beUeved 
that the hidden treasures of Jewish literature could be revealed if 
three main fields of study would be opened up to both Jews and non- 
Jews: philology, history - especially literary and cultural, and 
philosophy and the study of religion. Of course, these are actually 
terms used by us and do not necessarily reflect exactly the words ased by 
scholars such as Wolf, Zunz or Geiger. But it should be stressed that 
Geiger's summary published posthumously by his son in 1872 almost 
reflects verbatim the program as phrased by Wolf and Zunz half a 
century earlier. 

The reason for this Renaissance-type of movement in Judaism are 
manifold: the new spirit of freedom in Europe after the days of the 
French revolution and the Napoleonic wars, the newly achieved 
possibility of leaving the confines of a spiritual ghetto and pursuing 
secular learning, and the beginning of the integration of Jews into the 
world of academe. On top of that those young Jewish enthusiasts felt 
that if the treasures of Jewish achievements could be made available 
to the non-Jewish learned world much good could be achieved. In the 
present context it is useless to discuss why A. Wolf who composed the 
program that served as the basis in founding the original Verein fur 
Cultur und Wissenschaft der fuden did not occupy a prominent place in 


56 The Modern Age: Theology 

the following developments but for all practical purposes later opted 
out. But it ought to be noted that none of the first or second generation 
founders ever bothered to commence the literary history of Judaism 
from its very base - the Hebrew Bible. It was almost as if they had 
accepted the Christian ideology that the Bible represented a "pre- 
Jewish" state of affairs and that Jews had nothing more to teach in this 

To be sure one can find various reasons for the omission. The founders 
intended to deal with those writings which could be conceived as 
specifically Jewish: The Hebrew Bible could not be regarded any more 
as specifically Jewish since by that time it served as part of the basic 
texts of European Christian civilization. 

Every Christian theologian had his fill of the Hebrew Bible and 
some had even gained a respectable knowledge of medieval Jewish 
biblical exegesis and thought. But non-Jews had only some limited 
acquaintance with the literature produced by rabbinic "Sages." 

Thus it would have been counter-productive for those Jewish 
scholars to start their work in the sanctum of Christian theologians. 
Had they done so that could have led to renewed polemics between 
Christian and Jewish scholars. Another consideration was that Jewish 
scholars at that time had little to offer beyond their traditional 
commentaries or their midrashic compilation. The only area of 
knowledge in which Jews could compete successfully was that of the 
Aramaic Targum. Perhaps Jews were more accustomed to use the 
Aramaic Targum, but that could have only awarded them an edge over 
non-Jews. For Jews, Targum was a major reservoir for Bible exegesis; for 
non-Jews it was only one of the several Bible versions. 

As for other ancient witnesses of the Bible-text non-Jewish scholars 
would rely on a long tradition of judging the Greek text as superior to 
the Hebrew. In brief, Bible could not serve as a bait to attract non- 
Jewish scholars to the nascent area of Judaic studies. 

On the other hand this was the very time when Protestant 
orthodoxy and the nascent critical movement were locked in a decisive 
battle. That battle was regarded as an inner-Christian issue in which 
orthodox theologians stood against the onslaught of those who at the 
time were thought to be radical critics. Of course, Jewish scholars who 
had just entered the academic scene had no standing in such fights. Once 
Jews did enter the field of Bible studies they identified the modern 
academic approach with the results of critical inquiry. 

Altogether, then, Jews in the 19th century never thought of Bible 
study as part of the "science" of Judaism. Looking back, one may say 
that the beginnings of Judaic studies are reflected in the later 

Fro7n Tanakh to Modern Times: Aspects of Jewish Religion 57 

In a way, one may observe that the nonchalance of Jewish scholars 
played right into the hands of Christian theologians. For them Jewish 
history had come to an end once the Hebrew scriptures were regarded as 
completed. Living Jewish history had reached its final point with the 
end of a Jewish state - and the only problem remained how to account 
for the period of the Second Temple. The very use of terminology is 
rather instructive: up to what point goes the history of ancient Israel 
and at what point does the "degenerate" Judaism start. To be sure, 
somewhere along the line degeneration was identified with the 
influence of pharisees and rabbis. Christian theologians had led a long 
fight to delegitimize everything "Jewish" which did not fit their idea 
of ancient biblical Israel. 

Since Christian Bible studies were the prerogative of theologians 
and Jews had no business in that field they excluded themselves from 
joining the guild of academic students of the Bible for the entire period 
until the beginning of Jewish academic institutions, i.e. the turn of the 
present century. For our purpose it is of no importance whether the first 
Jewish academic Bible specialists developed on the soil of the 
"Reform" or "Traditional" wing of modern Judaism; certainly not in 
"orthodox" surroundings. For practical purposes we may say that 
academic Jewish Bible Study is an invention of our century - starting 
almost a century after the beginning of academic Judaic studies. 

In this respect Judaic studies were rather late in entering a claim on 
behalf of the Bible as an integral part of Judaism. While this lack has 
been remedied in the present century, the early lines drawn were never 
redrawn. It certainly is no coincidence that Jewish thought remained 
until the last decades subdivided into "rabbinic" thought and medieval 
Jewish philosophy. So much so that the issues dealt with by medieval 
thinkers - be they "philosophers" or not - remained the centerpiece of 
the academic field of Jewish thought. It would be absurd to say that 
Jewish thought stopped with the last of the medieval philosophers. If 
one wishes one may claim that it started roughly about the same time 
as rabbinic thought unless one claims that Philo was not a Jewish 
thinker but a Hellenistic philosopher who happened to be a Jew. But if 
the start of Jewish thought as an academic field is clear, its end is not. 
Does modern Jewish thought start with Moses Mendelsohn or with 
Franz Rosenzweig? Should we reckon all thinkers who dealt with 
Jewish issues as practitioners of Jewish thought - even if their problem 
was personal or their style polemical. 

Up to now we have excluded biblical thought as a proper part of 
Jewish thought but allowed for rabbinic or Hellenistic thought which 
paved the way for medieval thought. But one major subdivision is 
missing in this picture: Kabbalah and its heir, Hassidic thought. If 

58 The Modern Age: Theology 

nineteenth century Jewish thinkers did not plan for the inclusion of 
biblical Judaism, they had even less interest in the Jewish esoteric 
writings known as Kabbalah. Kabbalah did not seem worthy of their 
academic attention, since academic thinking had to conform to 
rationalist ideals. The fathers of Judaic studies could approach their 
object as philologists, or students of literature or religion. But no self- 
respecting scholar would make the abstruse speculations of Kabbalah 
the centerpoint of his studies. 

This goes a long way to explain how Judaic studies remained 
deficient in two major fields in two extreme areas - Bible and Kabbalah 
- and how the study of medieval thought became the centerpoint for 
the study of Jewish thought. To be sure, that could serve as a suitable 
counterpoint to the traditional concentration in the area of halakha: 
the medieval halakhic and responsa literature. 

If we wish we might draw a three-tier picture for both areas of 
Jewish religion: systematic reflection and halakha. For the earliest 
period we can put the parallel between rabbinics on the one hand - 
consisting of mishna, tosefta and midrash halakha - and Jewish 
thought as expressed by Philo on the other, leaving aside for the 
moment religious thought as expressed by the Qumran sect. 

For the middle ages the parallel consists of halakhic writings in 
their various forms and "religious philosophy" which until recently 
served as a substitute for "Jewish thought." It seems superfluous to 
dwell on this occasion on how these two aspects found one common 
representative in the towering figure of Maimonides. 

Again we find it hard to discover the place into which the various 
developments of Jewish mysticism could be fitted. Does mysticism 
represent a third parallel area apart from both halakha and Jewish 
thought? Can we draw a line of development leading from the mystics 
among the Tannaim and the early hekhalot literature to the author of 
Sefer Yetzira to the early Ashkenazi Hassidism till the high point of 
the middle ages reached by the Zohar culminating in Lurianic 
Kabbalah and leading finally up to its latest manifestation in 

Let me finish this rather inadequate overview at the point I began. 
I started with the program of the founders of Judaic studies and their 
omission of Bible studies from that program. For non-Jews Bible studies 
were a major component of theology. But the very term "theology" 
represented to Jews an area in which only Christians would work. It 
was not only biblical theology which Jews could not become familiar 
with. Every aspect of religion that for non-Jews had the taste of 
theology did not attract their Jewish counterparts. 

From Tanakh to Modern Times: Aspects of Jewish Religion 59 

I need not recount in this context how theology fulfilled for non-Jews 
the functions of theoretic foundation in the ways of religious thinking 
as well as that of the theoretical basis of halakha. Just as Jewish 
thinking split up into various sub-areas so did Christian theology. The 
different parts of Christian theology were dogmatics, practical 
theology, and since the past century biblical theology. To be sure, for 
practical theology and dogmatics Jews had as parallel areas practical 
halakha and both rabbinic and medieval thought. But precisely 
because for Jews the bible always served as the basis for exegesis and 
midrash - even though in the present century Jews started to engage in 
academic Bible study - the way Bible study was approached basically 
took the form of Bible criticism. Until very recently, Jews would not 
touch the strange area of biblical theology just as other theological 
areas remained foreign territory for them, and their epistemology 
remained unfamiliar. 

At this point a remark regarding internal divisions is in order. Up 
to now we spoke of Jews and non-Jews in a general fashion - without 
differentiating among Christian denominations and groups of believers 
such as fundamentalists. But of course we must realize that such a 
picture is a gross over-simplification. Just as Christian believers, let 
alone violent non-believers, should not all be tarred with the same 
brush, so we should not remain oblivious of different attitudes inside 
Jewry. Much as I would like to refrain from using cliches or labels, 
reaching in this survey to our own times we must recognize that Jewish 
believers should be divided into various groups. Perhaps terms specific 
to the American scene may be misleading and do not fit exactly the 
scene in Israel or Europe. In spite of differences in practical observance 
divisions characterized by terms such as Reform, Reconstructionist, 
Traditional-conservative and Orthodox carry some meaning for our 
discussion. Judaic scholars may feel identified with any of these 
divisions inside modern Jewry and their attitude as scholars can hardly 
remain totally untouched by their institutionalized practices and 
convictions. This becomes especially important once we deal with the 
grey area subsumed under the term "theology." Even though 
representatives of the clergy of all shades of practicing the precepts of 
Judaism may be referred to by the general public as "theologians" as far 
as I know there exists at this moment no attempt at composing any type 
of "Jewish theology" by representatives of the "orthodox" wing. This 
may be one of the indicators of the degree to what extent modernity has 
entered the area of Jewish religion in its entirety, that some 
conservative or "Reform" Jews may try to express their Jewishness in a 
way modelled on positions of non-Jewish theologians, whereas 
adherents of orthodox practice will never refer to themselves as 

60 The Modern Age: Theology 

theologians. Traditionally, Jewish scholars are Hakhamim, Ramim, 
Talmudists or Rabbis but not theologians. 

It could very well be that the ancient prejudice by Jews against 
theology and their reUance on the practice of halakha has caused this 
difference of attitudes inside modern Jewry. Altogether it is our 
terminology as children of European civilization that makes us look at 
such issues as belonging to the overall field of religion whereas 
traditional terminology prefers to view matters from the angle of 
practice. It might well be that this terminological preference too is one 
of the aspects of the history of Jewish religion. 


Universal Mission and Jewish 

Survivalism in American Zionist 


Allon Gal 
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev 

Early American Zionist thinking was characterized by the 
prevalence of a rationale which conceived of Zionism as a mission of 
service to society at large. This mission ideology took root among 
American Zionists because "negative factors," such as anti-Semitism, 
were historically weak in the United States. Consequently, in the 
American context, Zionism was in many instances sanctioned as a 
contribution to the achievement of "broader" or "higher" soc^.al and 
ethical goals. Sketching the persistence of the mission motif is the 
purpose of the first section of this article.^ 

It is common knowledge that since the 1920s historical processes 
and events, working in very different ways, brought the very existence 
of the Jewish people to the fore: Nativism and anti-Semitism in 
America from World War I to the end of World War II; the murderous 
Arab attacks on the Yishuv in 1929 and 1936-1939, and the fanatic 
nature of Palestinian Arab nationalism in general; Britain's retreat 
from the Mandate; and, on top of all - Nazism, the horrors of World 
War II and the Holocaust. What was the effect of all this on 
traditional American Zionist ideology? More precisely, what 
happened, in the new circumstances, to mission-oriented Zionism in the 

^For a detailed elaboration on this theme see, Allon Gal, "The Mission Motif in 
American Zionism, 1898-1948," American Jewish History, vol. LXXV, no. 4 (June 
1986), pp. 363-385. 


SI The Modern Age: Theology 

United States? - We shall deal with this question in sections II and III, 
while the concluding part of this paper elaborates further on the 
mission and survivalist motifs in some of the new pro-Zionist (or 
"philo-Israelite") trends. 

The chronological framework of the article is roughly from the 
founding of the Federation of American Zionists (FAZ) in 1898 to the 
first years of the State of Israel. 


Until about the mid-1930s, leading American Zionists were 
intensively engaged in refuting the anti-Zionist mission ideology of the 
Reform movement, according to which the Jews were dispersed among 
the nations in accordance with a divine master plan to disseminate 
lofty religious and ethical values. Two aspects are instructive in this 
regard. First, the very fact that Zionists in the United States 
challenged this theory throughout several decades suggests that they 
considered it to be deeply rooted among American Jews. Secondly, 
American Zionist ideologists responded quite apologetically to the 
idea of Israel's mission, and rarely totally rejected it. 

Zionists in the early Conservative movement uttered some of the 
most striking mission-attuned statements. It seems that they opposed 
Reform Judaism while retaining some ideological links, allusive as 
they were, with that movement. Furthermore, anti-Semitism was quite 
marginal in the United States before World War I. For these reasons, 
fin-de-siecle Conservative Zionists tended to highly concentrate on the 
mission rationale of Zionism. Sabato Morals, prime mover in the 
establishment of the Jewish Theological Seminary and its president 
until his death (1887-1897), believed that the Jews would return to 
their ancestral homeland in Palestine, and become an inspiration of 
peace and truth to the whole world, as foretold by the prophets and 
taught by tradition. Similarly, Solomon Solis-Cohen, one of the 
founders of the Seminary, co-founder of the (third) Jewish Publication 
Society, and one of the first Zionists in America, conceived Zionism as 
being meaningful for world redemption. "If in God's providence there 
shall come about the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine," he 
wrote, "It must be a model state" in terms of social justice, love for the 
neighbor and the stranger, freedom and peace.^ 

Henry P. Mendes, prominent leader of early Conservatism and 
acting president of the Seminary from the death of Morais to the 

^Moshe Davis, The Emergence of Conservative Judaism: The Historical School 
in 19th Century America (Philadelphia: 1965), pp. 268-273. 

Universal Mission and Jewish Survivalism 63 

appointment of Solomon Schechter in 1902, developed the case for 
mission-oriented Zionism. By the "Restoration of Palestine to the 
Hebrews" he also meant the establishment of a central spiritual 
influence for the world at large; a house of prayer for all nations; a 
central world-university for knowledge and inspiration; and a world 
court of international arbitration to secure universal peace. 

Later Conservative leaders of East European background such as 
Solomon Schechter and Israel Friedlaender were much less mission- 
oriented when compared with the afore-mentioned Sephardic 
personalities. Schechter and Friedlaender formulated their Zionist 
philosophies during the peak of the East European mass immigration. 
Cultural self-assertion was the hallmark of this immigration. 
Naturally, the cultural-religious revival of the Jewish people was the 
dominant theme of Schechter's and Friedlaender's Zionist thought. To 
be sure, they occasionally expressed the desire to see the Jewish 
endeavor in Palestine as being universally meaningful and contributing 
toward the reign of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth; but this was not 
at the core of their Zionist ideology.^ 

Solomon Goldman, the Conservative rabbi from Chicago and 
president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) in 1938-40 is 
an interesting case. Approximately until 1938, his addresses contained 
a heavy element of Zionist mission. Thus, he ended his ideological 
book. Crisis and Decision, in a poetic vein, depicting how the pioneers 
and educators of halutzic (pioneering) Palestine were devotedly 
bringing about the realization of the vision of social justice, world-wide 
racial fraternity and universal harmony.^ 

Reform Zionist leaders, naturally were very expressive of their 
mission orientation. Thus, Richard Gottheil, of a Reform background 
and the first president of the FAZ (1898-1904), time and again referred 
to the "higher mission" of Zionism. In addition to the first objective of 
Zionism, to create the conditions for a Jewish national existence, 
Zionism had another, nobler mission - to contribute to the welfare of 

^Ibid., pp. 272-274, 458-459. 

'^Solomon Schechter, Seminary Addresses and Other Papers (New York: 1959), 

pp. 93, 103-104, 248-249; Norman Bentwich, Solomon Schechter: A Biography 

(Philadelphia: 1948), pp. 307-308, 346-347; Israel Friedlaender, Past and Present: 

Selected Essays (New York; 1961), pp. 5, 33-34, 333-336. 

^Solomon Goldman, Crisis and Decision (New York: 1938), p. 206. 

^Richard Gottheil, The Aims of Zionism (New York: 1899), pp. 14, 18, 20, 21; idem, 

Zionism (Philadelphia: 1914), pp. 200-208, 216. 

64 The Modern Age: Theology 

Judah L. Magnes, the restive Reform Rabbi and perhaps the most 
prominent intellectual among American Zionists until World War I, 
stated after his immigration to Palestine: "Zionism, Palestine, in my 
opinion is not an end in itself.. ..Palestine is one of the means, perhaps a 
chief means, but not the only means of making the.. ..Jews everywhere 
fitter to perform their historic task in the great world." He 
passionately hoped that "out of this Return from Exile there might be 
produced men of spirit, ideas of truth and beauty, eternal forces that 
might help mankind along its painful way to salvation."'^ 

Reform Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, one of the founders of the American 
Zionist movement and president of the ZOA in 1936-1938, stressed the 
noble role of Jews: bringing comfort and light to the tortured world. 
Wise towered above many other Zionists during the interwar period in 
his rich and all-encompassing Zionist thought. His attitude may be 
considered typical of a great many religious Zionists of those years.° 

Mission orientation was also paramount until the late 1930s among 
secular Zionists. Social-philosopher Horace M. Kallen thus concluded 
his thoughtful and well-knitted article "The Ethics of Zionism" 
(pubUshed in 1906): "If it is the Jew's right to survive, and Zionism 
asserts it is, it is his right by the vigor of his achievement and the 
effectiveness of his ideal, by his gifts to the world and his power for 
good in the world." Kallen's later Zionist publications were also 
written in a compassionate "missionist" vein." 

Louis D. Brandeis, who assumed American Zionist leadership upon 
the outbreak of World War I, and continued to exert tremendous 
influence on the movement until his death in 1941, was outstandingly 
mission-oriented. He found that Jews eminently possessed those 
qualities which American Progressives struggled for - justice and 
democracy, and concluded that Zionism was the best way to assure the 
Jews' contribution toward a better world. His mission bent was greatly 
imbued with puritanic images. Typically he once solemnly declared: 
"Our aim is the Kingdom of Heaven, paraphrasing Cromwell. We take 
Palestine by the way." Beyond his peculiar puritanic strain, however, 

^Arthur A. Goren, ed.. Dissenter in Zion: From the Writings of Judah L. Magnes 
(Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1982), pp. 208-212. 

^Melvin I. Urofsky puts Wise's Zionist activities under a broader heading, A 
Voice That Spoke for Justice: The Life and Times of Stephen S. Wise. (Albany, 
New York: 1982); see e.g.. Wise quoted in Carl H. Voss, Rabbi and Minister: The 
Friendship of Stephen S. Wise and John H. Holmes (Cleveland: 1964), p. 45. 
^Allon Gal, Brandeis of Boston (Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1980), pp. 152-153; 
Horace Kallen, Constitutional Foundations of the New Zion (New York: 1919). 

Universal Mission and Jewish Survivalism 65 

Brandeis' Zionist mission rationale struck a chord with American Jews 
and undoubtedly helped to enhance his leadership.^ ^ 

A younger secular ZOA activist, Bernard Rosenblatt, also 
articulated progressive Zionist ideology much in the missionist vein. 
He was one of the main architects of the Pittsburgh Program adopted 
by the ZOA, following the Balfour Declaration, at the organization's 
1918 convention. The program detailed, in great enthusiasm and care, 
the future Jewish state as a highly enlightened model society.^ ^ 

Comparing with the ZOA, Hadassah was much less of an 
ideological organization. The Women's Zionist Organization, founded 
in 1912, devoted itself mainly to the support of medical work in 
Palestine. Still, Hadassah leaders and educators conceived the Yishuv 
and future Israel in a certain frame of mind, and this mentalite was 
much mission-attuned. Henrietta Szold, Hadassah's founder, came 
from a cultural-Zionist milieu and herself admired Ahad Ha'am. But a 
mission rationale was quite central to her thought, and she continuously 
stressed the challenging role Zionism should play in imparting to the 
world the lessons of social justice, in reconciling Eastern and Western 
civilizations and in the advancement of peace. Once in Palestine, 
Szold's mission-oriented stance brought her to the tiny Ihud group, 
which believed that a bi-national state would lead to a peaceful 
fulfillment of Zionist aspirations (another American Zionist in the 
leadership of Ihud was Magnes).^^ 

Szold, the first national president of Hadassah (1912-21, 1923-26), 
was succeeded by Irma Lindheim (1926-28) whose life and work were 
perhaps even more mission oriented. She also made aliyah, joining a 
Hashomer Hatzair movement kibbutz. One of the major features of this 
particular radical kibbutz movement, one which much appealed to her, 
was the passion for social accomplishments meaningful beyond 
nationalist boundaries. Its members believed that Zionist collectivist 
life in Palestine would help bring about a new harmonious world 
order. ^-^ 

^^Quoted in Allon Gal, "Brand eis's View on the Upbuilding of Palestine, 1914- 

1923," Studies in Zionism, no. 6 (Autumn 1982), p. 238. 

^^Bernard Rosenblatt, Social Zionism (Selected Essays) (New York: 1919); 

Melvin I. Urofsky, American Zionism from Herzl to the Holocaust (Garden 

City, New York: 1975), pp. 250-257. 

^^Henrietta Szold, "The Internal Jewish Question," The Maccabaean, vol. I, no. 2 

(November 1901), p. 61; Irving Fineman, Woinan of Valor: The Life of Henrietta 

Szold 1860-1945 (New York: 1961), pp. 132-134 and passim. 

^•^Irma L. Lindheim, Parallel Quest: A Search of a Person and People (New 

York: 1962), pp. 50-51, 129-130, 351, 457. 

66 The Modern Age: Theology 


The dramatic processes and traumatic events that since the 1920s 
threatened the very existence of the Jewish people have already been 
enumerated in the introduction to this article. In America, Jewry's right 
to exist had never been questioned; yet, the anti-Semitic trend in the 
United States, quite obvious since the end of World War I, persistently 
gained power up to the victory over Nazi Germany. 

It is difficult to determine at what particular conjuncture did all 
these factors - European and American alike - accumulate to influence 
American Zionist ideology. Perhaps the Kristallnacht of November 
1938 can serve as a milestone. These brutal and satanically planned 
pogroms in Germany and Austria made American Jewry keenly aware of 
the imminent danger to the existence of the Jews in Europe. The United 
Jewish Appeal - uniting Zionists and non-Zionists alike - was then 
created as a reaction expressive of solidarity and a national will to 
survive. It seems then, that survivalist impulses were first 
significantly reflected in various Zionist trends during the late 1930s 
and World War II. 

Assuring Jewish survival in America had for long been a feature of 
American Zionist ideology. But in relation to Eretz Israel as we have 
seen, American Zionists traditionally tended to develop an ideology of 
which "missionism" was a major component. Now, due to the grave new 
circumstances, American Zionists gradually became prepared to 
consider survivalism as the objective of the Zionist enterprise in 
Palestine too. 

The transformation of American Zionist ideology was gradual, 
varified, and quite elusive at the time. One of its earliest and most 
interesting expressions was the mutation which the Zionist attitude of 
Louis Brandeis underwent. Though one may find him commenting from 
time to time on anti-Semitism during the 1920s, it was in 1930 that 
Brandeis summed up the threatening processes in a clear-cut manner. In 
a programatic letter he wrote: "The condition of the Jews in the 
Diaspora in 1930 - as compared with 1920 and 1914 - has worsened to 
such a degree, that the belief of thinking Jews that the Jewish problem 
would be solved by growing enlightenment in the Diaspora must have 
been seriously shaken - if not shattered." And he sharply concluded: 
"The anti-Semitic outbreaks in Europe, the closing of the doors to 
immigrants by practically all the new countries, the rise of anti- 
Semitism even in the new countries, remove the old alternatives from 
consideration. The question now presented largely is Palestine - or 
Despair?" Palestine as a refuge for those in despair, rather than as a 

Universal Mission and Jewish Survivalism 67 

basis for the realization of a social mission, thus came to characterize 
Brandeis' new approach.^ '^ 

The barbaric Arab attack on Jewish Palestine in the summer of 1929 
also worked to reshape Brandeis' attitude regarding the Yishuv. He 
detested the terrorist acts, became sensitive to the Yishuv's security 
needs and made it a rule to contribute large sums for self-defense, 
relying on the judgment of the Yishuv's leaders. This kind of 
identification with Jewish Palestine reflected his new Zionist stance - 
grave and clearly nationalist - attuned first and foremost to 
safeguarding the physical survival of his people. 

Whereas the mission-oriented Brandeis had conceived the Yishuv 
as a model "City upon a Hill," the Brandeis of the 1930s was thrilled 
by a new image: The Yishuv as a fortress strategically located on the 
top of a hill, defending itself against the assault of the Middle East's 
savages (paralleling to the Indians of North America). Heroic Jewish 
Palestine and the embattled pioneers caught his imagination and 
instilled in him a mixture of pride and concern. Though Brandeis never 
relinquished his support and hope for progressive Palestine, obviously, 
survivalism ( associated with values such as courage, stamina and 
physical fitness), became a major motif in his thinking. 

British policy in Palestine also worked to reorient Brandeis' 
original Zionist outlook. In March 1930 the Report of the Commission on 
the Palestine Disturbances of August 1929 was published expressing 
hostility toward the emerging Jewish national home. In October 1930 
the Passfield White Paper was issued, clearly sanctioning anti-Zionist 
policies. During his efforts to repeal this policy, Brandeis turned 
"inward," adopting a positive and firm view of Jewish political self- 
reliance and emphasizing Jewish survivalism. 

Solomon Goldman, the religious and Zionist personality, who, as 
we have seen, had concluded his 1938 book in a triumphant missionist 
vein, published a somber work entitled Undefeated in 1940. The 
survivalist tenor of this book, composed chiefly of Goldman's addresses 
as president of the ZOA during the two preceding years, ran deep 
indeed. This is not surprising, for Solomon Goldman then chiefly strove 
to mobilize American public opinion against the Kristallnacht policy 
on the one hand, and the anti-Zionist British White Paper of May 1939 
on the other hand. As the title of his 1940 book deliberately implied, 
the new challenge for the Jewish people was mainly to survive, to 
remain "undefeated." In contrast to the Utopian concluding section of his 
previous book - where he equated the halutzim in Eretz Israel as the 

^^Allon Gal, "Brandeis' Social-Zionism," Studies in Zionism, vol. VIII, no. 2 
(Autumn 1987), pp. 191-209; this is the source for the ensuing discussion. 

68 The Modern Age: Theology 

embodiment of a just society in an emerging just world - his later volume 
ended on a different note: 

The memory of ancient disasters, stubbornlv foiled by our ancestors, 
will bring the past generations to our aid. We, the Jews, have never 
believed that Utopia waits at the next turning of the road. Our 
prophets did not envisage the perfection of society as the 
achievement of one day. They saw perfection at the end of days, after 
many cycles of progress and retrogression. It will come, but only from 
an accumulation of effort, from the sustained labor of the will. It will 
come not as a result of accident or miracle, but through the travail of 
mankind. It is this profound conviction that society can become 
humane; it is this grand determination to make it humane that have 
made the Jews indestructible. They never spoke of "Untergang" but 
left that to the triumphant peoples. The Jew said, "I shall not die but 1 
shall live."i5 

During the late 1930s and the early 1940s a pair of eminent Zionists 
were preparing to assume the leadership of the American Zionist 
movement - Emanuel Neumann and Abba Hillel Silver. Both were 
deeply steeped in Hebrew and Zionist tradition from their youth; at 
the same time their political outlook was very American, tending to 
grassroot activity and taking American pluralism for granted. Thus, in 
the new circumstances of the Jewish people, they did not deem it 
necessary to justify their Zionism by "external reasons" and were not 
inclined to encompass the mission rationale in their Zionist ideology. 

The case of Silver, however, was the more complex of the two. 
During his activity on behalf of Zionism, the Reform rabbi in him led 
him time and again to portray Jewish nationalism in a universalistic 
context. And when he helped lead Reform Judaism toward Zionism he 
generally did not recommend nationalism in lieu of the commitment to a 
world mission.^ ^ 

Two traumatic experiences worked to attenuate the mission element 
in Silver's ideology. First, when he was on sabbatical leave in Europe 
and Palestine during 1932-1933, he happened to be in Germany 
precisely when Hitler came to power. This was a traumatic experience 
indeed. The other and even more decisive factor effecting Silver's 
change of position was State Department behavior vis-a-vis the 
Holocaust. In the early autumn of 1940 the State Department managed 
to defeat all efforts to help Jewish refugees through the agency of the 
American Red Cross. Zionist self-reliance, both in American domestic 
politics and in the international arena, consequently came to 

^^Solomon Goldman, Undefeated (Washington, D.C.: 1940), pp. 134-135. 

^ ^Michael A. Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform 

Movement in Judasim (New York: 1988), pp. 326-330. 

Universal Mission and Jewish Survivalism 69 

characterize Silver's stance from that period to the end of his public 
career. True, Silver did on occasion employ the mission argument for 
Zionism even up to the 1947-1949 years, but the main appeal of his 
Zionist utterances during the 1940s came from his emphasis on Jewish 
pride and Jewish militancy. When he eventually emerged in 1943 as 
the leader of the ZOA replacing Stephen Wise, he spoke in a strongly 
assertive Zionist style that considered the European Jewish disaster 
and the historical right to the ancient homeland as proper justification 
for a renewed Jewish Commonwealth.^^ 

Compared to Silver, the record of Emanuel Neumann, the adamant 
Zionist leader, was relatively straightforward and simple. His Zionist 
outlook was always somewhat more nationalistic and blatant than 
that of his distinguished Reform friend. In his autobiography 
Neumann candidly writes that he "was drawn toward Jabotinsky and 
the Revisionists and sympathized with many of their views." He did 
not join the Revisionist movement, he clarified, chiefly because he 
"was repelled by some of [its] tactics." Indeed, the "Integral Zionism" 
of Neumann had a common denominator with Jabotinsky's "Monist 
Zionism," that is, the ruling-out of the mission rationale. According to 
both, the Zionist goal is defined and justified by solely on the basis of 
internal Jewish needs. ^^ 

The 50th convention of the ZOA, in July 1947, elected Emanuel 
Neumann as president. This followed two years of the presidency of 
Abba Hillel Silver, the person that Neumann, more than anybody else, 
was responsible for bringing to power in Zionist politics. Neumann's 
term,however, began a new era in American Zionism. The impact of the 
Holocaust began to sink in, and in any case his Zionist ideology focussed 
on survivalism more than that of any other ZOA president before him. 

The 50th ZOA convention also brought about the replacement of 
Ludwig Lewisohn as editor of the New Palestine (the major ZOA 
periodical) by Ernest E. Barbarash. Lewisohn, the noted novelist and 
essayist who edited the journal since 1943, was inclined to the mission 
rationale. Indeed, missionist yearnings were much of the flavor 
Lewisohn imparted to the New Palestine during his editorship. With 
Barbarash in power that spirit began to gradually wane. Barbarash 

^''Noach Orian (Herzog), "The Leadership of Rabbi Hillel Silver on the 
American-Jewish Scene 1938-1949," Ph.D. Dissertation (Tel- Aviv University, 
1982) [in Hebrew], chap. 1, sections I, V; Allon Gal, David Ben-Gurion and the 
American Alignment for a Jewish State 1938-1942 (Philadelphia: Jewish 
Publication Society, forthcoming), chap. 5. 

^^Emanuel Neumann, In the Arena: An Autobiographical Memoir (New York: 
1976), p. 107 and passim. 

70 The Modern Age: Theology 

was born in Russia in 1906 and emigrated to the United States in 1925. 
Coming from a Revisionist background, he tended to impress upon his 
readers the unadorned nationalist objective of Zionism, namely, the 
goal of political independence, arguing persistently that only through 
Jewish efforts would that goal be achieved. His semi-autobiographical 
book was aptly entitled If I am Not for Myself..., thus omitting the non- 
egoistic element from the famous saying of Hillel the Elder. (The 
original - quite balanced - maxim is: "If I am not for myself, who will 
be for me? But if I am only for myself, of what good am I?") In "Bitter 
Lessons," a distinctively ideological essay in this book, Barbarash 
elaborates on that classic saying (which he consistently does not quote 
in full) in his own way: 

There are, unfortunately, so many among us Jews who have failed to 
learn the bitter lesson of history, which has taught us that only if we 
fight with courage and fortitude our own battle for our rights, and 
against discrimination and injustice, we will gain the respect, and yes, 
even the support of all other segments of the community.... 
History has taught us that wherever Jews manifested timidity, a 
defensive stance toward aggressive attacks from whatever sources of 
bias and bigotry they are launched, that whenever Jews spend their 
major efforts and energies in the vineyards of others neglecting the 
welfare of their own people - they wound up being discarded on the 
scrap heap, thrown there by the very forces which they helped.... 
Don't labor under any illusions. No one else will fight your battle. As 
our sages said: "Im Ein Ani Li Mi Li" (If 1 am not for myself and for my 
people, who will be?). Timidity and passivity breeds contempt among 
those who seek to undermine and usurp your rights and your 
dignity.. ..^^ 

Until the early 1940s Revisionism was a very marginal 
phenomenon in the U.S. Gradually, under the impact of the Holocaust, 
the movement gained influence. Historically a product of continental 
European circumstances, especially of Poland ridden by anti-Semitism, 
Revisionism, as afore-mentioned, was sheerly survival-oriented. This 
version of Zionism could now find some basis in America while just 
slightly qualifying its original ideology.^^ 

^^For Ludwig Lewisohn, see e.g. his Israel (New York: 1936), which typically ends 
with " be a Jew is to be a friend of mankind, to be a proclaimer of liberty and 
peace," p. 280; Ernest E. Barbarash, // / am Not for Myself. ..Hillel: 
Reminiscences, Personalities, Historical Anecdotes, Selected Writings (New 
York: 1981), p. 240. 

2°Melvin I. Urofsky, We Are One! American lewry and Israel (Garden City, 
New York: 1978), pp. 73-81, 150-152. 

Universal Mission and Jewish Survivalism 71 

A leading sponsor of this trend was Ben Hecht (1893-1964, novelist 
and playwright). It is most instructive to perceive how this advocate of 
Revisionism in America framed his ideology along survivalist lines. 
The development and nature of his Jewish nationalism were 
dramatically opposed to Brandeis' path to Zionism and throw light 
upon the new trends in American Zionism. Ben Hecht relates in his 
interesting autobiography: 

The German mass murder of the Jews, recently begun, had brought 
[in 1939] my Jewishness to the surface. I felt no grief or vicarious pain. I 
felt only a violence toward the German killers, I saw the Germans as 
murderers with red hands. Their descent from humanity was as vivid 
in my eyes as if they had grown four legs and a snout.... 
The anger led me to join an organization for the first time in my life. It 
was called "Fight for Freedom" and was dedicated to bringing the 
U.S.A. into the war against the Germans.... 

I was aware that I was doing all these things as a Jew. My eloquence in 
behalf of democracy was inspired chiefly by my Jewish anger. I had 
been no partisan of democracy in my earlier years. Its sins had 
seemed to me more prominent than its virtues. But now that it was the 
potential enemy of the new German Police State I was its uncaring 
disciple. Thus, oddly, in addition to becoming a Jew in 1939 I became 
also an American - and remained one.^^ 

The mass murder of Jews by the German police state during the 
1930s and the 1940s deeply affected non-Zionist groups in the United 
States. The previously non-Zionist B'nai B'rith order gradually 
accepted Zionism during the 1940s, under the leadership of Henry 
Monsky (president from 1938 to 1947). In this process the survivalist 
strain was paramount. Indeed, the mission motif was almost non- 
existent in the thought of the order's leadership. Moreover, even the 
moderate version of mission ideology - the concept of the Jewish state 
as an exemplary society - is only rarely expounded by B'nai B'rith. The 
Jewish state, in the survivalist ideology of B'nai B'rith, was conceived 
chiefly as an element in the broader Jewish effort to perpetuate the 
Jewish people in the face of anti-Semitic brutality. Consequently, to 
the members of B'nai B'rith, Eretz Israel was hardly more than a 
haven and a fortress. ^^ 

At the 16th General Convention of the Supreme Lodge of B'nai 
B'rith (spring 1941), Monsky typically stated: "The greatest 
catastrophe that has ever befallen our people has engulfed our fellow 
Jews in the lands of darkness and despair. Millions have become 

2iBen Hecht, A Child of the Century (New York: 1954), pp. 517-518. 

•^^For background see, Deborah D. Moore, B'nai B'rith and the Challenge of 

Ethnic Leadership (Albany: 1981), chap. 7. 

71 The Modern Age: Theology 

financially devastated, rendered homeless and helpless. In the light of 
long-term planning, Palestine presents the most realistic, single 
opportunity for the resettlement of large numbers of the unfortunate and 
victimized of our people." He finished the pro-Zionist section of his 
address with a clear-cut survivalist message: "...the present chaotic 
conditions which prevail in the European scene impose upon us the 
solemn and sacred responsibility of giving unreserved support to the 
program of the upbuilding of Palestine. "-^-^ 

No less telling as to the survivalist orientation of B'nai B'rith's 
kind of Zionism were the addresses of Frank Goldman, president of the 
order in 1947-1953. Thus, in his message to the convention in March 1950 
he stated: 

These victims of the war were charges upon our conscience before 
Israel existed. We have sought to be faithful to them. Together with 
others, we have devoted ourselves to the cause of the establishment of 
the land - their land - where they could live and develop as a free 
people. For B'nai B'rith, their cause was all-compelling. It is one 
matter to be a self-conscious Jew because your security is endangered 
and Jewish unity provides you with convenient weapon to fight bigotry. 
It is far greater.. .to be a self-conscious Jew because your people need 
your help, and you render service to them for this and for no other 
reason. Such service, selfless and unconditional, is the essence of 
B'nai B'rith. [italics in original] ■^'^ 

Indeed, considering the circumstances of the 1940s, there is little 
wonder that the survivalist impulse was decisive. Against the 
background of the horrors inflicted upon the Jews and of the attempt to 
annihilate the Jewish people, the emerging positive tenets were an 
affirmation of Jewish existence and the well-being of its sovereign 
state. The Executive Committee of the Anti-Defamation League of 
B'nai B'rith concluded within a month after the establishment of the 
state that the strength and success of Israel would give the League 
leverage in its struggle against anti-Semitism in America. And in 
November 1948 the Executive Committee resolved that "Israel as a 
Fighting Force" would be the first of the ADL's seven themes in its pro- 
Israel educational work in the United States.^^ 

Compared to B'nai B'rith the "Zionization" of non-Zionist elite 
organizations occurred at a slower pace. In this process, the attitudes of 

^^Proceedings of the Sixteenth General Convention of the Supreme Lodge 

B'nai B'rith (Chicago, Illinois, March 29- April 2, 1941), p. 40. 

^'^Summary of the Nineteenth General Convention of the Supreme Lodge 

B'nai B'rith (Washington, D.C., March 18-22, 1950), pp. 2-3. 

^^Proceedings of Meetings of the Executive Committee of ADL National 

Commission, June 11 and November 12, 1948, ADL Archives, NYC. 

Universal Mission and Jewish Survivalism 73 

the American government and of general public opinion were often 
factors sensitively considered. Jewish plight and the survivalist urge 
only very gradually brought about the change in the attitude, for 
example, of the American Jewish Committee. Developments were 
slightly different within those Jewish agencies that were less 
ideological in nature and more directly concerned with the lot of 
European Jewry. Here the Jewish disaster hastened "Zionization" and 
shaped it largely along survivalist lines. An important role in the 
transformation undergone by the UJA and the Council of Jewish 
Federations and Welfare Funds was played by Joseph J. Schwartz.^^ 

During 1940-1949, when Schwartz was the chairman of the 
European executive council of the American Joint Distribution 
Committee (JDC), he supervised relief and welfare programs in 30 
countries, involving over one million people. During the war he had 
negotiated through neutral emissaries the rescue of tens of thousands of 
Jews from Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe. When the great 
flight of Jews from East to West Europe began (about 1944) he again 
rendered help in many ways, often cooperating with Zionist agencies. 
He personally witnessed the terrible plight of the Jewish refugees in 
post-war Europe and knew enough to unequivocally conclude that there 
was no future for them in Europe. It is worth quoting him regarding his 
"Zionization" during those years: 

When I came to the JDC, I did not call myself a Zionist. When I went 
overseas and when I began to deal with the problem, I always said that 
it was not a matter of ideology, as far as I was concerned, it was a 
matter of the survival of the Jewish people to the extent that you could 
affect it, to the extent that you could bring it about and that you could 
rescue and that without Palestine, there was no future for the Jews. 
Every gate to a shore, every avenue was closed, and it wasn't a good 
ideology, it was a question of just here are the people, here are the 
Jews, with their background, with their culture, with their rich heritage 
and everything else - no place to go, and in danger of complete 
extermination. And this- was the only possibility. There was no other 
way as far as I was concerned. I came, if 1 came to Zionism in any kind 
of way, I came to it through very practical events and practical 
considerations.. . . 

2^ For political background see, Menahem Kaufman, Non-Zionists in America 
and the Struggle for jeivish Statehood, 1939-1948 (Jerusalem: 1984) [in Hebrew]. 
^''Yehuda Bauer, American Jewry and the Holocaust: The American Jeioish 
Joint Distribution Committee, 1939-1945 (Detroit: 1981), passim; quot., idem, 
Interview with Joseph J. Schwartz, June 1968, Instit. of Contemporary Jewry, The 
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Oral History Div., # (47) 19. 

74 The Modern Age: Theology 

In this vein Schwartz later became firmly convinced that Palestine 
must to be the home of the "displaced persons." Conveying this 
message, he actively participated in the epoch-making national 
conference of the United Jewish Appeal in Atlantic City on December 
15-17, 1945. People from the European camps who had gone through the 
hell of Nazi Europe also appeared before this conference. As Menahem 
Kaufman has concluded, the survivors' call for Jewish solidarity and 
for support for their yearnings to build a home in Palestine profoundly 
moved the conference's delegates, Zionists and non-Zionists alike. Then 
began the UJA's ever increasing pro-Zionist shift, conceiving of Israel 
as a haven for survival of the remnants of the tortured people. It would 
seem that the JDC, the UJA, and the Federations - all moved along a 
path similar to that followed by Joseph Schwartz.^^ 

Actually, the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community was 
in a similar mood, and it responded with unprecedented feats of 
fundraising ($100,000,000 in 1946, $150,000,000 in 1947, over 
$200,000,000 in 1948). As Jonathan Woocher has observed, the UJA 
billed these as years of "survival" and of "destiny," and they were 
unlike any which Jews had known in modern memory. A combination of 
anxiety and exhilaration attended the rebirth of the Jewish state. 
Israel became the community's focus for the survivalist impulse, 
interwoven as it was with deep Jewish pride.'^^ 

In conclusion, during the 1930s and the 1940s survivaUsm emerged as 
a potent component of American Jewish ideology. In Zionism this 
process was evident in the change in the thinking of veteran Zionist 
leaders as well as in the advance of leaders and personalities who 
disregarded or down played the mission rationale. Non-Zionist 
organizations which, under the impact of the Nazi attempt to destroy 
the Jewish people, gradually adopted Zionism, conceived of Jewish 
Palestine chiefly as a haven and a means for Jewish survival. 
Undoubtedly, the general trend in Zionism was that of the decline of 
"missionism" and the strengthening of survival-oriented concepts. 


The historic transformation discussed in the previous section raises 
the question whether the mission motif entirely vanished from 
American Zionist ideology. After all, the circumstances in America - 
those factors which originally gave birth to mission-oriented Zionism - 
did not undergo any fundamental change during the years. 

^^Kaufman, Non-Zionists, pp. 145-146; Jonathan S. Woocher, Sacred Survival: 
The Civil Religion of American Jeivs (Bloomington: 1986), chap. 2. 
29/b/ri., pp. 51, 76-80. 

Utiiversal Mission and Jewish Survivalism 75 

We should indicate at the outset that some of the veteran 
expounders of "missionism" adhered to their original attitude 
throughout and after World War II. A prominent example is Horace 
Kallen who lived long enough to visit the young State of Israel. 
Subsequently he wrote a lengthy book of analyses and reflections. Its 
concluding chapter is aptly entitled "The End-Time and Tomorrow," as 
it is permeated with the author's passion to see the incarnation of 
Zionism, namely the State of Israel, committed to pursue higher goals 
than that of mere survival. Israel, Kallen deeply felt, is committed by 
its prophetic past as well as by its vision - both embodied in the 
Declaration of Independence - to the highest values of freedom, justice 
and peace. "Be the outcome of their [the Israelis'] struggle [toward End- 
Time] what it may," he concluded, Israel "presently discloses an ethos 
of valor and devotion which seems to me a moving testimony to what is 
most hopefully human in mankind's struggle for its own humanity."-^^ 

In 1959, a year after Kallen had published his book on Israel, 
appeared Bernard A. Rosenblatt's The American Bridge to the Israel 
Commonwealth "Dedicated to the memory of the great American jurist, 
Louis D. Brandeis, who personified the social ideals of American 
Zionism." Rosenblatt, the avowed mission Zionist, typically opened 
his book with the following statement: "Throughout history, justice 
has been the keynote of the Hebraic character - and the striving for 
social justice is the major theme in the message of the Hebrew prophets. 
It is, therefore, only reasonable to assume that the new state of Israel 
will continue the golden thread of Jewish history in the great struggle 
for justice among men." The social theorist stressed his hope that Israel 
would become a "light unto the nations"; and toward the end of the 
book he expressed his trust that "Once the Hebraic spirit of social 
justice - so evident both in the biblical period of Jewish history and in 
the days of the Maccabean Revival - is permitted the expression of its 
genius in social legislation, we may expect a new message from Zion of 
worldwide significance." Rosenblatt summed up that "Israel, restored 
once more to its Homeland, will pick up again the thread of its history 
and continue its allotted task in striving for social justice among men 
and nations. "^^ 

Conspicuous mission-attuned Zionism still survived in certain 
circles of religious Zionism as well. We have seen how intensive was 
the mission motif among Conservative Zionist leaders of the pre-First 
World War period; that universalist idealism of Morals, Solis-Cohen 

30Horace M. Kallen, Utopians at Bay (New York: 1958), pp. 289-290. 

■^^Bernard A. Rosenblatt, The American Bridge to the Israel Commonwealth 

(New York: 1 959), pp. xi, xviii, 128. 

7S The Modern Age: Theology 

and Mendes did not vanish into thin air. Their heritage was eminently 
continued by Conservative rabbi and educator Louis Finkelstein. A 
longtime president and chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary 
of America (1940-1972), Finkelstein contributed some significant 
articles to New Palestine. In one article in the summer of 1943, he 
assigned to Zionism (among other things) the task of teaching the 
world to accept diversity and to tolerate minorities. The fulfillment of 
Zionism was an essential service in the achievement of peace, he 
claimed, elevating that argument to a lofty sphere: "The role of 
Palestine as the instrument of both the unification of man and 
eradication of neo-paganism makes the establishment of a Jewish 
homeland in the Holy Land a moral imperative, requiring of all men, 
but especially of Jews, sacrifices and understanding...." Judaism in New 
Palestine, vehemently suggested Finkelstein, is "an effective means for 
human unification." The Zionist enterprise was thus interpreted and 
justified in cosmic terms, "as a means of communion with God and of 
service to mankind. "•^■^ 

When this article was published, news of the Holocaust had 
already reached America for about a year. Another long dark year of 
continuing Nazi destruction of the Jewish people did not change the 
thrust of Finkelstein's Zionism: he still conceived the Jews' building a 
home for themselves in terms of a universal mission. In an article he 
published in the autumn of 1944 in the same Zionist journal, rabbi 
Finkelstein pointedly italicized one sentence: "We have failed to make 
the world understand that we Zionists consider the establishment of a 
Jewish Palestine indispensible to a reformation of world culture as well 
as one of the major expressions of the reformation itself." Through this 
basic tenet, he tried to make Zionism conform to "the basic conception of 
Judaism as a ministry and a service... [the belief] that the Jews are 
segulah," a people appointed for special service to God and mankind.^^ 

Since the early 1940s, Hadassah espoused a more militant Zionism 
than in the years of Henrietta Szold's and Irma Lindheim's 
leadership. Under the presidencies of Judith Epstein (1943-47) and Rose 
Halprin (1947-52), the organization shifted away from the bi-national 
political solution to Palestine in which it had evinced considerable 
interest. Still, Hadassah members and leaders persistently hoped that 
the Jewish state would not provide a solution solely for problems of 
Jewish nationalism but would convey some universal message. Early in 

•^^Louis Finkelstein, Reflections on Judaism, Zionism, and Enduring Peace 
(pamphlet reprinted from New Palestine, May 21, 1943). 

^^Idem, "Zionism and World Culture," New Palestine, XXXIV, no. 23 
(September 15, 1944), p. 506. 

Universal Mission and Jewish Survivalism 77 

1948, in expectation of the establishment of Israel, Hadassah 
Newsletter's editorial stated: "[We] believe that the Jewish State 
will have a significant and worthy contribution to make to the progress 
of civilization. West and East. We consider that the Jewish State is 
dedicated to the ideals of justice, equality, security, and peace. We 
believe that the Yishuv does and will continue to embody the best 
ideals of the Jewish and human traditions."-^^ 

A year after the State of Israel had been proclaimed Rose Halprin 
wrote from Jerusalem: "To be in Jerusalem for the celebration of the first 
anniversary of the independence of Israel is to share in a sense of the 
jubilation and glory of all men liberated from bondage, since the 
beginning of the world." And a solemn editorial, entitled "We 
Herewith Pledge," declared that the Israelis were bearers of a holy 
civilization and to the members of Hadassah "has given the divine 
experience to helping to create an instrument of human salvation." The 
editorial went on to praise Israel for granting equal rights and equal 
opportunities to all of its citizens, and hence "provides to its Jewish 
citizens the opportunity to contribute to the progress of human 
civilization as Jews, as members of the majority people in their country, 
eager to integrate the morality of their heritage into the making of the 
future." The Hadassah publication then concluded: 

This is our relationship to the Jews of Israel, a partnership in a 
common enterprise for the furtherance of human brotherhood. With 
them and through them we shall try to extend the frontier of the 
human spirit beyond rigid geographical boundaries. We, Jews of 
America, fortunate possessors of two civilizations, that of our ancient 
people and that of our modern progressive democracy, dedicate 
ourselves to the extension of the democratic way of life, to every 
corner where exploitation and injustice still exist.-'^ ' 

What was the attitude of the ZOA, the conspicuously ideological 
organization in American Zionism? Upon the proclamation of the State 
of Israel on May 14, 1948, the New Palestine published a 
comprehensive and festive editorial essay. Entitled "Long Live the 
Republic of Israel," the editorial sensitively reflected the ideological 
strains in the leading organ of the American Zionist movement. 

The article's leit motif undoubtedly was survivalist - Israel had 
come into existence in order to fulfill Amos' prophecy: "On that day I 
will re-establish the fallen Tabernacle of David and they shall not 
any more be uprooted from their land." Indeed, offering a home for the 

^^Hadassah Newsletter, vol. 28, no. 4 (January 1948), p. 2. 
^Hhid., vol. 29, no. 9 (May 1949), p. 2. 

78 The Modern Age: Theology 

persecuted people was, according to the New Palestine, the essence of 
the historic event: 

Eighty generations and multiplied million:^ of Jewish martyrs have 
prayed for eighteen hundred long years for this miracle to become a 
reality. Now their spirit comes to life to hail the new Yishuv. A few short 
years ago six million of Europe's finest men and women were brutally 
slain because they were Jews. They were slain merely because they 
were the descendants of the glorious prophets of Israel. They died 
because in an hour of need, there was no Jewish State to give them 
sanctuary. Today the spirit of these martyrs blesses the builders of the 
new Yishuv. And they warn us that never again shall Israel be without 

However, this survivalist justification was not an exclusive one; a 
strong mission strain ran all through the proclamation. Support for the 
new state could be rendered by all Americans - gentiles and Jews alike - 
who shared a common heritage: 

We American Zionists greet the undaunted defenders of the Yishuv. 
America was founded by men who loved the Hebrew Bible and whose 
love of liberty was nurtured by the words of Jewish prophets. A Jew 
stood by the side of Columbus when he first saw the New World. 
Throughout its history, Jews have helped build America. 

We American Zionists know that Zionism is good Americanism. We 
know that the new Jewish State will promote the American ideals of 
freedom, peace and prosperity, because these concepts stem from the 
ancient Jewish concepts. 

The authors (it seems that this historic editorial was written by 
several hands) loftily declared that "In an age beset with turmoil and 
destruction, a Jewish State once again rises to afford a suffering 
humanity the old ever-needed Jewish message of hope, justice, freedom 
and peace for all men." And the continuation (where the authors 
underlined the American component of their "American Zionism") 
similarly stated: "We Americans have labored for Zionism. Today we 
are grateful to our government and the other nations of the world for 
their recognition of the new Jewish State. We know that the new 
Jewish State will be a benediction to all mankind." 

On the whole, the ideological essay somehow synthesized 
survivalism and missionism. Israel epitomized the right of the Jewish 
people to exist; the State's existence thus became a goal unto itself. At 
the same time, though, the Jewish state had by nature a humanistic 
message to convey to the rest of the nations. The tortured people now 
saved, loyal to its historic calling, now goes out to redeem the world. 

^^An Editorial, "Long Live the Republic of Israel," New Palestine, XXXVIH, no. 
18 (May 18, 1948), p. 4; this is the source for the following quotes. 

Universal Mission and Jewish Survivalism 79 

Change and continuity in American Zionist ideology were again 
demonstrated two months later in the 51st ZOA convention. This 
gathering, which referred back to the 21st convention, eventually took 
on an instructive historical dimension. As afore-mentioned, in June 1918, 
in the wake of the Balfour Declaration, the ZOA had adopted with 
missionist zeal the very progressive Pittsburgh Program. Now in July 
1948, some delegates accused the leadership of dragging the ZOA away 
from that grand commitment. The leadership - that is, Emanuel 
Neumann, Abba Hillel Silver and Daniel Frisch (ZOA vice president 
and president after Neumann) - then avowed loyalty to the Pittsburgh 
Program and brought it to the floor for confirmation. In a "roaring 
approval," the delegates reaffirmed the Program. It seems, however, 
that both the missionist zeal of the young movement and the earnest 
manner in which it had formerly deliberated upon the details of the 
ideal society were missing. Undoubtedly, the delegates of 1948 
expressed pride and trust that young Israel would continue to be a 
democratic and exemplary society; undoubtedly, also, they hoped that 
the Jewish state would bear some ennobling message to devastated post- 
war humanity. But the thrust of the 51st convention, and 
understandably so, was that the very existence of the Jewish state was 
the paramount element; and that in virtue of the State of Israel's 
survival by itself - benefit and progress were stored for all."^'' 

For the ZOA of 1948, then, social and humanistic tenets were no 
more the ultimate values attesting to the merit of the whole enterprise. 
Rather, the social-ethical values had now been integrated into the 
nationalist endeavor. 

In the Conservative and Reconstructionist trends a similar kind of 
synthesis became predominant, prominently expressed by Mordecai M. 
Kaplan. Known for his stubborn rejection of the chosen people concept, 
by the same token he did not tend to see the Jewish state as the bearer 
of a message to the world. Kaplan's "vocation idea" meant that the 
Jewish people was expected to mold a society intimately linked with 
Jewish heritage and responsive to inner Jewish needs. Mordecai Kaplan 
first and foremost conceived Zionism as aspiring to the two classic goals 
- security for the Jews and revival of Judaism. These twin goals, 
especially the all-embracing renaissance of Jewish civilization, were 
at the core of his philosophy. Kaplan hoped for the achievement of 
these goals by a Zionist movement highly committed to world Jewry's 
unity. To be sure, Kaplan did refer to Zionism as a "social instrument" 
influential beyond Jewry and Judaism; and he called the Zionist 
movement to embrace "a purpose or meaning to Jewish life that is of 

^^New Palestine, XXXVIII, no. 22 (July 23, 1948), esp. pp. 1-5. 

80 The Modern Age: Theology 

universal import because of its idealistic, cosmic, spiritual or religious 
character." But when he was instrumental in drafting a definitive 
formulation of "Zionism's Aims" he relegated the mission element to 
the last place, only rather elusively implying its role. It is worthwhile 
to bring in full the relevant section of the report of the Commission on 
Zionist Ideology he headed at the 1958 ZOA convention: 
Zionism should pursue the following aims: 

1. It should promulgate and translate into action the supreme 
importance of the centrality of the State of Israel to the 
survival and spiritual enhancement of the Jewish People 
throughout the world. 

2. It should help to bring about the reaffirmation and 
reconstitution of world Jewry as a religio-ethnic, transnational 
People, united by a common history and a common spiritual 

3. It should develop in the Diaspora, to the maximum degree, the 
creative potentialities of Jewish life, culture and religion. 

4. It should foster in the Jewish community in Israel and in all 
Jewish communities in the Diaspora a sense of partnership and 
mutual responsibility in the common endeavor to have the 
Jewish people throughout the world figure as an indispensable 
factor in the civilization of mankind.-^^ 

Undoubtedly, Mordecai Kaplan's attitude was more typical of 
mainstream American Zionism than, say, that of Louis Finkelstein. To 
the vast majority of American Zionists, the survival of a Jewish state, 
Jewish civilization, and Jewish solidarity were objectives of the 
highest priority, especially when the full extent of the Holocaust 
began to sink in. 


We have already discussed the survivalist orientation of new pro- 
Zionist organizations such as B'nai B'rith and the Federations. In this 
final section we will briefly re-examine the "Zionization process" in 
order to have, by a way of conclusion, a richer and more historically 
balanced picture. 

Significantly, the Zionization of Reform Judaism occurred without 
that movement's relinquishing the mission ideal. The Columbus 
Platform adopted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis 

3^ Arnold M. Eisen, The Chosen People in America: A Study of Jewish Religious 
Ideology (Bloomington: 1983), chap. 4; Mordecai M. Kaplan, A New Zionism 
(New York: 1959), pp. 178, 187. 

Universal Mission and Jewish Survivalism 81 

(CCAR) in 1937, largely signifying the beginning of the pro-Zionist turn 
of Reform, included an explicit plank which reaffirmed the 
movement's commitment to a universal mission. The shift away from 
anti-Zionism was due in part to the influence of Felix A. Levy 
(president of the CCAR during 1935-7) who recommended Zionism as 
associated with and even serviceable to the grand mission idea. An 
enhghtened Jewish Palestine, argued Levy, would best help to spread 
the universal message all around the world. ^^ 

Felix Levy's argumentation to win Reform Jews for Zionism was 
demonstrated in 1943 in the historic debate on the question of "Are 
Zionism and Reform Judaism Incompatible?" Levy forcefully led the 
group that replied in the negative, that Zionism and Reform were not 
incompatible. "Why must we Jews contrast people and reUgion, land 
and universalistic idea?" he asked and himself supplied the answer: 
"They are supplementary and not antithetic. The Jew is a universalist 
because of the history of Palestine as he is a man because he is a son of 
Israel...." As Americans, he argued, "we ought to be glad that we can 
give less fortunately situated brethren an opportunity to go to Palestine 
and through it serve a democratic ideal." And to this he added a key 
statement: "I personally have more confidence that we Jews can be a 
pattern people to the nations as a commonwealth in Palestine, than we 
can as a religious denomination here and elsewhere outside the ancient 
borders of our people. '"^^ 

The actual social-democratic accomplishments of the Yishuv 
served to sustain Levy's thesis that "Palestine too can help Israel in 
the performance of its mission to come nearer to God and brotherhood": 

If a state in Palestine or belief in it impedes the realization of these 
ideals, brotherhood, collective mankind and high ethical personality, 
we have a right to oppose it. I fail, however, to see any obstacles to the 
consummation of these hopes in a commonwealth of our own; rather 
do I see added support, increased opportunity for spreading brother- 
hood in a Jewish land living under Jewish ideals and inspired as it is 
and must growingly continue to be by the principles of our faith in God 
and in man.... 

Palestine is a hopeful token of the very things all of us seek.. .[in 
Palestine] the old spirit of prophet and sages lives again in pristine 
vigor and their words and teaching are far better understood than we 

^^"Guiding Principles of Reform Judaism," in Isaac E. Marcuson, ed., CCAR 
48th Annual Convention, May 25-30, 1937, Columbus, Ohio, vol. XLVII 
(Philadelphia: 1937), pp. 97-100, see esp. pp. 99-100; Sefton D. Temkin, ed., His 
Own Torah: Felix A. Levy Memorial Volume (New York: 1969), esp. pp. 19-43. 
^^Are Zionism and Reform Judaism Incompatible? Papers Read at Convention 
of the CCAR, June 24, 1943, New York, N.Y., [Philadelphia: 1943], pp. 16-17, 22. 

82 The Modern Age: Theology 

away from the background of our culture can ever hope to grasp them. 
The people of Israel lives and is ordering its life as Israel should. 
Palestine, Halutzim have not only made the desert to flower like a 
garden, but have made a way for the Lord in the erstwhile 

Levy's attitude prevailed, and not in that debate alone. The w^hole 
course of Reform's acceptance of Zionism v/as associated w^ith social 
undertones. To be sure, the intensification of nationalist Jewish 
affirmation and solidarity, against the background of Nazism's efforts 
to annihilate the Jewish people and conquer the world, was the pivot 
of Reform's Zionization; but, evidently, the process did not take place 
along strictly survivalist lines. Even the much belated platform 
adopted by the Reform movement in 1962 in San Francisco, which 
replaced the Columbus Platform, still retained an obvious mission 

True, in the case of B'nai B'rith's Zionization, the mission 
rationale was virtually absent. As I suggested the order's pro-Zionism, 
shaped under the harsh impact of Nazism and the Holocaust, was 
basically survival-oriented. It is important to note though that some 
factors keenly worked to contribute an enlightened socio-political 
dimension to B'nai B'rith's conception of the State of Israel. First, the 
order was very sensitive to the problem of dual loyalty and tended to 
solve it by claiming that the Jewish state would fulfill the loftiest 
American ideals. This idea, persistently forwarded, played a key role 
in the development of B'nai B'rith. The other factor that worked 
toward the same result was its service function which was synonymous 
with humanitarian concern. The two combined to produce a state of 
mind that inclined to interweave the survivalist urge with deep social 
responsibility. Consequently, using both democratic and social criteria, 
B'nai B'rith conceived the Zionist undertaking in Palestine to be a huge 
sheltering enterprise that had to respond to a multitude of refugees' 
needs and to help restore those masses to dignified and useful 
citizenship in a democratic society.^^ 

The Federations' evolving kind of pro-Zionism was significantly 
attuned beyond mere survivalism. Leaders of the Federations envisaged 

^^Ibid., pp. 23-28. 

"^^For background see, Meyer, Response to Modernity, pp. 326-334, 348-352; 

Eliot L. Stevens, ed., CCAR 87th Annual Convention, June 21-24, San Francisco, 

Cal, vol. LXXXVI (New York: 1977), pp. 177-178. 

'^■^See discussion and conclusions of Allon Gal's, "Israel in the Mind of B'nai 

B'rith (1938-1948)," American Jewish History, vol. LXXVII, no. 4 (June 1988), pp. 


Universal Mission and Jewish Survivalism 83 

an Israel cherishing the core values of Judaism such as tzedakah. And 
they saw the Jewish state as representing a consunnmation of America's 
own values of democracy and equal opportunity. Actually, the 
Federations' ideology was so steeped in American values 
("Americaness" a la Woocher) that it adopted the ideal of an 
American mission as a Jewish virtue to be pursued by the Jewish people. 
Thus, survivalism in the prevalent civil religion of the Federations 
often implied that both American Jewry and Israel were committed to 
the advancement of a model society .'^^ 

Hence, for the Federations, whose philanthropical endeavor 
became more and more intertwined with pro-Zionism (or philo- 
Israelism), Jewish survival carried some message to the world. They 
aspired to make Jewish soHdarity and continuity mearungful for society 
at large too. Judaism and Americanism, survivalism and a moderate 
missionist inclination - all were mingled in the Federations' rationale. 

Thus, generally speaking, though the nationalist ideology of the 
new pro-Zionists in the United States was shaped under the impact of 
the Holocaust, it was not synonymous with sheer survivalism. Many 
former non-Zionists were very highly sensitive to the problem of dual 
loyalty; and they now eagerly looked forward to a sovereign state 
whose social developments would attest the best values of the 
American people. Moreover, having an obvious vested interest in a 
democratic and tolerant America, they desired Israel to be ardently 
loyal to these very tenets. Significant circles of the new pro-Zionists, 
then, possessed the potential (at least at the leadership level) even to 
revive and sustain the attenuated universal mission legacy of the 
traditional American Zionist movement. 

^^Woocher, Sacred Survival, chap. 3. 

Part Sixteen 


Paradise Lost as a Midrash on the 
Biblical Bride of God 

Sylvia Barack Fishman 
Brandeis University 

The biblical Song of Solomon, whose love songs have been 
interpreted as an allegory for the relationship between God and his 
people by Jewish and Christian exegetes alike, has been a particular 
favorite of English poets in every century.^ Of all the English poets 
who have used the imagery of the Song, however, none brought to the 
poetic endeavor the extensive knowledge and love of the Hebrew Bible 
and the uniquely synthesizing poetic consciousness of John Milton. 
Milton's use of biblical imagery was not episodic: on the contrary, he 
drew on the exegetical tradition which Unked the Song to allegorical 
female figures in the Hebrew prophets and wisdom literature to create 
his own midrash on a network of Biblical passages. This essay follows 
two major patterns of biblical allusion - the cosmic marital metaphor 
and the moral pastoral - through the poetry of John Milton's Paradise 
Lost, focusing on the Song of Solomon and related bibHcal imagery. 

^For general discussion of the Song of Solomon in English poetry, see: Lily B. 
Campbell, Divine Poetry and Drama in 16th Century England (Berkeley: 
University of California Press, 1959); Harold Fisch, Jerusalem and Albion: The 
Hebraic Factor in Seventeenth Century Poetry (London: Routledge & Kegan 
Paul, 1964); Stanley Stewart, The Enclosed Garden: The Tradition and the 
Image in Seventeenth Century Poetry (Madison: The University of Wisconsin 
Press, 1966); Murray Roston, Prophet and Poet: The Bible and the Grozvth of 
Romanticism (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1965); Elinor S. Shaffer, 
"Kubla Kaan" and the Fall of Jerusalem: The Mythological School in Biblical 
Criticism and Secular Literature, 1770-1880 (Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press, 1975). 


88 The Modern Age: Literature 

Milton uses these biblical allusions to introduce important motifs 
into the poem long before their centrality becomes evident. They 
emphasize and/or play counterpoint to the action as it proceeds, and 
blend in the poem's climaxes and crescendos in stunning polyphony. The 
themes begun early in the poem still sound, dissonant but recognizable, 
in the harsh images of the last two books. They echo sadly in the 
hushed music of the poem's end. Certainly the reader is not required to 
recognize every biblical allusion in order to respond to Paradise Lost, 
which is accessible on many levels and in many ways. However, the 
ethos and the imagery of the Hebrew Bible were a profound influence 
on Milton's poem, and our awareness of them enriches our understanding 
of the poem immeasurably. 

Milton's Use of Biblical Motifs 

Milton called the Song a "divine pastoral."^ Indeed, the pastoral 
vision of Paradise Lost is biblical rather than classical or, as Knott 
claims, radically original,'^ and the Song of Solomon is a key to its 
significance. The Song's lush landscapes tied it to the symbolism of the 
bibhcal pastoral, which made graphic earthly blessing and fruition a 
symbol of God's immediacy and love, his intimate workings in the 
history of the individual and the world. According to biblical 
behavioral prescriptions - and according to Paradise Lost - the man 
who lived in the shadow of God's love, like the Shulamite, would 
flourish like a watered garden. If the bridegroom symbohzed God, then 
the Shulamite was the symbolic bride of God. She was thematically 
linked to the figure of Wisdom in Proverbs, who lives with and 
dehghts God as he creates the world, and to the daughter of Jerusalem, 
who followed God lovingly through the wilderness when he brought 

2john Milton, Reason of Church Government Urged, Student's Milton, ed. 
Frank Allen Patterson (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1957), p. 525. 
All quotations from Milton's poetry and prose will be taken from this edition. 
■^The moral seriousness of Milton's pastoral vision is in fact at odds with the 
locus amoenus of the classical pastoral. Thomas G. Rosenmeyer, The Green 
Cabinet: Theocritus and the European Pastoral Lyric (Berkeley: University of 
California Press, 1969), explains that the aristocratic idleness and freedom 
which are major facets of Theocritus' pastoral practically require that love be 
trivialized. The kind of love which preoccupies and elevates heart, mind, and 
soul is antithetical to "the Epicurean notion of hedone katastematike (tranquil 
joy)." Thus, the "great preoccupation with pure love and chastity, which comes 
to be so important in the pastoral drama of the Renaissance, does not exist in 
Theocritus, or for that matter, Virgil" (pp. 69-85). 

'*John R. Knott, Jr., Milton's Pastoral Vision: An Approach to Paradise Lost 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971). 

Paradise Lost as a Midrash on the Biblical Bride of God 89 

her out of Egypt, but betrayed God by seeking other lovers in the 
promised land, as the Hebrew prophets reported. 

Milton - like many rabbinical and ecclesiastical commentators - 
treated the Hebrew Bible as an interlocking body of works.^ Within 
Paradise Lost, "Espoused Eve," Adam's "Fair Consort" is linked to 
several symbolic biblical women: to the Shulamite; to the prophetic 
Jerusalem or "daughter of Zion," God's faithful fiance but idolatrous 
wife, and to the forlorn and desolate Jerusalem, the exiled princess; to 
Proverbial Wisdom, both in her transcendent form as the female 
emanation of Godhead and her earthly incarnation as the energetic and 
virtuous wife; and to Wisdom's nemesis. Lady Folly, the adulteress 
whose "subtle" tongue lures the unwary to deadly "solace."^ 

Eve slips in and out of the roles of the mystic Shulamite, the 
ravishing Wisdom-wife, the deadly seductress Folly, the grieving and 
penitent Jerusalem. Her actions are weighted with allusions to the 
allegorical women of the Old Testament - and through them to the Old 
Testament pastoral vision which unites man and wife, man and God, 

^For related insights on Milton's debt to the Hebrew Bible and to rabbinic 
tradition, see J. B. Broadbent, Poetic Love (London: Chatto and Windus, 1964); 
Harold Fisch, "Hebraic Style and Motifs in Paradise Lost," Language and Style 
in Milton, eds. Ronald D. Emma and John T. Shawcross (New York: F. Ungar, 
1967); Stanley Eugene Fish, Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost 
(London: Macmillan, 1967); Harris Francis Fletcher, Milton's Rabbinical 
Readings (Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Books, 1967); Northrop Frye, "Notes 
for a Commentary on Milton," The Divine Vision, ed. Vivian de Sola Pinto 
(London: Victor Gollancz, Ltd., 1957) and The Return of Eden: Five Essays on 
Milton's Epics (Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1965); John Halkett, Milton 
and the Idea of Matrimony (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 
1970); Burton O. Kurth, Milton and Christian Heroism: Biblical Epic Themes 
and Forms in Seventeenth-Century England (Hamden, Connecticut: Archon 
Books, 1966); Michael Uieb, The Dialectics of Creation: Patterns of Birth and 
Regeneration in Paradise Lost (Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Mass. 
Press, 1970); Peter Lindenbaum, "Lovemaking in Milton's Paradise," Milton 
Studies 7 (1975); William G. Madsen, 'The Idea of Nature in Milton's Poetry," 
Three Studies in the Renaissance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1958) and 
From Shadowy Types to Truth: Studies in Milton's Symbolism (New Haven: 
Yale University Press, 1958); Jason P. Rosenblatt, "The Mosaic Voice in Paradise 
Lost," Milton Studies 7 (1975); James H. Sims, The Bible in Milton's Epics 
(Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1962); Arnold Stein, Answerable Style: 
Essays on Paradise Lost (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1953); 
and Stanley Stewart, The Enclosed Garden: The Tradition and the Image in 
Seventeenth Century Poetry (Madison: The University of Wisconsin, 1966). 
^Unless otherwise specified, biblical references use the language of the King 
James Version of the Hebrew Bible. 

90 The Modern Age: Literature 

people and land in emphatically earthly (but not earth-bound) joy, 
fruition, and peace/ 

The reader's first view of Eden - seen through Satan's eyes - is a 
rich mosaic of allusions to the Song of Solomon and its exegesis and to 
the deflowering of the garden-woman which will follow. Satan enters 
Eden and pursues Eve in the night, a false and obscene parody of the 
bridegroom who comes to woo the Shulamite in the Song of Solomon. 
Adam wakes Eve in the morning with the song of the true bridegroom, 
directly culled from the biblical prototype. Eve, unfallen, in loving 
Adam loves the "God in him" (IV:329) as well. However, when Satan 
seduces her into eating the forbidden fruit, she immediately falls into 
the sins of idolatry and lasciviousness, just as the unfaithful wives 
described by the Hebrew prophets symbolized the Jewish people's 
idolatrous unfaithfulness to their God. After worshipping the 
forbidden tree. Eve goes off to seduce Adam into a similar sin, and 
approaches him with words closely recalling the proverbial adulteress 
whose honied words lead directly to hell. 

It is no accident that when Milton calls "wedded love" the 
"Perpetual Fountain of Domestic Sweets,/ Whose bed is undefil'd and 
chast," he calls on the "Patriarchs" for evidence that "God declares" 
true married love "pure" (IV:750-762). Despite Milton's evident 
hostility toward certain aspects of Old Testament law, it is in Old 
Testament poetry that he finds the truest expression of his attitudes 
toward sexuality. The land-as-woman image, flowering and fruitful 
when faithful, desolate when deflowered by idolatry, is as ubiquitous 
in the Hebrew Bible as it is in Paradise Lost. 

Milton's Eden blossoms around a spring which is both "shut up" and 
a "flowing" nourisher of "gardens" (IV:223-231). The fountain is a 
frequent motif in the Hebrew poetry which Milton drew on for his 
poem. The Shulamite, for example, is called "a spring shut up, a 
fountain sealed" (4:12) and also, somewhat contradictorally, "a 
fountain of gardens, a well of living waters and streams from Lebanon" 
(4:15). Jeremiah, denouncing the idolatry which has made the "land 
desolate" and has turned the Jews into a "degenerate plant... a strange 

'^Milton frequently alludes in Paradise Lost not only to the biblical texts 
themselves, but also to Jewish and especially Christian interpretations of the 
texts. It is not within the scope of this essay to explore the way in which Milton 
interweaves biblical texts and their exegesis within his poetry, but a much fuller 
exploration of this topic can be found in Sylvia Barack Fishman, The Watered 
Garden and the Bride of God: Patterns of Biblical Imagery in Poems of 
Spenser, Milton, and Blake, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation English Literature, 
Washington University, St. Louis, MO, May, 1980. 

Paradise Lost as a Midrash on the Biblical Bride of God 91 

vine," calls God "the fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah:2). Both 
sources are relevant to the garden-as-woman imagery of Paradise Lost. 
Before she falls. Eve too is both a garden and a fountain of gardens, like 
the Shulamite. Her status as such depends on her remaining both "shut 
up" and "flowing" like the Shulamite, that is, both chaste and loving, 
the beneficiary and the symbol of the "Perpetual Fountain of Domestic 

The Garden-Woman and the Topography of Eden 

As biblical allegorical female and as garden-woman. Eve in her 
person and in her adventures is an intrinsic part of Milton's intensely 
biblical pastoral vision. Like the Shulamite, Eve resembles a fragrant 
enclosed garden - and the fragrant enclosed garden of Eden resembles 
Eve. The description of the approach to paradise, for example, contains 
a series of images recalling the garden and woman safely enclosed by 
walls of trees: 

...overhead up grew 

Insuperable higth of loftiest shade. 

Cedar, and Pine, and Firr, and branching Palm 

...Yet higher then that Wall a circling row 

Of goodliest trees.... (IV:137-147) 

Similarly, the Shulamite's lover and brothers speak of her as an 
untouched garden, fenced in with wall upon wall (Song of Solomon 7:8; 
1:17; 8:9). The Shulamite complacently tells her brother that she needs 
no external safeguards, that love is her protection (8:10). But not all the 
"Insuperable higth" of wooded walls will save Eve when she betrays 
Adam's - and God's - trust and love. 

Milton prepares the reader for Eve's beauty and sweetness - while 
warning of her ultimate frailty - in a continuing group of allusions to 
the garden imagery of the Song. We smell the fragrances of Eden, and 
momentarily forget that our perceptions are provided by Milton's 
Satan, as he breaches the garden's defenses: gentle gales 

Fanning thir odoriferous wings dispense 

Native perfumes.... 

North-East windes blow 

Sabean Odours from the spicie shoare.... (IV:137-162) 

This striking emphasis on fragrance owes much to the Song, which is 
punctuated by the repeated motif of spicy, fruity, and enticing odors 

92 The Modern Age: Literature 

blown by winds or emanating from the beloved, as when the Shulamite 
pleads, "Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my 
garden, that the spices therof may flow out" (4:16).° 

Together with Milton's description of the "mantling Vine" which 
"Layes forth her purple Grape, and gently creeps,/ Luxuriant" (IV:258- 
260), the fruit which "Hung amiable" (250) recalls the lover's praise of 
the Shulamite: 

How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights. 

This thy stature is like to a palm tree, 

and thy breasts to clustures of grapes. 

I said, 'I will climb up into the palm-tree, 

I will take hold of the boughs thereof; 

and let thy breasts be as clusters of the vine, 

and the smell of thy nose like apples.' (7:7-9) 

The imagery of woman as fruited tree - and fruited tree as symbol of 
the woman - also foreshadows the repeated insinuation that Eve's 
sexuality, symbolized by her "fruit of fairest colours. ..Ruddie and 
Gold" (IX:577-578), turns Satan into a false bridegroom and increases 
his motivation to destroy the human couple. It presages the "bough of 
fairest fruit" (IX:851) which an intoxicated Eve will bring to her yet 
unfallen spouse. Milton's use of such physical imagery, often in 
conjunction with the presence of a stranger in the garden, divides the 
reader between pleasure in the poetry and anxiety for Eve's safety. The 
tension of dual vision is important to Milton's poetic technique, and the 
dramatic irony becomes more pronounced as Satan nears his goal. 

Milton's Eden, planted and carefully watched by the "Sovran 
Planter," embodies a biblical conviction that man's moral choices effect 
real changes in history, and that history, not just the immutable 
mutability of the natural world, is an expression of divine will. Even as 
we approach Eden along with Satan, Milton enriches our introductions 
to the garden with the emblematic images of crown and wilderness. 
Paradise, which "Crowns" Eden, prefigures the protected love which 
Adam calls the "Crown of all our bliss" (IV:728). The symbolic 
resonance of the word crown is diametrically opposed to that of the 
word wilderness: Satan ascends into Eden to bring the wilderness of 

^Pretty ladies, of course, are often described as sweet-smelling, but such 
preeminence of fragrance is unusual in classical and English pastoral poetry, 
and the constant use of the adjective "spicie" is especially so. The Song, in 
contrast, owes much of its sensuality to the repeated motif of garden (bodily) 
odors. See 1:3; 1:12-14; 2:13; 2:17; 3:6; 4:6; 4:10; 4:11; 4:13-14; 4:16; 5:1; 5:5; 5:13; 6:2; 
7:9; 7:14: 8:14. 

Paradise Lost as a Midrash on the Biblical Bride of God 93 

himself into the years - the "enclosure green" - of Adam and Eve. As 
Satan climbs into Eden, Milton has already alluded to his victory and 
to his ultimate defeat. 

Bridegrooms True and False 

Satan begins his career as a usurping "bridegroom" by illegally 
entering another man's garden. Despite all precautions, Satan, 
disdaining the "cross-barr'd" door of paradise, "In at the v^indow 
climbes" (IV: 1090-91). He is the obverse figure of Solomon, who 
"standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, showing 
himself through the lattice" (2:9). Eve, who lives in "simplicitie and 
spotless innocence" and is the "fairest of her Daughters" (IV:318, 323) is 
like the Shulamite who is praised for being "all fair.. .there is no spot 
in thee" (4:7) and is the "fairest among women" (6:1). 

Satan in Milton's poem is plunged into the fires of sexual jealousy: 
he witnesses the innocent sexuality of Adam and Eve in the vernal 
bower enjoying the "rites. Mysterious of connubial Love" (IV:742-743) 
and "inbraceing" sleep, while "on thir naked limbs the flourie roof/ 
Showrd Roses." Eve herself is the shady "Bower," "sacred and 
sequestered." The nuptial bower and the bride are beautiful, fragrant, 
fertile, and "fenc'd up" by faithful but earthly love. Adam and Eve's 
love is physical and spiritual, like that of the lovers in the Song of 
Solomon. When Adam enters the bower and Eve, their union is both a 
celebration of virtuous earthly love and a symbol of the love of God for 

Satan goes searching through the night in hopes of seducing Eve, 
who is both Adam's sister - since they have the same father - his 
daughter, and his bride. She corresponds to the Shulamite, whom 
Solomon symbolically calls, "My sister, my spouse." Satan, of course, 
has a daughter-bride back home. Lady Sin, but she Uves in the garden's 
sterile parody. Satan is thus, appropriately, an adulterer as well as a 
false, usurping bridegroom. 

As Satan, the demonic bridegroom, searches for Eve, the guardian 
angels, in turn, "Search through this Garden, leav unsearcht no nook" 
(IV:789-90) for Satan. We think of the bride of the Song, awoken from 
her bed at midnight, searching down each street, approaching the 
watchmen and asking after her beloved. The angels are told to "seise 
fast, and hither bring" whomever they will "find" (IV:796), just as the 
Shulamite says, "I found him... I held him, and would not let him go" 

94 The Modern Age: Literature 

Milton reminds the reader of Adam's and Eve's bliss, soon to be 
destroyed, by having Adam rouse Eve with a rendition of the 
bridegroom's call to awakening in the Song. Adam whispers to Eve: 


My fairest, my espous'd, my latest found, 
Heav'ns last best gift, my ever new delight, 
Awake, the morning shines, and the fresh field 
Calls us, we lose the prime, to mark how spring 
Our tended Plants, how blows the Citron Grove, 
What drops the Myrrhe, & what the balmie Reed, 
How nature paints her colours, how the Bee 
Sits on the Bloom extracting liquid sweet. (V:16-25) 

Just as the "beloved" calls to the Shulamite: 
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; 
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing 
of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle 
is heard in our land; 

The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, 
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. 
Arise, my love, my fair one and come away. (2:10-13) 

Milton is echoing not only Solomon's famous song of awakening, but his 
invitation to horticultural activity as well: 

Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field.... 

Let us get up early to the vineyards; 

Let us see if the vine flourish, 

whether the tender grape appear, 

and the pomegranates bud forth.... (7:11-12) 

The "Myrrhe" which "drops" in Adam's "fresh field" alludes to the 
myrrh-dropping hands of the biblical bride (5:5) and the myrrh- 
dropping, beflowered lips of the bridegroom (5:13). 

When Adam calls to Eve, he awakens her to the task of tending to 
the garden, and to the garden of themselves as well. Horticulture has 
sexual, sacramental, and moral meanings in both rabbinical and 
Christian exegetical interpretations of the Song of Solomon. When 
Solomon, like Adam, awakens his bride and tells her that "the time of 
singing is come," his words, ait hazamir hegeah, says the Midrash, can 

Paradise Lost as a Midrash on the Biblical Bride of God 95 

be translated as "the time of pruning is come."^ Pruning is an important 
activity in Milton's Eden, and it is tied into the relationship of the 
lovers to each other, as well as to the garden. Adam has already made 
the necessity for pruning clear to Eve (IV:623-630). Lieb points out that 
Adam and Eve imitate the "Sovran Planter" v^hen they "teach the 
vine how to wind her "tendrils" into fruitful, rather than "Fruitless 
imbraces," and thus cause a "wedding to occur between plant and plant," 
promoting "a fruitful growth through sexual union and a creative 
ordering of what is disordered as God creates life from Chaos. "^^ 
Pruning, as an aspect of lovemaking as well as form of service to and 
imitation of God, is a sacred activity in the garden and meant to be 
shared only by the true bridegroom with his fair bride. 

Eve, however, is called to rise in her dream-vision by the false 
bridegroom Satan as well. Satan fools the sleeping Eve by mimicking 
Adam's voice in a Petrarchan parody of Adam's biblical morning song: call'd me forth to walk 
With gentle voice, I thought it thine: it said 
Why sleepst thou Eve? now is the pleasant time. 
The cool, the silent, save where silence yields 
To the night-warbling Bird, that now awake 
Tunes his love-labored song.... 

The moon's light, says Satan, is "pleasing" and "Shadowie." Eve 
herself, he flatters, is "Nature's desire,/ In whose sight all things joy, 
with ravishment/ attracted by thy beauty" (V:36-47). Eve cannot resist 
such universal admiration. Like the Shulamite who is woken at night 
and goes searching for her beloved: , 

I sleep, but my heart waketh: 

it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying. 

Open to me my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; 

for my head is filled with dew, 

and my locks with the drops of the night. (5:2) 

I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, 

and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: 

I sought him, but I found him not. (3:2) 

Eve also 

rose as at thy call, but found thee not; 

^Yitzhak I. Broch, The Song of Songs as echoed in its Midrash (New York: 
Philipp Feldheim, Inc., 1968), pp. 46-47. 
i^Lieb, op. cit., p. 73. 

96 The Modern Age: Literature 

To find thee I directed then my walk; 
And on, methought, alone I pass'd through ways.... (V:48-50) 

Who should she find at the Tree but a creature who, like the dewy- 
locked beloved of the Song, seems to have "dewie locks: which 
"distill'd ambrosia" (V:55-56). Satan takes the "wondring" Eve into a 
flying dream, and then, like the bridegroom of the Song, disappears. 

Despite Eve's ominous dream, she and Adam are given intellectual 
tools with which to withstand the temptation. There is, first of all, 
the ritual of pruning: 

Then when fair Morning first smiles on the World, 

...let us to our fresh imployment rise 

Among the Groves, the Fountains, and the Hours 

That open now their choicest bosom'd smells 

Reserved from night, and kept for thee in store. (V:124-128) 

Adam's invitation to horticultural therapy is like Solomon's: 
Let us get up early to the vineyards... 
The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates 
all manner of pleasant fruits, now and old, 
which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved. (7:13-14) 

As Adam and Eve teach nature about disciplined creativity, they can 
learn much about their own roles: Eve, who "led the Vine/ To wed her 
Elm; she spous'd about him twines" (V:215- 216), could have learned to 
cling tightly to her own best support as well. 

Moreover, God sends Raphael down into the garden to warn the 
human couple of the impending danger. Raphael's entrance to the 
garden, like Satan's, has sexual overtones. Raphael doesn't just fly - he 
"Winnows the buxom Air" (V:270). Finally he comes "Into the Blissful 
field, through Groves of Myrrhe,/ And flouring Odours, Cassia, Nard, 
and Balme;/ A wilderness of sweets...." (V: 291-291). This fragrant 
landscape, so consciously evocative of the garden-woman of the Song 
(4:12-14), is in fact the very "place of bliss" which Satan has promised 
to his "Dear Daughter," Sin, and their "Fair Son," Death: 

the place where Thou and Death 
Shall dwell at ease, and up and down unseen 
Wing silently the buxom aire, imbalm'd 
With odours; there ye shal be fed and fill'd 
Immeasurably.... (II: 817-818; 832; 840-44) 

But neither garden nor woman have yet become death's prey; they seem 
if anything, more exquisite in their ineffable combination of innocence 

Paradise Lost as a Midrash on the Biblical Bride of God 97 

and sensuality, "Virgin Fancies, pouring forth more sweet,/ Wilde 
above rule or Art; enormis bliss" (V:296-97). 

Raphael, like the bridegroom who calls his bride a forest with 
"trees of frankincense" and "all the chief spices" (4:14), now "through 
the spicie Forrest onward" comes (V:298). Adam, like Abraham, one of 
the happily-married Patriarchs Milton invokes in his praise of 
"Domestic Sweets," sits at the "dore" of his "Bower"; as soon as he 
discerns his angelic guest approaching, he sends Eve to her domestic 
chores as Abraham sends Sarah to prepare food for their angelic 
visitors. Adam repeats the story of his nuptial night to Raphael, as 
Eve modestly "Rose, and went forth among her Frutis and Flours/ To 
visit how they prosper'd bud and bloom" (VIII:44-45), like the 
Shulamite who goes to see "whether the vine hath budded, whether 
the vine blossom be opened, and the pomegranates be in flower" (7:13). 

Despite Raphael's warnings, on the last morning in Eden, Eve works 
perversely into Satan's plan. She speaks again of horticultural duties, 
but in the interests of efficiency she wants Adam and herself to 
separate and work alone. Adam disagrees with her, warning that in 
order not to disturb their "Conjugal Love" Eve ought not to "leave the 
faithful side/ That gave thee being, stil shades thee and protects" 
(IX:263-266). Adam, like the bridegroom in the Song, shades his bride. 
Moreover, he was a partner with God in Eve's creation: Eve's correct 
submission to Adam's protection is based on the presence of "God in 
him," and loyalty to her husband becomes a form of loyalty to God, as 
it is in the prophetic metaphor. 

But Eve rejects her place in the garden enclosed; it now seems to her, 
she says, like a prison instead. And so Eve, with innocent foolishness, 
goes out to meet her Foe, who has been seeking her like a demonic 
bridegroom in "ambush hid among sweet Flours and Shades": 

And on his Quest, where likeliest he might find... 
In Bowre and Field he sought, where any tuft 
In Grove or Garden-Plot more pleasant lay... 

Eve.. .he spies 
Veild in a Cloud of Fragrance, where she stood. 
Half spi'd, so thick the Roses bushing round 
About her glowd... 

Neerer he drew, and many a walk travers'd 
Of stateliest Covert, Cedar, Pine, or Palme... 
This Flourie Plat, the sweet recess of Eve.... (IX:407-456) 
The allusions to the searching lovers of the Song are unmistakable: 

98 The Modern Age: Literature 

Whither is thy beloved gone... 

that we may seek him with thee? 

My beloved is gone down to his garden, 

to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, 

and to gather lilies. 

Behold thou are fair, my beloved, yea pleasant; 

also our bed is green. 

The beams of our house are cedars, and our rafters of firs. (6:1-2; 1:16- 


Satan, finding Eve in a spot deliberately reminiscent of the nuptial 
bow^er, is ravished with delight and momentarily paralyzed by Eve's 
"step," her "look," her "every Aire," (IX:452-462), just as the biblical 
bridegroom declares that his spouse has ravished his heart with one of 
her eyes (7:2). Being Satan, however, he overcomes this sweet 
compulsion and advances toward's Eve's "sweet recess." Milton 
describes the approaching serpent vdth a jeweled splendor: 

...his Head 

Crested aloft, and Carbuncle his Eyes; 

With burnisht Neck of verdant Gold, erect 

Amidst liis circling spires... 

...pleasing was his shape. 

And lovely.... (IX:499-504) 

not unlike that of the biblical bridegroom: 
His hands are as gold rings set with beryle; 
His belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. 
His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold; 
Yea he is altogether lovely. (5:14-16) 

Similarly, when Satan speaks to Eve, he speaks not only with the 
extravagant praise of a cynical courtly lover, determined to have his 
way with a gullible young woman, but also in the voice of Solomon, 
albeit somewhat skewed. After thus softening her resistance, Satan 
tells Eve that she too has a "need of this fair fruit," the "Ruddie and 
Gold" apples on the forbidden tree, and urges her to "reach then, and 
freely taste," (IX:571-597), echoing the bridegroom's determination to 
"go up into the palm-tree" who is his beloved and "take hold of the 
boughs thereof (7:8-9). The evil forebodings first raised when Satan, 
the interloper, smelled the savory, wind-born fragrance of another 
man's garden has come at last. Believing that the fruit will impart to 
her a "wisdom" equal to God's, Eve, forgetting the shade of her true 

Paradise Lost as a Midrash on the Biblical Bride of God 99 

bridegroom, reaches to the forbidden tree and eats. Satan's successful 
imposture of the bridegroom is completed: he has seduced the bride 
away from obedience to her husband and patient trust in God. 
Eve eats the fruit compulsively and is soon intoxicated: 

her rash hand in evil hour 
Forth reaching to the Fruit, she pluck't, she eat: 

Intent now wholly on her taste, naught else regarded.... 
Greedily she ingorg'd without restraint. 
And knew not eating Death: Satiate at length. 
And hight'nd as with Wine, jocond and boon.... (IX:780-793) 

Now, and until her repentance. Eve is modeled on the proverbial 
"riotous woman," the "adventuress," "adulteress," and idolatress, lady 

Therefore shall they eat the fruit of their own way, 
and be filled with their own devices. 

Such is the way of an adulterous woman; 

she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, 

I have done no wickedness. 

(she) forsaketh the guide of her youth, 

and forgeteth the covenant of her God. 

For her house inclineth unto death.... (1:31; 30:20; 2:16-18) 

j The adulteress goes forth into the streets to seduce her prey with the 
promise that "Stolen waters are sweet and bread eaten in secret is 
pleasant"; the young man she seduces "knoweth not that the dead are 
there, and her guests are in the depths of hell" (2:16-17). Eve, who is 
"Defac't, deflourd, and now to Death devote" goes to seek Adam with 
"bland words" and "Countenance blithe" and flushed and tipsy "Femal 
charm." Eve prevails upon Adam to eat the fruit, and the two of them 
sink into a flowery bed, burning with lust (1X:855-1042). 

Milton combines the Proverbial description of the faithless wife 
with the Shulamite once again as Eve tells Adam that they have a 
"Union" of "One Heart, One Soul" which will endure, "Rather then 
Death or ought then Death more dread/ Shall separate us," and when 
the two fallen lovers 

thir fill of Love and Loves disport 
Took largely, of thir mutual guilt the Seale 
The solace of their sin. (IX:1042-44) 

200 The Modern Age: Literature 

We remember the Shulamite's passionate declaration: 

Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm; 

For love is as strong as Death.... (8:6-7) 

The "love" which Adam and Eve enjoy now is not the divinely blessed 
fountain of demostic bUss in Proverbs and in Milton's Book IV; neither is 
it the seal of holy love in the hearts of the Shulamite and her 
bridegroom. The "solace" which Eve gives Adam is not the "individual 
solace dear" (IV:487) which Adam cried for when she was first created, 
nor the "help/ Or solace" (VII:418-19) which Adam asks from God, nor 
the "new/ Solace in her return": (IX:843-44) which Adam has longed 
for. It is the "solace" of the proverbial lady Folly's destructive 

Let us take our fill of love, 

let us solace ourselves with loves. (7:18) 

Eve worships the tree from which she has just eaten as her 
"Sovran" (IX:795). Her original sin is disobedience, eating from the 
prohibited tree, but the sin of disobedience leads directly to the sin of 
avodah zarah, the worship of strange gods, most heinous crime of 
prophetic injunctions. And the seal of this idolatry in Paradise Lost, as 
it is throughout the Hebrew scriptures, is orgiastic sexuality 
accompanied or followed by callousness, bloodlust, and death, as 
Milton summarizes the history of idolatry, "lust hard by hate" (1:400- 

The unmaking of creation is symboHzed in both prophetic literature 
and in Paradise Lost by the accouchement which delivers death. When 
Milton describes Earth's reactions to the dual sin: 

Earth trembl'd from her entrails, as again 

In pangs, and Nature gave a second groan.... (IX:999-1000) 

he is echoing not only his own description of the unnatural birth of 
Death to Sin, but the images of Jeremiah: 

For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, 

and the anguish as of her 

that bringeth forth her first child, 

the voice of the daughter of Zion, that bewaileth herself, 

that spreadeth her hands, saying. Woe is me now.... (4:31) 

The daughter of Zion, like Eve, discovers too late that the fruit of her 
strange union is death. The destruction of Jerusalem, land and people, 
like the destruction of Eden, follows swiftly, and is complete. 

Paradise Lost as a Midrash on the Biblical Bride of God 101 

Jeremiah's descriptions of the horrors of war, famine, and pestilence, 
hke Milton's, are vivid and grim. 

Adam and Eve are devastated by the enormity of what they have 
wrought. But while Adam is still flailing around in despair and 
recrimination. Eve regains her capacity for heroic love and self- 
sacrifice. "Humble" at last, and aching for "peace," not prestige, she 
embraces Adam's feet and weeps until he forgives her. She convinces 
Adam that they must plead for forgiveness from God. In conquering 
their own pride - and the despair which is itself a form of pride - 
Adam and Eve take the first step toward biblical heroism, the 
repentant prayers of "a broken and contrite heart." 

At last, the fallen, contrite, and divinely forgiven Eve calls to 
Adam in a sad and fallen echo of the Shulamite's invitation, "Come my 
beloved, let us go forth into the fields" (7:12): 

But the Field 

To labor calls us now with sweat impos'd. 

Though after sleepless Night; for see the Morn, 

All unconcerned with our unrest, begins 

Her rosie progress smiling; let us forth.... (XI:171-175) 

Her words have more pathos than she realizes, for she will never see 
those vines and flowers again. The garden clouds with a sudden and 
ominous darkness and the world's first bloody animal predatory hunt 

However, the pastoral protection of God's love, Milton shows, does 
not end with Eden. Michael assures Adam that God's love will follow 
him out of the garden, "still compassing thee round/ with goodness and 
paternal Love (IX:349-353), as God's love encircled Israel in the 
wilderness (Deuteronomy 32:10). Even fallen man will have access to 
the inspiration of God's written word in the Scriptures, open to all men; 
in addition, the poe^ will have access to the private fountain of 
inspiration as well which enables him to sing, the wakeful Bird 

Sings darkling, and in shadiest Covert hid 

Tunes her noctural Note. (111:38-40) 

like the "dark but beautiful" bride of the Song: 

O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, 

in the covert of the cliff, 

Let me see thy countenace, let me hear they voice; 

For sweet is thy voice.... (2:14) 

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These blessings, however, will be blessings of the inner life. Mild 
shade, spicy breezes, fragrant fruit, untainted waters will exist as an 
inner pastoral of "Faith... Vertue, Patience, Temperance," and "Love," a 
"Paradise within thee, happier farr," (XII:582-587) until the end of 
human time. Then Satan, the false bridegroom of the human soul, will 
be destroyed forever, and the marriage of man and God will become not 
metaphor, but reality: 

New Heav'ns, New Earth, Ages of endless date 
Founded in righteousness and peace and love. 
To bring forth fruits Joy and eternal Bliss. (XII:549-551) 

The vision of eternal love which Adam and Eve take with them out 
of the garden is drawn from Hosea's promise for the reunion of man and 
wife, and God the people, and the land of Israel. The allusion is 
particularly apt as Adam and Eve descend into the "torrid heat" of the 
"Lybian air adust" (XII:634-635), for the renewed love between God and 
his people will be initiated not in the luxury of the garden but in the 
isolation of the wilderness: 

I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, 
and speak tenderly to her. 

And she will respond there, as in the days of her youth. 
As in the day when she came up out the land of Egypt. 

And 1 will betroth thee unto Me forever; 

Yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, ' 

and in justice, and in loving kindness, and in compassion. 

And I v^ll betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness; 

and thou shalt know the Lord. (Hosea 2:16-22). 


As we have seen, many details of landscape and personal 
appearance, activity, and dialogue which Milton applies to Eden are a 
deliberate pattern of allusions to the biblical pastoral and the 
metaphoric bride of God, to the garden and persona of the Song of 
Solomon and related biblical poetry in the Hebrew prophets and 
wisdom literature, and to their symbolism as spiritual history. 
Milton's manifold allusions illustrate the unity of past, present, and 
future in what the poet saw as the truest and most encompassing of all 

Although this essay has focused on specific Old Testament 
patterns, it is important to remember that Milton places them in a much 
larger framework of biblical allusions; in addition, woven throughout 

Paradise Lost as a Midrash on the Biblical Bride of God 103 

this comprehensive network of biblical allusions are references to 
Judaic and Christian religious and philosophical works, including 
commentaries on the Bible. Insofar as the Song of Solomon contributes to 
the pastoral vision of Paradise Lost, however, it stands at the center of 
the poem. Set off by epic war and ethereal beauty in Milton's depiction 
of the heavenly courts, and hideous ugliness from below in his depiction 
of hell, the biblical pastoral of life in the garden is the emotional 
center of the poem as well as the physical center of Milton's universe. 

By using the Song of Solomon and related biblical imagery to enrich 
the terse drama in Genesis, Milton heightens and transforms its moral 
power. Viewed as naked text, without commentary or exegesis, the 
Eden story in Genesis is undoubtedly compelling and evocative, but its 
relationship to the moral universe expressed in the remainder of the 
Hebrew Bible is problematic. In fashioning a revised Eden story which 
incorporates pivotal biblical moral, thematic, and imagistic motifs, 
Milton works in a fashion quite similar to that evidenced in the 
rabbinic midrash. Milton transforms the Genesis narrative, and brings 
it into line with the exegetical tradition linking disparate biblical 
episodes. In his hands, the story of Adam, Eve and the serpent becomes 
not a mysterious myth at the beginning of time, but part and parcel of 
human history, the first link in a long, connecting drama acted out by 
man but planned and supervised by the Creator himself. 


"Sacred Scriptures or Bibles of 

Mankind" in Walden 

by Henry David Thoreau 

Pier Cesare Bori 
University of Bologna 

Einem gelang es - er hab den Schleyer der Gottin zu Sals. 
Aber was sah er? Er sah - Wunder des Wunders - Sich Selbst 


In Walden the chapter "Reading" stands out, placed as it is 
immediately after the two long preceding chapters "Economy" and 
"Where I lived and what I lived for" (which are indispensable for 
defining the motives and the procedures of Thoreau's choice) and as the 
first of a long series of brief chapters dedicated to various aspects of his 
"life in the woods." There is a philological factor which highlights 
the importance of this chapter: "Reading," unlike the other chapters, 
was already in its almost final form in the first version of "Walden," 
which was printed in 1854, after at least six revisions.^ To these pages 
H. D. Thoreau entrusts, rather than a plan of specific reading, a series 
of general theses on reading: what a real book is, how to be a real 
reader, and what real reading is.'^ Thus, we are dealing with genuine 

^"A man managed to lift the veil of the Goddess of Sals. But what did he see? 
He saw - miracle of miracles - Himself," Distich 1798. 

^Cf. L. Lindon Shanley, The Making of Waldeti, with the Text of the First 
Version, University of Chicago Press, p. 95: "It is fairly safe to assume that it is 
practically in its final form here." 

^In The Senses of Walden New York, The Viking Press, 1972, p. 5, S. Cavell 
points out that we should use this chapter to understand, first of all, Walden 


106 The Modern Age: Literature 

hermeneutic theses, which I would like to consider by placing them in a 
wide context. For this reason, my recent research on ancient hermeneu- 
tics and its modern revivals will be useful."^ 

1 . The solemn beginning of "Reading" transports us immediately 
out of time, into a special, sacred, mysterious atmosphere. "In acquiring 
property, for ourselves or our posterity, in founding a family or a state, 
or acquiring fame even, we are mortal; but in deaHng with truth we are 
immortal, and need fear no change nor accident. The oldest Egyptian or 
Hindu philosopher raised a corner of the veil from the statue of the 
divinity; and still the trembling robe remains raised, and I gaze upon as 
fresh a glory as he did, since it was I in him that was then so bold, and 
it is he in me that now reviews the vision. No dust has settled on that 
robe; no time has elapsed, since that divinity was revealed. That time 
which we really improve, or which is improvable, is neither past, 
present, nor future" (p. 144).^ 

The text is rich with autobiographical references and suggests a 
series of intellectual precursors which should be explored more 
carefully. There is an obvious debt to transcendentalism ("there is One 
Man, present to all particular men only partially, or through one 
faculty," as Emerson states at the beginning of The American Scholar). 
There is a reference to the veil of Maya, in Buddhism, united in the 
image and the theme of unveiling-revealing; there is a reference to the 
mysteries of Osirides, through a possible reading of Novalis. There is 
platonism, and Swedenborg, and there is, more hidden, a probable 
evocation of a complex passage from Paul (II Cor. 3): Moses had to veil 
his face, when speaking to the Hebrews, while the believer can, with 
boldness (parrhesia) contemplate the glory of God, moved by the Spirit 
which transforms him into the actual image which is contemplated. 

All these allusions are intended to establish a certain idea of the 
relationship between the text and its reader, inviting him to assume, 
when approaching it, an attitude analogous to that presumed by the 
ancient way of reading, as "lectio divina," as a spiritual exercise, as a 

itself: "its task, for us who are reading, is epitomized in discovering what 
reading is and, in particular, if Walden is a heroic book, what reading Walden 
is...." My point, as it will appear later on, is different (cf. n. 19). 
^L'interpretazione infinita. L'ermeneutica cristiana antica e le sue trasforma- 
zioni, Bologna, II Mulino, 1987. I would like to take a definition from this work: 
"If interpretation is an art, hermeneutics is the reflective moment which 
provides it with a theory of the text, which is often only implicit, and above all 
with rules of interpretations." 

^Quotations from H. D. Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience, Penguin 
Books, 1983. 

"Sacred Scriptures or Bibles of Mankind" in Walden 107 

sacred action which transports the reader into the spiritual world. 
"Being seated to run through the region of the spiritual world: I have 
had this advantage in books. To be intoxicated by a single glass of wine; 
I have experienced this pleasure when I have drunk the liquor of the 
esoteric doctrine": this quotation from Mir Camar Uddin Mast comes 
shortly after the passage quoted above (p. 145). And a passage which 
follows immediately evokes even more consciously the ancient practice 
of meditation, with its insistence on ascetic separations from the world 
in order to dedicate oneself to meditation on the Book, paying attention 
to every single word, seeking a "sensus plenior" which is exemplary for 
the reader, in such a way that the apparently dead language in which 
it is written becomes alive, and the only one which is alive. "The 
heroic books, even if printed in the character of our mother tongue, will 
always be in a language dead to degenerate times; and we must 
laboriously seek the meaning of each word and line, conjecturing a 
larger sense than common use permits out of that wisdom and valor and 
generosity we have" (p. 145).^ 

It is therefore opportune to review rapidly the essential features of 
ancient religious hermeneutics, paying special attention to the 
tradition in which Thoreau can be placed, in spite of his historical and 
cultural distance. 

Ancient Christian hermeneutics, with all their differences between 
authors, epochs and traditions, and with many features in common with 
others religious traditions, especially the Jewish tradition, converge 
above all in their conception of the sacred text. The Bible evidently 
transcends any other writing. In it, text and history coincide: "narrat 
textum, prodit mysterium," says Gregory the Great, who synthesizes 
preceding hermeneutical tradition at the end of the sixth century; 
animated by the spirit, it constitutes a living, unified and coherent 
body, which moves with a force, "virtus," and "dynamis" of its own, 
like the chariot in the vision of Ezekiel, according to the same Gregory, 
in his commentary to the Prophet. 

Secondly, ancient hermeneutics agree on the definition of the 
reader of the sacred text. It requires a reader who is also animated by 
the Spirit, a reader who by reading and interpreting, seeks, through 
letter and history, knowledge of the "mystery" (as it was then called). 

^On this "larger sense," see Walden's Conclusion: "They pretend - as I hear - 
that the verses of Kabir have four different senses; illusion, spirit, intellect, 
and the exoteric doctrine of the Vedas;" but in this part of the world it is a 
ground of complaint if a man's writings admit of more than one 
interpretation" (p. 373). This text is obviously very important for S. Cavell, 
op.cit., p. 15, cf. n. 19. 

108 The Modern Age: Literature 

Such is the spiritual power, the "virtus" of authentic scriptural 
contemplation, that it "not only recognizes Sacred Scripture, once it has 
been created, but would be capable of creating it, if it did not already 
exist. "^ 

From this, thirdly, there is the idea of reading as an act which 
generates infinite meanings, which spring from connections among the 
texts, and between the texts and the reader. The biblical universe is 
thus at the same time infinite and closed (symbolic links to the natural 
world are possible, but only until the twelfth century, and in 
subordination to the Bible and with a biblical basis) and in this 
universe there is the reader himself. The final result of reading will 
thus be the prolongation of the text until it involves the reader in his 
present time: the text becomes true, it becomes exemplary and 
normative for the reader and for his community. Its application is not 
external to its interpretation, but constitutes the necessary final moment 
of that interpretation: it is gliosis, knowledge as the link between 
contemplation and action, in which contemplation ends. 

2. We now come to the examination of the hermeneutic theory 
underlying "Reading." Even in the hermit's soHtude of Walden there is 
a "lectio divina," but with what analogies and what differences from 
the ancient model? 

Above all, there is the notion of the sacred text. This is not denied; 
however, "Scripture" at this point becomes plural, "Scriptures": "the 
recorded wisdom of mankind, the ancient classics and Bibles," (p. 151) 
"the sacred Scriptures, or Bibles of mankind" (p. 152). There is not just 
one sacred text: every people and every tradition has them, and all are 
admitted into a sort of canon. It is time for anyone who is seeking 
knowledge to abandon the "silent gravity and exclusiveness" of a person 
who thinks that his own religious experience is unique and can be 
referred to a single text. It is necessary "to learn liberality together 
with wisdom.... Zoroaster, thousands of years ago, travelled the same 
road, and had the same experience and established worship among 
men; but he, being wise, knew it to be universal." Thus it is necessary for 
the solitary person, who thinks he is alone in his faith, to "humbly 
commune with Zoroaster.. .and, through the liberalizing influence of all 
the worthies, with Jesus Christ himself, and let our church go by the 
board" (p. 153). 

''Gregory the Great, "Contemplatio enim virtus est, non solum per quam 
Scriptura condita recognoscitur, sed per quam nondum condita conderetur et 
per quam condita ad Dei voluntatem cotidie disponatur" (In I.I Reg. Ill, 171). 
Cf. L'interpretazione infinita, p. 67, where there is a commentary on the text. 

"Sacred Scriptures or Bibles of Mankind" in Walden 109 

In a complex passage, preceding that which I have just quoted, 
Thoreau establishes a distinction between classics and Scriptures, but 
both types of text are then joined together: one should begin, and then 
continue to add to a great sacred library, for the sake of humanity: 
"That age will be rich indeed when those relics which we call classic, 
but even less known Scriptures of the nations, shall have further 
accumulated, when the Vaticans shall be filled with Vedas and 
Zendavestas and Bibles, with Homers and Dantes and Shakespeares, 
and all centuries to come shall have successively deposited their 
trophies in the forum of the world. By such a pile We may hope to scale 
heaven at last" (p. 149). With this last comment, the image of a new 
Vatican is transformed into a biblical reference: the new universal 
library will be the real Jacob's ladder, and will succeed where the 
tower of Babel failed, in reaching heaven. 

The sacredness of the text is also the sacredness of language; 
Thoreau distinguishes between common language and the language used 
in the Classics and in Scriptures; the ancient masses were able to speak 
Greek or Latin, but they could not read or understand the great works; 
they spoke their "mother tongue," but for great texts it was necessary to 
know a "father tongue, a reserved and select expression, too significant 
to be heard by the ear, which we must be bom again in order to speak" 
(p. 146). It is necessary to be born again, through a sort of mystic 
initiation, to be able to understand a language of the classics or the 

Here one is struck by the clear affirmation of the primacy of 
written language over spoken language. Of the dialogues of Plato, who 
expressed in Phaedrus and in the Seventh Letter his distrust of the 
written word, Thoreau specifically says that these "contain what is 
immortal in him" (p. 152). One is also struck by the argument against 
the occasional nature of rhetorics, against which is opposed the 
universality, stability and purity of writing: "The noblest written 
words are commonly as far behind or above the fleeting spoken 
language as the firmament with its stars is behind the clouds. "° I would 
say that the emphasis here tends to be different from that of the 
Emerson that I know: the Emerson who, in the Divinity School Address 

^Incidentally, Thoreau rediscovers an ancient image here. As Isaiah 34:4 says 
that in the end "heavens will be rolled up like a book," Augustine develops in 
several places the connection between Scripture and the heavenly firmament 
(En. in ps. 103:7-9; cf. Conf. XIII, 15, 16s.) and above all affirms: "However much 
one may progress in science, he will always find himself underneath that 
Scripture which God has placed, like a firmament, above all human hearts." 
{Ad Orosium . XI, 14; PL 42, c. 678) 

110 The Modern Age: Literature 

of 1838 protested against "the assumption that the age of inspiration is 
past, that the Bible is closed" (like, earlier, German romanticism)^ 
who in Self-reliance affirmed that "the highest merit we ascribe to 
Moses, Plato and Milton is that they set at naught books and traditions, 
and spoke not what men, but what they thought," and in The American 
Scholar declared of books that "they are for nothing but inspire."^^ 

Secondly, similarly to the ancient conception, the reader should be 
congenial to the text, should be animated by the same spirit: "To read 
well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise and 
one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs 
of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, 
the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must 
be read as deliberately^^ and reservedly as they were written" (p. 
146). Here too is a spontaneous restoration of the situation, the "Sitz im 
leben" of the ancient "lectio" and "spiritual exercises": the study of 
scriptures requires conformity to the spirit of the text, a decision, an 
"intention" which also an act of isolation from others and a continual 
exercise. One notes the stoic and monastic terminology, the "askesis" 
(we have already seen how reading requires "wisdom, generosity and 
valour,") (p. 145).^ 2 

But we see, further on, the introduction of a modern, humanistic and 
universalistic element: one should (and can) learn ancient languages, at 
least what is necessary to understand the language in which the text is 
written: this learning is necessarily artificial, because in each case it 
concerns a "father tongue" which we would not possess spontaneously 
even if we had the same "mother tongue." 

^Texts by Novalis ("Who said that the Bible is still closed? Shouldn't we think of 
the Bible as still growing?"), F. Schlegel, by the young Schleiermacher, in 
L'interpretazione infinita, p. 133. 

^°Cf. H. Bloom: "...the characteristic Thoreauvian swerve towards the authority 
of books, rather than away from them in the Emersonian manner," Modern 
Critical Views, H. D. Thoreau, ed. H. Bloom, New York-New Haven- 
Philadelphia, Chelsea House Publishers, 1987, Introduction, p. 9. For Emerson, 
a prose-writer was "un orateur manque," cf. the pages on Emerson's 
"Eloquence" in F. O. Matthiessen, American Renaissance: Art and Expression 
in the Age of Emerson and WJiitman, New York, Oxford University Press, 1941 
(I I, §2). 

^^"Deliberately": see Matthiessen, American Renaissance, I, II, §3 (on the use 
of this term in the famous passage of the II chapter, "I went to the woods 
because I wished to live deliberately..., "p. 135). 

^^Cf. P. Hadot, Exercises spirituels et philosophic antique, Paris, Etudes 
Augustiniennes, 1987. 

"Sacred Scriptures or Bibles of Mankind" in Walden 111 

And here, in third place, is the result: reading. With the text thus 
perceived, and the reader thus prepared, now comes the meeting 
between the author of the text and his reader. The reader discovers 
that he is not alone. In the classics, modern man finds the answers to 
the questions that he asks: "They are the only oracles which are not 
decayed, and there are such answers to the most modern inquiry in them 
as Delphi and Dodona never gave" (p. 146). ^-^ "These same questions 
that disturb and puzzle and confound us have in their turn occurred to 
all wise men" (p. 153). More fully: "There are probably words ad- 
dressed to our condition exactly, which, if we could read and 
understand, would be more salutary than the morning or the spring to 
our lives, and possibly put a new aspect on the face of things for us. How 
many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. 
The book exists for us perchance which will explain our miracles and 
reveal new ones. The at present unutterable things we may find 
somewhere uttered" (p. 153). Thus, in every situation, there is a book 
"for us." It is difficult not to remember the "for us" with which 
Christian authors evoke Hebrew texts: for Paul, in the / Corinthians 
the events of the Exodus find their meaning "to admonish us, who have 
arrived at the end of time."^'* Along with this, we remember the "even 
greater wonders" which Jesus promised that his disciples would 
perform {John 14:12). The reward of reading is thus the acquisition of 
words of wisdom - "wisdom" is here the key term: "golden words, 
which the wisest men of antiquity have uttered, and whose worth the 
wise of every succeeding age have assured us of (p. 152). Let us return to 
the beginning of "Reading": reading, finally, is the appropriation of 
past experience, to the point of becoming the same person who first had 
that experience: "It was I in him.. .and it is he in me." 

4. Having sketched the similarities between the two 
hermeneutical approaches, it is necessary at this point, in conclusion, to 
highlight the differences, by referring however to elements which 
have already been mentioned. 

First of all, while it is true that the expansion of the sacred text, 
the open unlimited structure of the canon (to the point of including not 
only the classics and the scriptures of the past, and not only future 

^^On the reading of texts of the past as prophecy, cf. the text of the first 
version, quoted in n. 15. 

^^Cf. Emerson, Histori/: "Law was enacted, the sea was searched, the land was 
found, or the blow was struck, for us.. ..So all that is said of the wise man by Stoic 
or Oriental or modern essayist, describes to each reader his own idea, 
describes his unattained but attainable self." 

112 The Modern Age: Literature 

works, but also the book of nature itself)^ ^ occurs through an extensive 
use of sacred terminology, there is no doubt that the general process is 
one of secularization. It is what Novalis describes, when he narrates 
how the follower of Sais, lifting the veil of the goddess, discovered 
under the veil nothing but himself.^ ^ 

Furthermore, this insistence on the aspect of learning the language 
presupposes the reformed idea of "claritas Scripturae" (that is, its 
independence with regard to the context of ecclesiastical tradition), 
presupposes the humanistic upheaval and thus the autonomy of the 
critical method, and alludes to the first romantic philology, of F. 
Schlegel, for example: where philology, as precise Hnguistic research 
and the search for "intentio auctoris" often coexists happily with the 
interpretation of the textual segment in a wider connotation, because in 
the content directly meant by the author "the entire world" is present, 
as a concomitant representation (thus Schleiermacher).^'^ Again, it is 


^^An obvious aspect, which I have not stressed, and which appears in our own 
chapter: one cannot neglect the study of ancient authors with the excuse that 
they are old: "We might as well omit to study nature because she is old." (p.l46) 
This sentence is missing in the first version, where, instead, we find an 
important variation: books "have to be studied in the same spirit that we study 
nature. They are only valuable commentaries on her works, never ancient, and 
never modern." (Shanley, The Making of Walden, p. 147) An identification of 
works of art and works of nature is also missing in the final version {ibid. 149). 
But the theme of nature is developed in "Sounds": "Will you be a reader, a 
student merely, or a seer?" cf. n 19. 

^^The first version contains the most noteworthy variations, in my opinion, in 
the entire chapter. The last sentence of the first paragraph "That time which we 
really improve.. .is neither past, present, nor future" was at the beginning, and 
was illustrated as follows: "1 might say that the student always studies antiques. 
In our studies we do not look forward but backward into antiquity with 
redoubled pauses. Where is that lost first page of history? We have never 
found the literature that dated from an antiquity sufficiently remote. The most 
adventurous student seeks the remotest antiquity, the history of a time, as it 
were, prior to time. Or, if we prefer, such is the Protean character of things, we 
may say that he always interprets prophecies and oracles, and is interested 
solely in the future. In accumulating property...." (Shanley, The Making of 
Walden, p. 144) This first version emphasizes atemporality, while the final 
version highlights self-identification. It is fascinating to remember how Proust 
expressed the same impression with regard to Walden, when writing in 1904 to 
the countess of Noailles: "Lisez...les pages admirables de Walden. II me 
semble qu'on les lise en soi-meme, tant elles sortes du fond de notre 
experience intime." 
^"^ Cf. L'interpretazione infinita , p. 149. 

"Sacred Scriptures or Bibles of Mankind" in Walden 113 

the secularization, that is the criticism and rational recovery of the 
ancient hermeneutical procedure. 

Finally, the encounter between text (with its author) and reader 
does not occur any more as the construction of symbolic connections 
(myths such as the allegory of virtue, or the Old Testament as a stock of 
typologies for the New Testament), but as a conceptual construction at a 
level which is essentially rational and ethical,^" or, that is, as as the 
discovery of the permanent validity of certain models, the exemplary 
nature of certain figures, and the pertinence of certain answers, because 
the questions are universal, and human nature is fundamentally the 
same everywhere. ^^ 

Thus, my task is completed. And yet, that which is most 
characteristic and fascinating in Thoreau has probably not been 
mentioned, and that is the extraordinary political intensity of his 
cultural proposal. Thoreau, as is known, strongly supports an 
aristocratic knowledge (note his scorn for popular literature), but 
refuses an aristocratic model: "Their authors are a natural and 
irresistible aristocracy in every society, and more than kings and 
emperors, exert an influence on humanity" (p. 148). And he also refuses 

^^One notes again how the opening passage quoted, with its mystical nature, 
ends with an ethical tone, the ancient idea of spiritual progress: 'That time 
which we really improve, or which is improvable,is neither past, present, nor 
future." This passage was in different position in the first version, cf. n. 16. 
^^This is the only "larger sense" allowed at present: differently from S. Cavell's 
interpretation, and in coherence with W. Benn Michaels', I see in the 
reference to oriental polisemy (the "four different senses," p. 373, quoted in n. 
6) the perception of a no more superable cultural gap between the ^ancient 
and the present way of interpreting: the latter one has its pattern in the 
interpretation of nature, which is necessarily monosemic: "the power of 
figurative reading is not the only thing Walden teaches us; it also urges upon 
us the necessity of reading literally, not so much in addition to reading 
figuratively as instead of reading figuratevely." In this sense, W. Benn 
Michaels rightly quotes the beginning of "Sounds" (p. 156): "But while we are 
confined to books, though the most select and classic, and read only particular 
written languages, which are themselves but dialects and provincial, we are in 
danger of forgetting the language which all things and events speak without 
metaphor, which alone is copious and standard. ...Will you be a reader, a 
student merely, or a seer?" ( Walden False Bottoms, in Modern Critical Views, 
H. D. Thoreau cit., p. 92; in the same direction J. Carlos Rowe, The being of 
Language: The Language of Being, ibid. p. 146f.) On cultural distance, cf. "The 
Pond in Winter," last paragraph: "...and I doubt if that philosophy [i.e. the 
Bhagavad-Gita] is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote 
is its sublimity from our conceptions." (see Matthiessen, American 
Renaissance, I, III, §2) 

214 The Modern Age: Literature 

the usual model of aristocratic knowledge, opposing this with nothing 
other than that of the first medieval university: "As the nobleman of 
cultivated taste surrounds himself with whatever conduces to his 
culture, genius, learning, wit, books, paintings, statuary, music, 
philosophical instruments, and the like, so let the village do.... New 
England can hire all the wise men in the world to come and teach her." 
(p. 155) Just before this he had already used this provocative hire: 
"Can we not hire some Abelard to lecture to us?" 

But the force of his proposal is in the fact that it comes from 
someone who speaks, paradoxically, from outside the city and outside 
the university, and who affirms overbearingly that it is possible to 
return, in solitude, amongst the trees, to the most ancient and universal 
idea of knowledge, that in which book and nature are mingled: "My 
residence was more favorable not only to thought, but to serious reading, 
than a university; and though I was beyond the range of the ordinary 
circulating library, I had more than ever come within the influence of 
those books which circulate round the world, whose sentences where 
written on the bark, and are now merely copied..." (p. 144).'^^ 

2°Cf. H. Bloom: "Thoreau's crucial swerve away from Emerson was to treat 
natural objects as books, and books as chunks of nature, thus evading all 
literary tradition, Emerson's writings not excepted" In Modern Critical Views, 
H. D. Thoreau, Introduction, p. 7. 

I must finally thank Cristina Giorcelli (University of Rome): she read this paper 
and made useful suggestions to a simple amateur of American literature, as I 
am since, many years ago, we read Matthiessen's American Renaissance, with 
C. Pavese's introduction to the Italian translation. 


A. Arieli and the Literature of 
the Second Aliyah 

Gila Ramras-Rauch 
Hebrew College and Brandeis University 

The second wave of immigration to Palestine - known as the Second 
Aliyah (1904-1914) - was noted for producing a number of remarkable 
writers. An\ong them was Levi Arie Arieli (Orloff), who was 
instrumental in giving literary shape to a new model of protagonist: the 
Jew in Palestine. 

Arieli was born in the Ukraine in 1886, emigrated to Palestine in 
1909, left for the United States in 1923, and died in New York in 1943. 
His writings reflect a strongly existentialist outlook, infused into the 
subtle irony with which he views Jewish life in Russia, Palestine and 
America. His typical protagonist is marked by uprootedness and a sense 
of doom - an outlook derived from the Jewish experience of persecution, 
as well as of the decline of religious Judaism as an all-embracing ethos. 

His narrative is rich and complex, interweaving a loosely-knit 
fabula into a literary fabric that is tight and linguistically dense. 
Despite frequent departures from the main story line, he achieves a 
fictional unity through the use of imagery, figuration and the fantastic. 
Certain aspects of his literary technique were innovative for his time 
(in Hebrew literature) - e.g., his use of stream-of-consciousness and 
dream sequence. 

Accordingly, we may say that Arieli is one of the seminal figures in 
the Hebrew literature of the early modern period, and his contribution 
to it is by now undisputed (despite the neglect into which he has 
fallen). His capacity for perceiving the intricacies of the human 
psyche - with all its faults and foibles - is reminiscent of Russian 
novelists at the height of Psychological Realism. On the other hand, 


116 The Modern Age: Literature 

Arieli belonged very much to the Aliyah that built the literary, 
political and cultural substructure of the Jewish presence in Palestine 
(and Israel) - along with Brenner, his literary patron and ideal, and 
Agnon, his contemporary. Yet although he belongs in that circle, Arieli 
does depart from the typical paths, taken by Second Aliyah writers, in 
his own literary and personal experience. 

In 1912, Brenner noted, in his "Pages from a Literary Notebook,"^ 
the emergence of two unique talents, writers of insight and sensitivity 
in search of their individual self-revelation. The two are S. Y. Agnon 
and L. A. Orloff (he changed his name to Arieli around 1914). Some of 
the stories written by Arieli during his Palestine years (1909-23) are 
considered among the best produced by the Second Aliyah - stories such 
as "The Pale Heinrich" (1909), "To the Light of Venus" (1911), and 
"Wasteland" (1920). One of the turning points of his life was his 
emigration from Palestine - and one eminent critic has justifiably 
linked the declining quality of Arieli's literary output to his departure 
from Eretz-Israel and the beginning of his American experience.^ 

Brenner exerted an immeasurable influence on the writers of the 
Second Aliyah. In his fiction, dramas and essays, Brenner introduced 
the ineluctable issues reverberating within Judaism and Zionism in the 
second decade of this century, and ever since. Arieli was a pupil of 
Brenner and his great admirer. The personal and literary relationship 
between Arieli and Brenner lasted through the duration of Brenner's 
life (he was killed by Arab marauders in 1921). In a letter of 1910, 
Arieli informed Brenner that he had made the transition from 
agricultural laborer to "shomer" - a roving sentry guarding Jewish 
settlements from attacks by Arabs.^ Brenner had been looking for a more 
substantial position for Arieli. Eventually, Arieli became a teacher. In 
this respect, Arieli shared with Brenner the familiar image of the 
Second Aliyah writer who came to Palestine with the intention of 
becoming a tiller of the soil, then moving on to "shomer," and finally 
becoming a teacher. 

In their relation to one another as writers, their connection is more 
intimate: both criticize the "art-for-art's-sake" ideal which sees 
literature detached from all sociopolitical reality; in addition, both 
are vitriolic in criticizing one aspect of what might be called 


^Kol Kitvei Y. Ch. Brenner (Brenner's Collected Works, in Hebrew) (HaKibutz 

HaMeuchad, 1960) Vol. 2, p. 306. 

^G. Shaked, "The Twin Who Descended" (in Hebrew), Siman Kri'a, No. 5 (Tel 

Aviv: February, 1976) pp. 481-491. 

^For making these materials available to me, I wish to thank the Gnazim 

Archive, in Tel Aviv, and its director, Mr. Ben-Yaakov. 

L. A. Arieli and the Literature of the Second Aliyah 117 

"normative" Judaism. Indeed, the critique of Judaism is a constant 
element in Arieli's fiction - from his first pubUshed story, "The Pale 
Heinrich" (1909), to the late 1930s and beyond. His 1909 protagonist, 
Itzhak Bloom, raises a challenge that is almost Brennerian in its scope 
and tone: "...we have no Maccabees, no Crusades; we don't have such a 
nationality.. .we do not have nationality as such.""^ More than thirty 
years later, there is an echo of this metahistorical judgment in Haim 
Hazaz' story, "The Sermon."^ For the protagonist in this story, there is 
no Jewish history ("...we have no history at all..."), since Jews have not 
created their own history - and towards the conclusion of his "sermon" 
he declares: "I believe that this land of Israel already is no longer 
Jewish." This secular perception of the Jewish past is manifest in 
Hebrew fiction from the earliest years of this century. It is to be found 
as well in Arieli's 1920 story, "Yeshimon" ("Wasteland"), which is 
seen by one commentator as "a cruel and brutal parody of Jewish 

One aspect that underscores Arieli's negative relation to Judaism is 
the absence of a father-image in his fiction. This is to be linked with 
Arieli's rejection of any attempt to revive the past by fictionalizing it. 
And yet the protagonist in the 1911 story, "To the Light of Venus," is 
not blind to the antisemitism from the members of his Russian platoon. 
To him, Judaism carries with it a tragic determinism. He wants to 
dissociate himself from it; his Socialist ideology gives him a deep 
contempt for the Jewish bourgeoisie. And although he realizes that he 
will never "belong" to the Ukrainian people, he feels close to their 
simplicity and innocence: the Ukrainian poetry of Taras Shevchenko 
touches him more profoundly than the Hebrew poetry of Yehuda Leib 
Gordon. He "belongs" to neither culture - even though he realizes that 
the army he serves in will kill Jews in the next pogrom. 

After participating in a failed attempt at assassinating a Russian 
officer, the protagonist finds himself in Palestine (only because he 
lacked enough money to take him elsewhere), and we meet him there, 
at work as an agricultural laborer. Before leaving for Palestine he 
happens to pass a synagogue. As he listens to the chanting, he leans his 
head against the cold stone wall, and he senses his uprootedness and 

^L. A. Arieli, "The Pale Heinrich" (in Hebrew), HaPoel HaTzair (Tel Aviv: 1909) 

pp. 21-22. See G. Ramras-Rauch, 'The Reflection of Angst-Literature" (in 

Hebrew), Moznaim, Vol. 53, No. 5-6 (Tel Aviv: 1971) pp. 384-389. 

^H. Hazaz, "The Sermon," translated by B. Halpern, in R. Alter (ed.). Modern 

Hebrew Literature (New York: Behrman House, 1975) pp. 281-287. 

^A. Zemach, "Sex and National character" (in Hebrew) Moznaim (see note 4, 

above) pp. 371-383. 

118 The Modern Age: Literature 

loneliness. (A story dating from his American experience is titled "How 
I Became an Antisemite."^ It criticizes the Jewish community, 
especially the synagogue, for the emphasis on money and the will to 

Arieli's lonely protagonist, in Russia and Palestine, is one of the 
first of his type in modern Hebrew fiction. Much of contemporary 
literature depicts a protagonist in a collective setting. This dimension 
is not there in Arieli's writing. This individualistic emphasis - along 
with the absence of a father, mentioned earlier - underlines a sense of 
freedom from any prescriptive authority. Thus his characters are 
marked by pessimism, skepticism and nihilism; they see Judaism as a 
confining factor, limiting free choice - yet they are aware of their own 
rootlessness, as though they also bemoan it. They are Jews in their very 
being - and although they have severed their intellectual and 
emotional ties with Judaism, they also realize that the outer world 
cannot serve as a replacement for it - especially as that outer world 
denies their rights and their humanity for being Jews. 

In the Hebrew literature of Palestine and Israel, we may see two 
tendencies at work: the myth-making tendency and the tendency 
towards demythicization. The writers of the First Aliyah (1881-1904) 
were eager to portray the life of the emerging Jewish settlement in a 
positive light - pointing to the achievements of men and women in 
reviving the land. For writers such as Jabetz, Barzilai and Moshe 
Smilansky the reasons justifying the positive approach were clear: 
there is the Zionist zeal; there is the romanticism in perceiving 
reality; and there is the conviction that it is wrong to speak ill of the 
Biblical land and its people. 

Brenner, in an influential article of 1911 titled "The Eretz-Israeli 
Genre and its Attributes,"^ challenges the literature of the First 
Aliyah, in view of the small number of Jewish settlers at that time and 
the relative absence of an established social structure. Above all, he 
criticizes it for trying to promote the myth of positive Jewish 
achievement in Eretz-Israel - and so this article can be seen to have 
inaugurated the tendency of demythicization. Following Brenner's 
lead, Arieli's story, "Rainy Days,"^ has his protagonist offering the 
suggestion that First Aliyah writers resort to high-flown language for 

^L. A. Arieli, "How I Became an Antisemite" (in Hebrew) HaDoar, (New York, 

1928) pp. 32-43. 

^Brenner (see note 1, above) Vol. 2, pp. 268-270. 

^L. A. Arieli, "Rainy Days" (in Hebrew) HaToren, Vol. 2, Nos. 1 and 2 (1913-14); 

BeSha'ah Zo, Vol. 3 (Jaffa, 1916). 

L. A. Arieli and the Literature of the Second Aliyah 119 

fear that their "belles lettres" will turn into an "ugly literature" if the 
reality were presented truthfully. 

Arieli is essentially a realistic writer, creating characters who 
find themselves in extreme situations. This lends a universal quality to 
his fiction. Thus he depicts Jewish fate as a microcosm of human fate 
per se. This realistic strain in Arieli (as in so many other writers of the 
Second Aliyah) can be traced back to the unsettling experiences of the 
1905 revolutionary period in Russia and the pogroms that swept Russia 
and the Ukraine, before and after. Arieli himself participated in 
Jewish self-defense activities in the Ukraine (1903-5), and his brother- 
in-law was killed in one of the pogroms. As a result, a vision of the 
inevitability of Jewish fate haunted Arieli throughout his life. 
Further, he was influenced by the deterministic outlook of late- 
nineteenth-century thought, and by the nihilistic and pessimistic 
trends in Russian literature and philosophy. 

Arieli's typical protagonist is a person who has long since cut his 
ties with the collective Jewish mentality; as a result, as we suggested, 
he gains a measure of liberation but also sinks into the depths of 
despair. In Brenner, self-exposure and self-laceration serve the 
ultimate purpose of social change, as the Jew becomes increasingly self- 
aware and autonomous. For Arieli, such self-exposure has none of the 
social mission it has for Mendele, Berdichevsky and Brenner. Thus, for 
Arieli, self-examination has no extra-textual function; rather, the 
ironic and tragic dimensions are ultimate and sui generis for him. 

Despite the deterministic perspective, however, Arieli does not 
simply write within the naturalistic framework wherein the 
individual is merely seen as a victim of his or her passions and societal 
forces. Rather, Arieli brings into his narrative an existential 
perspective, showing the individual as thrown into a situation in 
which he is a stranger, in a world beset by anxiety, doubt, paradox and 
aloneness. Thus Arieli widens the gap between man's optimistic 
projection towards the future and the facticity of his existence. Further, 
one's personal expectations are thwarted by random irrationalities. 
Arieli's is a world without providence (human or divine). Characters 
are caught in their personal predicaments in time and place, and they 
are at the mercy of forces beyond their control. (Arieli wrote not only 
about pogroms in Russia but also about Arab massacres of Jews in 
Jerusalem, in the early 1920s.) To Arieli, as to Brenner, there were two 
deterministic aspects to Jewish existence in Palestine that were a source 
of disquiet: first, the Jew had not yet shed his Diaspora mentality, 
despite the expectations voiced by Zionist ideology; second, the Arab 
attacks on the Jewish population were repetitions of the pogroms in 

120 The Modern Age: Literature 

Arieli's fiction is marked by a persistent tone and point of view, 
which he transmits with total clarity. Arieli was a talented musician, 
with an ear open to languages and accents. His depiction of the Arab in 
a variety of roles and the Yemenite Jew, the Hassidic Jew, lend his 
narrative fabric richness and color. He quotes German and Russian 
speech, thus giving the reader a direct experience of those sounds. 

His texts also involve irony, sarcasm and parody. He uses all types 
of irony - from the traditional gap between the seeming and the real, to 
the open-ended nihilistic irony that withholds any comprehensive 
truth. He also uses situational irony by juxtaposing two realities: e.g., 
the ruminations of a self-centered individualist vs. the murder of an 
infant, thus under-scoring the gap between innocence and catastrophe, 
or between justice and injustice. 

A distinctive feature of Arieli's fiction is its dramatic quality. In 
Arieli the personal, confessional voice so prevalent in the fiction of his 
contemporaries gives way to the technique of "showing" rather than 
"telling," of dramatization in place of narration. The implied voice of 
the author is thus accompanied by irony, but in essence it allows for 
only one reading of the text (rather than multi-valenced readings). In 
addition, it is characteristic of Arieli to set his protagonists in extreme 

In "Allah Karim"^^ Arieli gives us a play about Jewish pioneers of 
the Second Aliyah. This play about a group of newcomers is in the genre 
of what came to be known as the "settlement play." (Others in the 
genre are Ashman's "This Land" and Mosenson's "In the Plains of the 
Negev.") But instead of focussing on the difficulties faced by the 
newcomers in the new land, Arieli takes the play into the sphere of 
interpersonal relations. Into a commune of four men who share a room in 
Jaffa, there descends a young woman, Naomi, who is just off the boat 
from Russia and is nominally engaged to one of the four: Bronskul. He is 
a novice writer with an exaggerated sense of himself; he looks and acts 
the "artiste." Against all expectations of the reader and of the 
characters themselves, however, she falls in love with an Arab who is 
a street-vendor of sweets. Each character is richly drawn, and each has 
an elaborated life-story. 

In his fiction as in his drama, Arieli is a master of the rich texture 
wherein his characters are depicted through subtle vignettes and 
anecdotes. Occasionally, his characters are even too "heavy" for the 
limited dramatic movement. But as a rule his well-drawn characters 
are placed amidst a plot that verges on extremes of situations and 

^OL. a. Arieli, "Allah Karim" (in Hebrew) HaShiloach, Vol. 27 (Tel Aviv, 1912) and 
(New York: Kadima, 1918). 

L. A. Arieli and the Literature of the Second Aliyah 121 

actions. Arieli is also a master of the interplay between the main plot 
and subplot. But apart from the various subplots and complications, 
each character constitutes a dramatic story in his or her own right. In 
addition, each character is connected to the plot in a fully operative 
way, but so as to give us a sense of the time as well. Despite all this, 
Arieli often thwarts the reader's suspension of disbelief: Is it likely 
that an intelligent young Jewish woman, from a cultured family in 
Russia, will fall in love with an Arab vendor? 

In the dramatic improbability of that situation, the reader 
eventually sees the author's reasons for that choice: namely, this is a 
dramatic device that evokes the sense of failure attached to the 
characters, their ruined personal lives and the failure of the land to 
provide "solutions" to their problems. There is the uprooted, over- 
intellectual Jew pitted against the Arab who is a "native son." Arieli 
does not try to cover the situation, or to apologize for it: The value- 
system the newcomers brought with them, as Socialists and Zionists, is 
challenged in this encounter with the land and with the Arab. As a 
result, there is a skepticism that marks Arieli's characters as well as 
the implied author. In much of Arieli's work, there is the sad note that 
the encounter with the land is the final encounter with the self and 
with a strained reality. Even the characters who could be redeemed by 
love end with a sense of loss and unfulfillment. 

In encountering the new land, it is not only the Jewish intellectuals 
who are uprooted. Even the supposedly "practical" characters, such as 
Fogel, the young "shomer" who is the symbol of grounded sanity, is 
afflicted with a malaise. This unsettling situation is made worse by 
the plot's own instabilities, thereby diverting the story from the 
reader's expectations: Naomi, the strong-willed young woman, can fall 
in love with the handsome Fogel, or with the self-effacing student, 
Yunter - with anyone, it seems, other than her alleged fiance. She 
becomes the arch-manipulator and arch-catalyst in the play. The four 
members of the commune are nothing new to her; she had met their 
likes in Russia. Moreover, the old self-doubt exhibited by some of these 
men bores her; she is in search of something new in the East, a man who 
will not waver, but will cling to his goal without compromising. 

Ironically, she finds this in the Arab vendor, Ali, in his total 
dedication to avenging the death of his father. In his simple tenacity, 
he represents to Naomi - herself a refugee of failed ideals - the model 
of an uncomplicated man. Yet she does not aspire to a simple and 
uncomplicated existence for herself. There is an element of 
destructiveness (as well as self-destructiveness) in the fact that she is 
capable of having and mastering any man she chooses; what she wants 
to do is to make her man a slave to her whims and her very theatrical 

122 The Modern Age: Literature 

foibles. Her cynical relation to the weakness of men is borne out by 

The other active character in the play is Fogel, the "shomer" - and 
he and Naomi relate in different ways to Ali: he sees the Arab as 
infiltrating the orchard he is guarding; she sees the Arab as something 
of a "noble savage." Between them, they exhibit the two extreme poles 
of the relation to Arabs in Hebrew literature: fear and fascination, 
threat and attraction.^ ^ In Arieli's drama, Arabs are portrayed as 
people who belong to the locale, Jews as a foreign element introducing 
destruction into the dormant East. 

Arieli's is not the first play to have been written in Palestine, 
although it is the first to depict an Arab in a central role. The relations 
of the characters to Ali varies, and Arieli avoids stereotyping the 
Arab, as so much of previous literature had done. Another departure 
from previous molds is that "Allah Karim" is an ironic play: it does not 
celebrate Jewish settlement in Palestine, and it is devoid of sentiment 
or nostalgia; on the contrary, it portrays the rootlessness and 
inauthenticity of most of the characters. Except for the Arab, the male 
characters are burned-out idealists, beyond redemption. Arieli's 
characters do not dance the horah; the situation is not ameUorated. 

The play ends with the death of Fogel, in an encounter with Arabs. 
The one-time romantic revolutionary had been bent upon self- 
destruction. His existence is shattered by his own sick soul. He had 
taken to drinking, as a way of escaping his no-exit situation. Fogel 
wounded an Arab shepherd who had been grazing his sheep on Fogel's 
territory. The shepherd died, and his blood had to be avenged. Ali 
kills Fogel; he also attacks Naomi for blocking his road to Nablus. She 
breaks the medallion she has been wearing; the studious Yunter tries to 
hang himself with the cord. 

Bronskul, the "artiste" poet and Naomi's erstwhile fiance, is 
mocked by her for being a "poetaster" singing the glories of the land 
while ignoring the reality. In this she is reflecting Arieli's own 
attitude regarding the sort of belletristic poetry that does not address 
the ills of society. She sees writers as superfluous beings, content to 
praise beauty but live in squalor. Further, Naomi is something of a she- 
devil in All's world as well: despite his dedication to his vendetta, he 
becomes dominated by her and is made to change his course - after 
which she no longer finds any interest in him. 

In the concluding scene, Naomi expresses hatred for the weak and 
nerve-wrecked men. There is only the lesson taught her by Ali: "Allah 

^^G. Ramras-Rauch, The Arab in Israeli Literature (Bloomington: Indiana 
University Press, 1989). 

L. A. Arieli and the Literature of the Secoftd Aliyah 123 

Karim" ("God is great") - and these are the last words of the play as 
Naomi leaves the stage with a vigorous stride. Despite the dramatic 
effect, there is an irony that cannot be avoided: Naomi is devoid of any 
belief in a romantic quest for something that will excite and captivate 
her; like the others, she too is afflicted with a certain ennui.... 

All in all, this is a play about choices: the active characters are 
those who choose their way of life, even if the choice is not 
conventional. In this, we have something of Arieli's self portrait and 
the composite portrait of the Second Aliyah. Judged on their own, 
however, Arieli's early works reflect modernity, daring and 
commitment: to literature, language and the new experience. 


In Search of "Authentic" Anglo- 
Jewish Poetry: The Debate over 
A. M. Klein's Poems (1944)^ 

Jonathan D. Sarna 
Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion 

Marvin Fox once observed that "no Jewish education can ignore.. .the 
challenges to Jewish morality posed by contemporary society." His own 
interest in Jewish philosophy, I suspect, has been stimulated in part by 
precisely this effort. The study of Jewish philosophy is critically 
important, he believes, because "more than any other Jewish 
intellectual enterprise [it] has always arisen as a response to 
intellectual challenges posed by the cultures and civilizations in which 
the Jewish people found themselves."^ 

The paper that follows, while outside the realm of Jewish 
philosophy, focuses on a contemporary example of this age-old 
confrontation. Specifically, it deals with the debate over a volume of 
poems written by Canada's foremost Jewish poet, A. M. Klein (1909- 
1972), and published by the Jewish Pubhcation Society of America in 
1944. Correspondence surrounding this volume, reposited in the JPS 
archives, sheds new light on North American Jewish cultural life in 
the 1940s and raises two questions that, following Fox's lead, I consider 
to be of central importance: First, given the challenges posed by the 

^An earlier version of this paper was read before the Association for Jewish 
Studies Conference in 1984. I am grateful to Dr. Usher Caplan for his 
comments on that version. 

^Marvin Fox, "Translating Jewish Thought into Curriculum: Moral Philosophy 
in Jewish Education," in Seymour Fox and Geraldine Rosenfield (eds.). From 
the Scholar to the Classroom (New York, 1977), pp. 59, 81. 


126 The Modern Age: Literature 

surrounding culture, what standards should English language Jewish 
poetry seek to uphold - what qualities, in other words, identify a poem 
as being authentically Jewish? Second, and more broadly, what kind of 
editorial controls should a Jewish publisher, faced with these 
challenges, seek to exercise - what should it agree to print and what 
should it reject?^ 


Before proceeding to these questions, some background is required. 
A. M. Klein was born in Ratno, Volhynia (a fact that was later 
concealed"^) in 1909, and shortly thereafter his parents immigrated to 
Canada. He obtained a traditional Jewish education, attended Baron 
Byng High School and McGill University, became active in the Young 
Judaea Zionist youth organization, studied law at the Universite de 
Montreal, opened in 1934 a law office with his friend Max Garmaise, 
and a year later, on his twenty-sixth birthday, married his high 
school sweetheart, Bessie Kozlov. By then he was already a recognized 
poet. He had published poetry dealing with secular and Jewish themes 
as early as 1927, saw his poems published in the prestigious magazine 
Poetry in 1928, and soon became a regular contributor to the Menorah 
Journal, Opinion, as well as other secular and Jewish periodicals in 
Canada and the United States. By the age of 23 he had already 
written over 150 poems, and had been the subject of an article in the 
Canadian Forum. As a young writer, he was a leading member of what 
Leon Edel calls the "Montreal Group,"^ a miniature Canadian 
Bloomsbury consisting of young, alert, politically engaged, and 
rebellious cultural figures.^ 

•^On the history of the Jewish Publication Society and its changing publication 
standards, see Jonathan D Sarna, JPS: The Americanization of Jewish Culture 
(Philadelphia, 1989). 

^Usher Caplan Like One That Dreamed: A Portrait of A. M. Klein (Toronto, 
1982), p. 17. 

^Leon Edel, "Marginal Keri and Textual Chetiv: The Mystic Novel of A. M. 
Klein," in Seymour Mayne (ed.) The A. M. Klein Symposium (Ottawa, 1975), pp. 
19-20; idem, "The Montreal Group," in Edgar A. CoUard, The McGill You Knew 
(Don Mills, Ontario, 1975), pp. 112-122. 

^Caplan, Like One That Dreamed, is the basic biography, and 1 have followed it 
closely; see also Elijah E. Palnick, "A. M. Klein: A Biographical Study" 
(Unpublished M. H. L. Thesis, Hebrew Union College, 1959); Mayne (ed.) The 
A. M. Klein Symposium; Adam G. Fuerstenberg, "The Poet and the Tycoon: 
The Relationship Between A. M. Klein and Samuel Bronfman," The Journal of 
the Canadian Jewish Historical Society 5 (October 1981), pp. 49-69; "A. M. 
Klein's Montreal," Journal of Canadian Studies 19:2 (Summer 1984) [special 

In Search of "Authentic" Anglo-Jewish Poetry 127 

On September 16, 1931 Klein submitted a volume entitled "Greeting 
On This Day" to the Jewish Publication Society in Philadelphia. The 
Society's then resident poet and poetry critic, Solomon Solis-Cohen, 
aged 74, read the manuscript, and reported that there was "a good deal 
of first rate material there," and "a whole lot which is very bad." He 
felt that "the book could not be published without somebody reading 
each verse, and suggesting to the author that he omit certain things or 
make a selection from them." Stockbroker Oscar Loeb, who also read 
the manuscript, was far more enthusiastic. He called Klein a "sage and 
poet in one" and predicted that he "might easily climb to greatness." 
Other readers, however, felt uncomfortable with the title poem - a 
militantly pro-Zionist response to the 1929 Hebron riots - and 
complained that the collection as a whole was too grim, even 
"repellant." Rabbi Max D. Klein was even more negative; he growled 
that the poems had "too much of death and worms, spit, spittle and 
spew." As a result, the volume was rejected in 1933. Klein revised the 
volume and resubmitted it under the title "Gestures Hebraic" in 1935, 
but to no avail. Solis-Cohen complained about "the same faults that I 
found before," and the volume was rejected again.^ 

In 1940, Behrman House in New York did publish a volume of 
Klein's poetry - his first - entitled Hath Not A Jew. It contained 
"Greeting On This Day," as well as a good many other Jewish poems, 
many earlier published in contemporary Jewish periodicals. The 
volume created a minor stir in Jewish cultural circles, due in no small 
measure to Ludwig Lewisohn, one of the community's most disting- 
uished literary figures and a proud Jew. Lewisohn, in his foreword, 
pronounced Klein "the first contributor of authentic Jewish poetry to 
the English language," and "the only Jew who has ever contributed a 
new note of style, of expression, of creative enlargement to the poetry of 

issue]; and Pierre Anctil, "A. M. Klein: The Poet and His Relations with French 
Quebec," in Moses Rischin (ed.) The Jews of North America (Detroit, 1987), pp. 

^JPS Publication Committee Minutes, Feb. 7, 1932, p. 2; A. M. Klein to JPS 
(September 16, 1931); S. Solis-Cohen to JPS (February 8, 1932); Oscar Loeb to 
Cyrus Adler (nd, February 1932); Harry Ettelson to Julius Grodinsky (March 30, 
1932); Max Klein to JPS (nd, March 1932); Julius Grodinsky to A. M. Klein (June 
20, 1933); A. M. Klein to Isaac Husik (March 1, 1935); Solomon Solis-Cohen to 
Jack Solis-Cohen (June 11, 1935); Isaac Husik to A. M. Klein (July 17, 1935) all in 
Klein file (copies in author's possession) unpublished books series, JPS Papers, 
Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center, Balsh Institute, Philadelphia, PA. 
[hereafter: PJAC]. The brief account in Caplan, Like One That Dreamed, p. 71 
needs to be revised on the basis of these new documents. 

128 The Modern Age: Literature 

that tongue." This was high praise indeed, and the Jewish Pubhcation 
Society soon sat up and took notice.^ 

Surviving correspondence suggests that Judge Louis Levinthal of 
Philadelphia, then chairman of the JPS Publication Committee, took 
the initiative in soliciting a new volume of poetry from Klein, 
apparently at Lewisohn's behest.^ The fact that Levinthal himself 
came from an East European Orthodox background, played a prominent 
role in the Zionist movement, and had turned to law, just as Klein did, 
may help to explain the personal interest that he took in the poet; he 
found in Klein a kindred spirit. Whatever the case, Klein was clearly 
flattered. He began working on a new collection at once, and boasted to 
his friend, the writer and critic A. J. M. Smith, that the Society had a 
"subscription list of five thousand" - a larger audience by far than the 
average book of poetry could ever hope to reach.^^ As it turned out, 
Klein's book was not distributed to the entire general membership, as 
many JPS books then were, but was published only as an alternate 
selection, available just to members who specially selected it. Still, its 
first printing did amount to two thousand copies, which for poetry was 
a highly respectable figure.^ ^ 

On February 18, 1942, Klein dispatched his manuscript, tentatively 
titled "Poems by A. M. Klein," directly to Judge Levinthal at his 
chambers. Levinthal read the manuscript, liked it, and turned it over to 
Solomon Grayzel, JPS editor since 1939, with the comment that "there 
is some really fine writing in this work and I have a feeling that the 

^A. M. Klein, Hath Not A Jeiv.... (New York, 1940); Lewisohn's foreword is 
reprinted in Miriam Waddington (ed.) The Collected Poems of A. M. Klein 
(Toronto and Montreal, 1970), pp. 350-352. According to Caplan, Like One That 
Dreamed, pp. 71-74, Leo W. Schwartz put Klein in touch with Behrman House, 
which scheduled the book, then titled Selected Poems, for 1937. Owing to 
financial problems, the volume did not appear until 1940. Klein was reportedly 
disappointed "at the small amount of attention his book received from serious 
reviewers of poetry" (Caplan, p. 86). In Jewish cultural circles, however, the book 
seems to have won more notice. 
^Palnick, "A. M. Klein," chapter 3, p. 13. 

^°Klein to A. J. M. Smith (November 28, 1941), reprinted in Mayne, The A. M. 
Klein Si/mposium, p. 1. 

^^Maurice Jacobs to A. M. Klein (December 20, 1943; January 3, 1944), Klein 
file. Box 24, Published Books correspondence, JPS Papers, PJAC [hereafter: 
Klein file, JPSPl; JPS Publication Committee Minutes (December 10, 1944), part 
II, p. 4: "This is a small book of 86 pages, and only 2,000 copies were printed. 
While The Society does not expect a large sale of a book of poetry, we feel it 
necessary to occasionally print such a book in order to encourage Jewish 

In Search of "Authentic" Anglo-Jewish Poetry 129 

Society would enhance its own reputation if it published this...."^^ 
Following JPS policy, the manuscript was sent out to readers, and in this 
case they seem to have felt a particularly weighty responsibility. JPS 
had published only two other original books of modern poetry in its 
entire history going back to 1888 - Philip Raskin's Songs of a Wanderer 
(1917), and Jesse Sampter's Brand Plucked From the Fire (1937) - and 
neither proved particularly popular with members. American Jewish 
literature suffered in those days from what Milton Steinberg called a 
"poverty of poetic creation." While this stimulated JPS to continue the 
search for a native Jewish bard, it knew perfectly well that what 
members really craved in the midst of World War II was not somber 
poetry, but uplifting literature and lighthearted humor. ^^ 


At least eight different readers read Klein's manuscript, and each 
came back with a different opinion. Some loved the poems, others 
hated them, and most suggested deletions or substitutions. Grayzel, 
who found himself in the middle of this controversy, believed that the 
debate was futile: "it all boils down," he wrote, "to a matter of taste in 
poetry." Viewed from a historical perspective, however,the clash 
takes on a great deal more meaning, for it concerned nothing less than 
the standards by which Anglo-Jewish poetry should be judged. JPS, as 
the foremost pubHsher of Jewish books in EngHsh, perceived itself as 
the arbiter of Jewish culture; it saw its logo as equivalent to a 
community seal of approval. Before offering its imprimatur to Klein, it 
needed to be certain that he represented what authentic Anglo-Jewish 
poetry should be.^"^ 

^^A. M. Klein to Louis E. Levinthal (February 18, 1942); Louis Levinthal to 
Solomon Grayzel (Feb. 24, 1942), Klein file, JPSP. 

l^Milton Steinberg to Grayzel, (November 16, 1942), Klein file, JPSP; Sarna, JPS, 
esp. chapter 6. S. Felix Mendelsohn's Let Laughter Ring, a joke book published 
by JPS in 1941, went through at least six different printings and sold tens of 
thousands of copies. 

^''Solomon Grayzel to Louis Levinthal (August 16, 1942), Klein file, JPSP. Some 
of the evaluations of Klein's manuscript have not survived. We know that 
Rabbi Harry Ettelson of Memphis, Professor Shalom Spiegel of the Jewish 
Theological Seminary, and Henry Hurwitz of the Menorah Journal all 
recommended that the volume be published, but so far their letters have not 
turned up. What do exist are the letters back and forth between Klein and the 
JPS, and also the evaluations of Felix Gerson, Milton Steinberg, Julian 
Feibelman, Robert Abrahams, and Mortimer Cohen. 

130 The Modern Age: Literature 

Robert Abrahams, a Philadelphia lawyer, author and poet, active 
in JPS, suggested a simple two-part test for evaluating volumes of 

Books of poetry to be worthy of publication should fall into either of 
two categories.. ..First, those in which the poet has something of broad 
interest to say which will strike an immediate emotional response in 
the general reader. Second, a book in which the poems are of such 
high literary merit that even though the general reader may not value 
them, the discerning one will derive so much inspiration and 
stimulation from them as to warrant their publication, even though 
the audience will be limited.^^ 

Klein's poems seemed to him to belong "in neither category," and he 
refused to recommend them. Klein, given the chance to respond, 
attacked Abrahams' scheme as "both wide enough to include 
everything and ambiguous enough to mean nothing." The first category, 
he complained, suggested to him that JPS "should publish the doggerel 
used to advertise Lifebuoy soap - its interests are broad, its response 
immediate, and its readers general." The second, he charged, "begs the 
question.... Who is the discerning reader?"^ ^ 

Julian Feibelman, the cultured Reform rabbi of New Orleans, 
employed a far more traditional and subjective standard to his 
criticism of Klein's poetry. He expected Jewish poetry to offer him 
"deep devotional refreshment," and to be "in keeping with the spirit of 
our past, in tradition, in history, and in faith itself." Only some of 
Klein's poems, he thought, passed muster. In a somewhat related vein, 
Felix Gerson, editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, insisted 
that poetry be judged on the basis of its "beauty" and "strength." He 
demanded that new offerings hold up not only in comparison to biblical 
and classical poetry, but Elizabethan poetry. Browning and Whitman 
as well. These lofty standards notwithstanding, he "unhesitatingly" 
recommended Klein's poems. By making them widely available, he 
wrote, "we would be honoring ourselves." Rabbi Mortimer Cohen, also 
of Philadelphia, scorned this approach as "anti-modern." He proposed 
instead yet another two-part standard for poetry: first, that modern 
Jewish poetry should speak in a modern idiom - not employ archaic 
forms as Klein did, and second that the poetry should reflect "some 
basic philosophy.. .of Jewish life and its values." Since he found Klein 

iSRobert D. Abrahams to JPS (July 7, 1942), Klein file, JPSP. 
i^Klein to Louis Levinthal (August 7, 1942), Klein file, JPSP. 

In Search of "Authentic" Anglo-Jewish Poetry 131 

wanting on both counts, and thought besides that Klein "would not be 
read by any of our members," he voted for the manuscript's rejection. ^^ 

Klein, who at 33 was substantially younger than any of his critics, 
urged JPS to adopt a more flexible approach to poetry. Like so many 
modern poets, he refused to be straightjacketed by any single definition; 
poetry, he pointed out "has eluded definers from time immemorial." 
The only guidelines he employed were aesthetic ones: "emotion 
recorded in tranquiUty" (Wordsworth), "a surprising by a fine excess" 
(Keats), and "thought in blossom." Jewish poetry, he believed, impHed 
a kind of dualism. Anticipating the most remarkable feature of his 
later books, particularly The Rocking Chair (1948) and The Second 
Scroll (1951), he identified himself as "the bearer of two cultures," 
writing "the thoughts of one, in the language of the other." His work, 
he thought, carried forward the same diaspora tradition as "the 
Arabic of Maimonides and the German of Heine."^^ 

The significance of this debate over Anglo-Jewish poetry is two- 
fold. First, it largely mirrors a secular debate of the day, transferring 
questions of definition and standards into the Jewish realm, but without 
really adding anything new. When Klein showed his impatience with 
suggested standards and opined that "books of poetry pubUshed by the 
J.P.S. should be first of all - poetry," he was echoing a view then being 
expressed by many modern poets. Wallace Stevens, for example, 
explained in a note prepared for the Oxford Anthology of American 
Literature that "My intention in poetry is to write poetry: to reach and 
express that which, without any particular definition, everyone 
recognizes to be poetry, and to do this because I feel the need of doing 

The second significant fact about this debate is that only Klein 
himself really came to grips with the specific question of what defines 
"Anglo- Jewish poetry" - how, for example, it is to be distinguished 
from poetry that happens to be written by someone of the Jewish faith. 
Klein's understanding of his dual role - bearer of two cultures, 
mediating between the one and the other, searching for a Jewish idiom 
in the English language - is easy to understand today when such views 
have been widely echoed. But in 1942 these ideas had not yet been 
frequently expressed, and most Jewish writers had totally different 

i^Julian Feibelman to JPS (n.d.); Felix Gerson to JPS (May 18, 1942); Mortimer J. 

Cohen to Solomon Grayzel Guly 24, 1942), all in Klein file, JPSP. 

^^Klein to Levinthal (August 7, 1942), Klein file, JPSP. 

^^Quoted in Samuel French Morse, Wallace Stevens Poetry As Life (New York, 

1970), p. 113; see generally Charles Norman (ed.) Poets on Poetry (New York, 


132 The Modern Age: Literature 

aspirations. Klein's conscious awareness of the special role reserved for 
the multi-cultural poet was a cry in the wilderness - a cry, one might 
add, that a Canadian Jewish poet living in the multi-cultural 
atmosphere of Montreal was much more likely to sound than his 
contemporaries in the United States. In Canada, Jewish writers faced 
no established literary tradition to which they were expected to 
conform. Expressions of bi- or multi-culturalism thus came easier to 
them than to their neighbors to the South, for they were consciously 
molding a new tradition rather than moving forward within an 
already established one.^^ 


For all of his eloquence, Klein did not fully convince the literary 
moguls of JPS that his view of poetry was the right one. In mid-June 
1943, after over a year of wrangling, the Society did accept his book for 
publication, but only with an important caveat - "that some of the 
poems submitted should be omitted from the volume." Leaving aside 
those poems that were objected to on literary grounds - Klein agreed 
that these "were not as good as those that remained"^^ - two major 
categories of poems were called into question: 1) poems deemed undig- 
nified, improper, or obscene, and 2) poems deemed blasphemous of God, 
or unduly critical of the Jewish people. Both categories reveal much 
about JPS's sense of propriety, for as a Jewish publisher, it felt obliged 
to uphold standards that would place it above reproach. 

2°American Jewish poets at this time proposed far more apologetic and less 
sophisticated definitions than Klein did; see Philip M. Raskin (comp.) 
Anthology of Modern Jewish Poetry (New York, 1927), esp. p. 9; Louis 
Untermyer, "The Jewish Spirit in Modern American Poetry," Menorah Journal 7 
(August 1921), pp. 121-122; and the general discussion in Louis Harap, 
Dramatic Encounters (New York, 1987), pp. 51-52. For Canada, see the 
roundtable on "Jewish Culture and Canadian Culture" in M. Weinfeld, W. 
Shaffir and I. Cotler, The Canadian Jewish Mosaic (Toronto, 1981), pp. 315-342; 
and the illuminating comments of Seymour Mayne in his interview in the 
literary supplement of the Israeli newspaper Maariv (March 23, 1984), p. 1. 
2iKlein to Levinthal (July 1, 1943), Klein file, JPSP. Caplan, Like One That 
Dreamed, p. 55 claims that "rarely in his life did Klein stand for red-penciling." 
He reiterates this in a private letter to me (January 31, 1985), writing of Klein's 
"barely suppressed anger" at JPS for his treatment of him (see also Caplan, pp. 
90-91.) The correspondence I have, however, does not quite support this 
interpretation. Although Klein clearly lamented some of the changes JPS 
imposed, he agreed that others would improve his manuscript, and he went out 
of his way to thank Grayzel for his "fastidious editing" when the book appeared. 

In Search of "Authentic" Ajiglo-Jewish Poetry 233 

The first category reflects, to a considerable degree, the temper of 
the times, considerably less liberated than our own. The Society, born in 
the late Victorian era, felt an obligation even to readers who had a 
high (or prudish) sense of morahty, and sought to project an image of 
Jewish probity, dignity and righteousness, especially in matters 
concerning love and sex. Accordingly, when Rabbi Feibelman found "too 
much biology... mostly feminine" in Klein's poetry, that was a serious 
criticism. As a result of this and other suggestions, six love sonnets were 
deleted completely. A malediction on Hitler that he "be remembered if 
remembered at all,/ In the name of some newly found, particularly 
disgusting fly,/ Or in the writing on a privy wall," was also removed; 
the word "privy" proved objectionable. In addition, "gutter" was 
changed to "pavement," "ugly filth" became "ugly words," and at least 
one reader sought to tone down a steamy reference to "nine months" in 
relation to the birth of a first-born child. In this case, Klein put his foot 
down: "I am informed by my wife and by the Civil Code of the Province 
of Quebec," he wrote, "that the period of gestation is nine months."^^ 
The offending reference remained in place. One might note, however, 
that the Reconstructionist Haggadah, published at about the same 
time (1941), did censor the reference to those unseemly "nine months" 
from its translation of "Ehad Mi Yodea," and the earlier Reform 
Haggadah (1923) deleted the "nine months" even from the original 

One final example of a poem deemed inappropriate on these 
grounds is Klein's "Psalm 154, A Song of Loves" which he described as 
"a benediction upon the Lord's poisonous chemicals." Half a dozen drugs 
including cannabis and morphine find praise here, and though Klein 
insisted that he only had in mind medicinal purposes, that "he would 
be a churl who would not be grateful for this piece of the Lord's 
creativeness," and that specifically in the case of morphine he had 
himself "on several occasions received the blessings of its effects, and 
they are precisely as described in the last lines of the poem," JPS was 
unyielding; all Klein's protests came to naught.^'^ 

22Caplan, Like One That Dreamed, pp. 90-91; Klein to Levinthal (July 1, 1943); 

Solomon Grayzel to Klein (December 3, 1943), Klein file, JPSP; see Miriam 

Waddington, The Collected Poems of A. M. Klein (Toronto, 1974), pp. 257, 213, 


^^Mordecai Kaplan et al (eds.) The New Haggadah for the Pesah Seder (New 

York, 1941), pp. 155-57; The Union Haggadah (New York, 1923), p. 88. 

24Klein to Levinthal (July 1, 1943); Grayzel to Klein (December 3, 1943), Klein 

file, JPSP; Waddington, Collected Poems, p. 256; Klein reprinted the poem as 

"Grace Before Poison" in his The Second Scroll (1951; NCL Classic edition. 

134 The Modern Age: Literature 

Moving on to the second group of objectionable poems, those deemed 
blasphemous or unduly critical, there was, for example, the poem 
"Rabbi Yom-Tob of Mayence Harangues His God." Under JPS pressure, 
"harangues" was toned down to the more acceptable "petitions," and 
printed. By contrast, Klein's "A Psalm of Resignation," with its 
plaintive cry, "For who indeed can keep his quarrel hot/ And vigorous 
his cries,/ When he who is blasphemed. He answers not,/ Replies no 
word, not even a small sharp word?" proved too unsettling. It was 
excluded. So was "Kalman Rhapsodizes" with its uncomplimentary 
reference to angels, as well as "Psalm 173," a frightening evocation of 
inner madness that could easily be interpreted in a Jewishly negative 
way (but in fact probably referred to the mental illness that later 
silenced Klein's pen altogether.)^^ The JPS sought to appeal to a full 
spectrum of Jews, and felt that it had to keep within certain acceptable 
theological bounds. Furthermore, there were those who questioned the 
wisdom of projecting too "hopeless a cry in a day when nearly the only 
thing left to the Jew is hope."^^ Klein understood: "The J.P.S., which 
knows not who its evesdroppers [sic] are," he wrote to Judge Levinthal, 
"cannot afford to give its imprimatur to something which the enemies 
of Israel might use against us." He realized, since he himself occupied a 
responsible position in the Jewish community, that prudence was the 
better part of wisdom. On second thought, however, he was not so 
certain. "We have indeed come to a sorry pass," he mused, "when we 
cannot even afford the luxury of self-criticism, lest the foe seek to 
confound us out of our own mouths."^ 

Poems finally appeared late in 1944. Klein pronounced himself 
"greatly pleased." "Even the fastidious editing, against which I 
sometime struggled," he wrote Solomon Grayzel, "is in the totality now 
justified and confirmed. "^8 But if Poems represented the true search for 
authentic "Anglo-Jewish" poetry, we are left with a paradox. On the 
one hand, according to Klein, authentic Anglo-Jewish poetry involves 

Toronto, 1982), p. 137. Klein's acquaintance with drugs and apparent use of 

them deserves further study. In his letter to Levinthal, he identifies the drugs 

alluded to in the poem as cannabis ("hemp of India"), aconite ("monk's hood"), 

belladonna ("nightshade"), and digitalis ("blossom of the heart"); he also 

mentions by name hemlock and cocaine. 

25Klein to Levinthal (July 1, 1943); Grayzel to Klein (December 3, 1943), Klein 

file, JPSP; Waddington, Collected Poems, pp. 239, 261, 49, 260. 

26FeIix Gerson to Grayzel (May 18, 1942), Klein file, JPSP. 

27KIein to Levinthal (July 1, 1943), Klein file, JPSP. 

28Klein to Levinthal (January 5, 1945); Klein to Grayzel Qanuary 5, 1945), Klein 

file, JPSP. 

hi Search of "Authentic" Anglo-Jewish Poetry 135 

mediation: writing the thoughts of one culture in the language of the 
other. On the other hand, authenticity also mandates so great a concern 
for community interests that the poet is constrained from giving full 
expression to his thoughts; he is, in other words, mediator and censor at 
one and the same time. The extent to which this dilemma - which, 
mutatis mutandis, has affected culturally creative Jews throughout 
diaspora history - subsequently influenced Klein's shift away from 
Anglo-Jewish poetry, I do not know. Most critics interpret the shift as 
one toward greater universalism as well as an effort to achieve wider 
acclaim. 29 But I am intrigued by the following stanza in Klein's 
"Portrait of the Poet as Landscape" (1948) that may allude to the 
dilemma I am suggesting, even if it points to no solution: 

O schizoid solitudes! O purities 

curdling upon themselves! Who live for themselves, 

or for each other, but for nobody else; 

desire affection; private and public loves; 

are friendly, and then quarrel and surmise 

the secret perversions of each other's lives.^'' 

29Cf. Caplan, Like One That Dreamed, p. 91. 
^^Waddington, Collected Poems, p. 333. 


Tadeusz Rozewicz Faces the 
Holocaust Past 

David H. Hirsch 
Brown University 

Europeans, especially those nations who were more or less directly 
involved in the extermination of Jews, have yet to face up to the 
Holocaust. What is true of Europeans generally, has also been true of 
European writers, who have done little to forge in their souls "the 
uncreated conscience of their race." German writers have tried, as 
indeed they should, more assiduously than others, but still have fallen 
far short of the mark.^ Austrian writers have failed so miserably to 
waken the conscience of their countrymen that a former Nazi was 
elected to the presidency of the country in an orgy of self-righteousness. 
And in the wake of the Klaus Barbie trial, and after the appearance of 
two films: Claude Lanzmann's Shoah, and Marcel Ophuls's Hotel 
Terminus, it is clear that the French have yet to begin to deal with the 
extent of their complicity in genocide. Unfortunately, this inability of 
European literature to face its past has been further covered up by 
deconstructionist literary criticism, promulgated by a former Nazi 
collaborator seeking to efface his own shameful past. 

Poles have perhaps had an even more difficult time facing the 
cultural and moral stain of Auschwitz, which flourished on Polish soil, 
because their role has been more ambiguous than that of the Germans. 
The French and Poles were truly both victims and perpetrators in a way 
that was not true of Germans and Austrians, who were, with only minor 
exceptions, pure perpetrators. Captives in their own land, living under 

^See Ruth K. Angress, "A 'Jewish Problem' in German Postwar Fiction," Modern 
Judaism, V (1985), 215-233. 


138 The Modern Age: Literature 

the harshest occupation known to man, PoUsh citizens were often 
compelled to do what the Germans ordered them to. Poles did not 
conceive "the final solution," to be sure, but a significant number of them 
helped implement it. Some were willing and even eager collaborators. 
Others collaborated for profit, and still others to save themselves and 
their families, while the majority perhaps did nothing worse than 
watch. And, not to be forgotten, a small heroic minority risked their 
own lives and the lives of their closest relatives to frustrate "the final 
solution," to oppose Nazism, and to save individual Jews, as well as the 
honor of their country and their religion. 

The Poles, of course, suffered their own staggering losses during the 
Nazi occupation and during the bitter warfare that took place on 
Polish soil in the years 1939-1945; and since the war they have lived a 
more or less captive nation under a succession of more or less cruel and 
repressive regimes. It is therefore understandable that Polish artists 
and writers have not been quick or eager to confront their own 
complicity in the crimes against humanity that took place on their soil. 
Nevertheless, Tadeusz Rozewicz, a Polish poet and former resistance 
fighter who has written many powerful poems about post-Holocaust 
Poland, takes a step toward forging the "uncreated conscience of his 
race" in a masterful story titled "Wycieczka do muzeum" ("Excursion to 
a Museum.")^ 

The story, as the title indicates, is about a museum tour that starts 
as a rather festive occasion on a brilliant autumn day. The opening 
description of the visitors to the museum depicts them in a holiday 
mood: "...girls in colored sweaters, men in elegant shoes, and women 
with young children. They bring with them baskets of food and photo 
equipment." But the author soon makes it clear that there is an ironic 
twist to the festive mood. It is not an ordinary museum that is being 
visited but the museum at Auschwitz - that is to say, not only a museum 
but a monument commemorating (or a grim reminder of) man's 
inhumanity to man. One of the first things to greet the holiday visitors 
is a book stall run by an old crone hawking her wares: books about 
"deportations, transports,... torture, and the burning of human bodies." 

An excursion to a museum usually affords instruction and delight. 
But this museum turns out to be a house of horrors. Moreover, it turns out 
that the visitors to the museum are more interested in lurid 
entertainment than in learning human compassion. The fact that they 

'^'Wycieczka do Muzeum, Warszawa, 1972. Czytelink. Publication date of the 
title story given as 1959. To my knowledge this story has not yet appeared in an 
English version. The passages cited here have been translated by Roslyn 

Tadeusz Rozewicz Faces the Holocaust Past 139 

are visiting the remains of a "death factory" does not dampen their 
spirits. Indeed, the first question asked of the guide reflects the crowd's 
lurid interests: "Sir, where is the gallows?" 

The crowd then moves to the gallows, which is preserved in a 
rather seedy state of repair, on ground "...overgrown with weeds," and 
"littered" with various kinds of organic and inorganic refuse. 
Rozewicz's description of the gallows, which I assume is accurate from 
a mimetic standpoint, also functions in a symbolic perspective. The 
gallows exists in a "wasteland" atmosphere reminiscent of T. S. Eliot's 
poem of that title and of his Preludes ("The burnt-out ends of smoky 
days./ And now a gusty shower wraps/ The grimy scraps/ Of withered 
leaves about your feet/ And newspapers from vacant lots....") The circus 
atmosphere is established by one of the visitors who describes to no one 
in particular how he would have treated the former official who had 
been hanged on the gallows. "I would hang him till he was within an 
inch of his life, then I would hang him again - five times, until he 
finally croaked." 

This outburst of moral indignation stands out against the 
complacency of the rest of the crowd. It is characteristic of this crowd 
that no one responds to the unnamed man's outburst. Rozewicz does not 
cater to fond human illusions. The people on the excursion act as if they 
are treading on ordinary ground. But the ground of Auschwitz, soaked in 
the blood of innocent victims (Jewish as well as non-Jewish), is either 
hallowed or accursed: A hell sanctified only by the suffering of the 
victims. Lacking in sensitivity as they (or their forebears) once lacked 
compassion, the visitors also lack the insight to realize that their 
freely willed behavior is a bizarre imitation of the coerced behavior of 
the former inmates. As they turn from the gallows, "The door of the 
block opened, and the people started pushing through a harrow 
corridor." When the camp was active, prisoners were pushed through 
the corridor by SS guards or by Ukrainian or Polish functionaries. These 
vacationers, pushing to get into one of the infamous "blocks," are a 
mockery of the reahty that the museum is intended to commemorate. 

Not only are they a mockery, they trivialize the horror. Nothing 
else can be expected, of course. The visitors have not come here to suffer 
or to mourn, and they certainly do not want to fall into gloomy 
thoughts, so they turn the "mommient" into a circus. "Is it worth it to go 
in there [to see the movie]?" one of the visitors asks. So natural a 
question in a normal world, but so absurd in the context of Auschwitz. In 
a normal situation, on a normal tour, the question would mean 
something like, "Is the movie interesting?" or "Will it give me 
pleasure, or edify me, entertain me?" But in the Auschwitz context, and 
in the context of the story, and given the carnival atmosphere and the 

140 The Modern Age: Literature 

insensitivity of the prospective viewers, what can possibly make their 
effort worthwhile? What they cannot understand is that their 
"humanness" (that is, this callous indifference to the suffering of 
"outsiders") is what made Auschwitz possible. As they continue 
pushing to get in to see the movie, for example, a woman cries out, "Let 
us out. People are shoving." Whereupon, one of the other visitors, a 
male, comments to her, "Aren't you shoving yourself. Missy?" 
ipanieneczka). The insensitivity of the visitors prevents them from 
recognizing the grotesque irony of their situation, which is, however, 
clearly stressed by the narrator. In their pushing and shoving to get into 
the block they are a distorted reflection of the inmates who were 
pushed into the blocks against their will by sadistic guards and other 
camp functionaries. 

The film turns out to be the "usual" Auschwitz fare, which the 
narrator describes in a series of verbal images that convey the visual 
images being seen by the visitors: "Prisoners. Corpses, Nurses. The 
living dead. Another pile of corpses. Children, nurses, doctors." The 
viewers apparently draw no parallels between the images on the screen 
and their own present reality, or even between the images and a living 
historical past. They might as well be watching a film about Mars or 
some other distant planet. As the viewers emerge from the screening 
room, squinting, the guide feels obliged to give them a lecture (which 
apparently falls on deaf ears) about decorum. People, he moralizes, 
especially males, play and laugh on this accursed ground, as if nothing 
unusual or tragic had happened here. What the guide seems not to 
understand is that though these people are at the museum they are 
here merely on an excursion. They did not come to recapture the past, 
certainly not to mourn or honor the dead. They are here for fun, on an 
excursion, a day in the country, a picnic. 

Perhaps the guide's lecture does remind some in the crowd of where 
they are, but not, it would seem, in a very constructive way, for though 
the talk returns to the business at hand, to the brutalities of Auschwitz, 
it does so in a trivial way. Someone asks to see "the hair," and then a 
mother asks her son Ignace whether he knows where they keep the 
hair and prostheses. Someone in the crowd, who does not see the point 
of looking at hair and artificial limbs, turns out to be at least a second- 
time visitor who adds some noteworthy information about the 
deterioration of the museum: it is losing its artifacts. Ten years ago this 
place had been overflowing with hair and prostheses. Now there seems 
to have been a quantitative diminution. Why? What has happened? 
Have the authorities who run the museum decided to sanitize it? Or 
have ten years' worth of visitors pilfered some of the artifacts as 
"souvenirs?" Or is the speaker perhaps remembering inaccurately? Is 

Tadeiisz Rozewicz Faces the Holocaust Past 141 

he, perhaps, merely imagining that the museum was once overflowing? 
Whatever the answer to these questions, the conversation itself never 
rises above the quantitative level. There is no expression of moral 
outrage (as there had been earlier by the man contemplating the 
gallows). Perhaps the most perceptive of the visitors is the young boy 
in the blue suit (is it Ignace or some other boy?) who wants to know 
what kind of museum this is anyway. He at least recognizes that 
Auschwitz does not fit the conventional definition of a museum. 

The guide himself, who is trying to bring Auschwitz to life for the 
visitors, combines statistics and dead facts with moral outrage. 
Explaining the gallows, he starts with the numerical datum that ten 
prisoners were hanged all at the same time. But as if that were not 
enough to qualify as a crime, or perhaps because he wants to make the 
experience come alive by focusing on an individual, he slides into the 
story of Teuton bestiality and disregard of all civilized law in hanging 
one young man repeatedly until the execution is finally successful, in 
spite of the fact that civilized custom demands a reprieve for the 
prisoner when the first attempt at execution has failed. Indeed, the 
guide tries to establish a historical context in which the behavior of 
the Germans in 1939-1945 is compared to "the character and behavior of 
the Teuton Crusaders," behavior which apparently has been kept alive 
for him not in history books, but in two works of historical fiction. 

As his lecture continues, the guide's narrative shifts into a 
confessional vein. Yet, even this confessional vein is overwhelmed by 
the sheer volume of the horrors. The guide is trying to express his moral 
outrage, but he can do so only in absurd quantitative images. Moved to 
confess his disturbed evening ponderings to his audience, he tells them 
that these meditations wind up in "calculations," absurd estimates of 
how high the corpses would go if piled on top of one another, or how far 
they would reach if laid side by side. Later in the tale the guide takes 
another crack at converting quantitative data into moral reality. After 
the narrator has revealed that "the guide, a former prisoner, gives the 
most accurate information," he permits the reader to Hsten in on some of 
this information: 

He provides information on such matters as numbers, the weight of 
the clothes, women's hair, thousands of shaving brushes and bowls, 
millions of burned bodies, and into all this information he weaves 
philosophical remarks, moralistic comments, aphorisms of his own, as 
well as citations from lectures. He wants to bring the visitor in close 
contact with the "Hell" enclosed behind the gates of the museum. He 
keeps emphasizing to the visitors, doing his best to explain, that 
whatever is to be found here now is but a tiny fragment of what was 
once here, and that it is impossible to describe what actually took 
place on these grounds. It was Hell. 

142 The Modern Age: Literature 

But Rozewicz brilliantly demonstrates the guide's failure to 
describe the Hell that was the true Auschwitz by the interplay of 
dialogue which undermines the guide as it moves the story forward, 
forcing the reader to focus as much on what goes unreported as on what 
is reported. When Ignace's mother, for example, has to interrupt the 
guide's musings to tell her son to be quiet and "Usten to what the man is 
saying," the reader can infer that the guide's words have been falling 
on deaf ears. 

The guide's speech in the next paragraph confirms the accuracy of 
the earlier comment by one of the visitors that ten years ago the place 
was "overflowing" with those macabre reminders of the actual 
conditions pervading the camp in its heyday. The guide announces that 
they are going to "tour the entire museum" and that the visitors "will 
see everything there is to see," but he immediately must qualify his 
assertion: "Everything will be here. Everything, although not much 
remains here now." The guide's qualification is ambiguous. He may be 
saying only that the original museum materials have been depleted or 
that the materials left in the museum cannot convey the volume and 
depth of human suffering and degradation of the original "living" 
Auschwitz (that is, the "everything" that "remains here now" is the 
mere flotsam and jetsam of human suffering, which are only a poor 
reminder of the actual degradation of the human spirit that took place 
in the camp). 

The guide's next statement penetrates, consciously or unconsciously, 
to the pith of the museum. "What is here," he advises, "is symbolic." 
The sheer quantitative bulk of Auschwitz is overwhelming, as we know 
from the guide's own evening ruminations and from the narrator's report 
of the guide's exposition. The guide realizes that contemplating the 
number of corpses is a dead-end business leading to absurd 
measurements. So he now tries turning to the qualitative, in fact, the 
symbolic. He tells his audience that "...what there is is symbolic. 
Take, for example, the few Jewish prayer shawls hanging in this hall. 
The older people know what the Jews used to look like while they were 
at prayer." In symbolic terms what becomes important is not what is 
present, but precisely what is absent. What is missing, of course, not 
only from the museum but from Poland is the three million Polish Jews 
who succumbed to the savagery of Nazism while so many of their 
neighbors looked on, and, in some instances, contributed to the 
slaughter. What the prayer shawls symbolize are the missing Jews 
who once used to worship the Lord in them. 

The guide presents the "facts" in a straightforward, understated 
way: "As we know. Hitler murdered the Jews. Now there are almost no 
Jews in Poland." (It should be remembered that this story [1959] 

Tadeusz Rozewicz Faces the Holocaust Past 143 

antedated the Russian-instigated expulsions of Jews conducted in 1967 
and 1968 which left Poland to all intents and purposes Judenrein.) 
While the guide does not seem to be conscious of ironies the same cannot 
be said for Rozewicz. The guide tells the visitors what they want to 
hear (or else he is spouting the official line): "As we know," he says, 
"Hitler murdered the Jews." As Jake Barnes says in response to a 
sentimental outburst by Lady Brett in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, 
"Isn't it pretty to think so?" The Germans and Austrians would like to 
claim no less. Responsibility should go right to the top and only to the 
top. We were all good people doing our duty, as former Nazi Kurt 
Waldheim puts it, obeying orders, as Adolf Eichmann put it. But 
Rozewicz is a much more intelligent and perceptive moralist than the 
guide, or Waldheim, or Eichmann, or even than Eichmann's formidably 
intelligent apologist, Hannah Arendt. He has the conscience of an 
artist, not of a politician or a philosopher. Rozewicz knows that it took 
more than one man to kill six million Jews and three million Poles, and 
many millions of other nationalities. 

The guide himself falters at this point, sliding from the symbolic to 
the mimetic, descending into talk about plans to build a perfect replica 
of the barrack of the women's camp in Birkenau, as if such a replica 
could reconstitute the reality that the film, the hair, the shaving 
brushes, the millions of burned bodies have already failed to body 
forth. At any rate, it really does not matter what the guide has been 
saying, since no one appears to be listening. Now, another couple 
emerges from the faceless mass, this time a mother and her daughter, 
Grazynka. More triviality. Grazynka wants to see the movie, while 
her mother wants to stuff some chocolate into her (another ironic 
reminder of both the severe starvation conditions under which prisoners 
lived and of the callousness of the visitors to the museum). Apparently 
finding the guide's commentary too dry, Grazynka's mother turns to 
another visitor who also happens to be a survivor, Joseph, and asks him 
to "tell us what happened" because not realizing that the guide is also 
a survivor, she feels that he is merely spouting book knowledge. She 
expects Joseph to be able to re-create the reality because "You saw 
everything and you know all about it." Joseph, however, is a reluctant 
witness, and while he tells the story differently from the guide, he 
does not come any closer to reproducing the "living reaUty." Joseph tries 
to pin down at least the banal physical details, stumbling into what 
almost seems to be an irrelevant note: there were no trees "at that time" 
(that is, when the German death machine was in full operation), and 
the "land was flat and bare." 

Joseph started out by asking, "What is there to tell?" again 
reminiscent of T. S. Eliot, this time of the lines in The Love Song of J. 

144 The Modern Age: Literature 

Alfred Pru frock: "...That is not what I meant at all./ That is not it, at 
all." What a strange question for Joseph to ask! There must be hundreds 
of books by survivors bearing witness, many of them in Polish, trying to 
deliver some sense of what it felt like to be on the receiving end of the 
most brutal atrocities ever committed in the recorded history of the 
human race. So Joseph, who wonders what there is to tell, starts with 
the landscape. The museum at Auschwitz is not Auschwitz, neither is 
the present landscape the reality of 1940-1945. Now there are trees to 
break up the starkness of the flat land. Back in the early forties the 
land was bare, without sheltering and decorative trees. But like the 
guide, Joseph gets sidetracked into inanity. In fact, Mr. Jospeh does not 
do as good a job as the guide, for he digresses into blatant inaccuracies. 
For some reason (either deliberately or because the memory is still too 
painful) he tells a story that contradicts what all other witnesses have 
told, as well as what has just been shown in the film. 

Joseph asserts that the new arrivals were received "politely and 
efficiently," and he seems to be saying it seriously. But the efficiency 
is, ironically (whether Joseph intends it that way or not), the 
efficiency of the death machine; and the "politeness" (perhaps an 
unwitting comment on what had become of the famed Austro-Germanic 
Gernutlichkeit) is the mock politeness underscored in some previous 
descriptions of the unloading ramp, including that of Joseph's gifted 
Auschwitz-survivor countryman, Tadeusz Borowski, who describes the 
brutality and cruelty of the unloading ramp in the story "This Way for 
the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen" (1946). One would assume that 
Rozewicz had read Borowski's account, and also that he is depending 
on the reader to know enough about Auschwitz to realize that Joseph is 
turning reality upside down. Lest the reader miss the point, however, 
Rozewicz has Joseph continue by denying that there were children on 
the unloading ramp, though the narrator has described the content of 
the film about the inmates of Auschwitz with the sentence, among 
others: "Children, nurses doctors," and though eyewitness Borowski 
relates a most cruel and disquieting incident involving a mother and 
child on the ramp. Then Joseph makes the bizarre assertion that 
"When someone left.. .suit, shirt, and other belongings... were returned. 
They were even all washed and ironed." But the reality of Auschwitz, 
testified to many times over, was that prisoners were never released. If 
they left at all it was by escaping or through the chimneys. Thus, the 
"when they left..." in fact means never! 

Joseph's fanciful account is further undermined by Ignace's mother, 
who comments somewhat later, "I don't even know if it's worth going [to 
Birkenau]. I can't bear to look at the children's clothes." At least 
Ignace's mother shows a modicum of compassion, but even that is later 

Tadeusz Rozewicz Faces the Holocaust Past 145 

eclipsed by her trivializing remarks about the pacifiers, and her 
positivist-historian skepticism that they may not be part of the 
"authentic" detritus of the death camp, but rather "a display" that 
has been added, an observation that trails off into further absurdities, 
including one that the pacifiers are made of rubber, and rubber rots. 

This paroxysm of trivializing having played itself out, Rozewicz 
shifts the conversation back to one of the anomalous elements in the 
descriptive opening paragraph ("The crowds streamed past the long 
blocks of buildings. The windows were open. ...Children were 
playing...."). Somebody remarks to Ignace's mother, almost as though 
commenting on the irony of the opening paragraph, about the oddity of 
people living normal, and apparently unreflective and unperturbed, 
lives in the shadow of this center of infamy. When someone comments, 
"...I can't understand how people can live here," Ignace's mother 
responds with the question, "Where?", an indication that she sees no 
link between past and present, and a clear signal that she has drawn no 
parallels between the children who were beaten, starved, and gassed 
and her own pampered Ignace. Some more chatter by the visitors is 
followed by the guide's exposition on Kaduk's Chapel, which Rozewicz 
cleverly uses to underscore the ambiguity of the Polish role in the 
genocide. Rapportfuhrer Kaduk's name, the guide points out, suggests 
that "...he might have been of Polish descent, because you don't find 
names like that among the Germans." Kaduk, then, who may have been 
a Pole, was a "...sadist who tortured prisoners." 

No one in the Polish crowd responds to this bit of disturbing 
information. No one even bothers to deny that a Pole would have 
tortured fellow Poles (of Jewish persuasion), and no one, apparently, 
finds the information in the least bit shocking. Instead, the 
conversation once again falls into banalities about the roll-call bell, but 
less than banal, and indeed revealing, is the guide's observation that 
the bell that used to call [Jewish] prisoners to the murderous appel was 
"probably stolen from a church." Not only the prayer shawls are 
symbolic but the bell, too. Its symbolism testifies to the impotence of 
the Poles in the face of the Teutonic barbarians. They have not been 
able to prevent the Nazis from defacing a sacred place, from stealing 
the church bell and perverting it from its intended use of tolHng people 
to prayer and announcing both solemn and festive occasions. In one sense, 
then, the bell symbolizes the victimhood of the Poles themselves, just 
as the prayer shawls symbolize the victimhood of the Jews. But in 
another sense the bell symbolizes the failure of the Catholic Church 
generally (so graphically portrayed in Rolf Hocchuth's The Deputy) 
and of the the Polish Catholic Church in particular to intercede in 
behalf of the victims and to try to prevent the slaughter. Thus, the 

246 The Modern Age: Literature 

church bell symbolizes not only the tragedy of Poland as a nation but 
also the Catholic Church's (and especially the Polish Catholic 
Church's) complicity in the genocide, because of its age-old commitment 
to the ideology that if the Jews crucified Jesus once, then Christians 
must crucify the Jews till the end of days. 

The bell as symbol, set against the symbolic shawls, also calls 
attention to a difference in degree which becomes a difference in kind 
between what the Poles (and other Europeans) suffered and what the 
Jews suffered. The church bell can be replaced. Another bell will call 
other worshippers to prayer. A severe and tragic human loss has indeed 
been sustained by the Poles. Nevertheless, for the Poles the blow has 
not been mortal. For the Jews, on the other hand, the blow has indeed 
been mortal - the death of a thousand-year-old language and culture. 
Unhke the church bell, the missing Jews and their culture cannot be 

The realistic narrative resumes with more small talk about the 
orchestra, etc. But one element that seems to be emerging from the small 
talk is that the excursioners are, in fact, not ignorant about what went 
on in Auschwitz. Their questions seem to indicate that they all know 
something. One asks to see the gallows, another to see the hair, 
another the hall where the experiments on women were conducted, 
another the "death wall," etc. 

They know bits and pieces, but they cannot imagine the reaUty and 
the futility of trying to re-create it. One of the visitors expresses, with 
some chagrin, this frustrating inability to grasp the "total reaUty" of 
Auschwitz: "Take this death block, for example. I see the windows are 
all boarded up. So what does that mean? Somebody has to explain the 
whole thing and show you just what happened here." And then, again, 
a return to details and artifacts, frustrating because they cannot 
"explain themselves," and finally, a reference to the ashes of those 
consumed in the crematories, but a reference that mocks itself. Just as 
the ashes were carried away by the Sola and Vistula rivers, 
obliterating all trace of the dead, so the guide's remarks about the 
ashes are also carried away and doomed to obliteration by the crowd's 
indifference to the human beings who suffered here. 

What is perhaps the most shocking instance of insensitivity occurs 
at this point. A child asks her father about the function of the penal 
bunkers, which were one of the most demonic inventions devised by the 
sadists who ran the camps (and which have been described in earlier 
Polish memoirs of the camps). In his annoyance, the father tells his 
daughter that if she does not behave "they'll lock you up here also." 
Not only does this answer betray an insensitivity to the horrors of the 
penal bunkers and to those of the camp generally, but it accepts the 

Tadeusz Rozewicz Faces the Holocaust Past 147 

premise that there was some kind of moral order, or justice, in the camp, 
that the inmates might have been in the camp for good reason, and that 
there was some equation between the penal bunkers and wrongdoing. As 
if to comment on the grotesqueness of this assumption, the narrator 
moves from the dialogue between father and daughter to a description 
that underlines the museum's failure to educate, and to inspirit the 
reality it is intended to commemorate. The "pictures of the dead and 
the murdered... h.mging in a dusty corridor... stare blankly all day and 
all night. [But] at night, when there are no people in the museum, their 
faces exude a suffering that no longer exists in the museum itself." The 
narrator calls attention to this disparity between the suffering still 
present in the pictures and the inability of the visitors to notice it by 
immediately drawing a parallel between the shabby remnants still in 
the museum and pre-historic fossils. 

The dialogue, which now resumes, maintains the vacillation 
between the guide's frustration at his inability to encompass the total 
reality ('"There is so much,' my dear Madam.") and the trivializing 
irrelevancies of the visitors ("I thought that all of this stuff lying on 
tables would be on the floor.") And then, once again, the guide tries to 
make the museum, specifically the horror of the penal bunkers, spring 
to life, this time with a gory tale of cannibalism that throws 
individual sufferers into relief, but a tale whose veracity the guide 
will not vouch for ("There is a story going around...."). Without 
skipping a beat, the guide switches from the horror story to the 
ubiquitous "inscriptions and signs" which "looked completely different 
at the time" (as, it will be remembered, did the landscape, according to 

The German sign reads: "There is one path to freedorn, whose 
milestones are called: obedience, diligence, order, honesty, cleanliness, 
truthfulness, self-sacrifice, and love of the Fatherland." Out of context 
the sign is a compendium of noble German middle-class virtues, the 
embodiment of the highest ethic of Germanic culture - "obedience, hard 
work, honesty, love of country." But within the camp context the sign 
can only have been a parody, not only of itself but of that high culture 
which had brought into being a death-factory system. The sign 
extolling these high German-Christian middle-class virtues that 
endorse stability and security could only have mocked the prisoners 
who knew that in Auschwitz the only path to freedom was death and 
that the virtues extolled in the sign were at the antipodes of the Nazi 
order established in the camp and being instituted all over Europe. 

And now, as if in a refrain, the story returns once more to the human 
detritus which may as well be relics uncovered in an archaeological 
dig: dishes, bowls, pots, etc. Some more banter finally brings the guide. 

148 The Modern Age: Literature 

the excursioners, and the reader to the piece de resistance of the 
museum and of Western Christian culture's and technological man's and 
secular humanism's pretense to having created a "high civilization": 
the crematory. Here again, the museum can only mimic the reality. The 
real crematory is no longer available, having been blown up (by the 
Germans trying to efface their crimes). So the visitors must be content 
with a replica erected on the ruins of the real thing. It is still a grim 
scene, but not grim enough to prevent three young boys (who were 
probably born after the war) from making merry, an indication not only 
of their insensitivity but of how miserably the museum fails in its task 
of cultivating human compassion for the victims. The dialogue that 
follows must give the reader pause: 

"The gas was poured in here," a man says to a woman. "The gas was 
poured in on them and they choked." 

"Let's get out of here," says the woman. "I've been here already. My 
legs are killing me. I've had enough." 

It is difficult to get at the spirit of the man's words. Is he being 
merely descriptive, indifferent? Or is he expressing satisfaction? The 
woman is clearly indifferent. She has had enough, and is tired, as she 
states with unconscious irony in the cliche "My legs are killing me." 

The narrator moves the reader from the inside of the museum to the 
surrounding area with a lyrical description of the tranquil beauty of 
Autumn. He even grafts nature imagery onto his description of the 
murderous electrified barbed wire ('...and a honey-colored leaf floats 
gracefully. ...Double rows of barbed wire join concrete pillars 
honeycombed with white transformers."), thus creating a grotesque 
bond between the peaceful autumn and the murder machine. The 
narrator also emphasizes the disparity between the museum and 
natural landscape, and also the disparities between the lives of the 
former inmates of Auschwitz and the affirmation of Ufe that can be 
seen going on in immediate proximity to the museum. 

In the shadow of the death factory, which was also a hunger farm, 
where as many people may have died of malnutrition-related diseases 
as of bullets and gas, Grazynka's mother tries to stuff some little 
chocolate {"czekoladke") into her, and someone else wonders - again 
with unconscious irony - whether the tour will include dinner. The 
woman to whom the question about dinner has been addressed grumbles 
something about her displeasure with the whole tour, which has been 
poorly organized (perhaps, also, an ironic echo of the camp itself, 
which Pan Jozef had hinted was well organized). The woman takes the 
opportunity to deliver herself of some more complaints, recurring to the 
previously mentioned motif, which is an ironic comment on the Poles (as 

Tadeusz Rozewicz Faces the Holocaust Past 149 

well as Germans and other Europeans) who claimed that they knew 
nothing. Even those who lived in the town of Oswieciem would have 
the world believe that they knew nothing. Seeing they saw not. 
Hearing they heard not. Jewish neighbors and townsmen rounded up, 
trucked away Hke cattle, dispossessed of all their belongings, beaten in 
public, herded into ghettos, yet no one suspected that they were being 
harmed. The mentality capable of such peculiar ignorance is brought to 
mind by this woman. With her own eyes she has seen the "boarded 
windows" and the death block and the "gallows," to say nothing of 
"the hair, the boots, the bowls, the brushes, the moldy skins, the 
pacifiers, the quilts," the rebuilt gas chamber, the barbed wire. She 
has seen it all, but she still needs "somebody.. .to describe and explain 
exactly what it was like...." And then, she makes the wonderfully 
irrelevant observation, an observation worthy of the so-called 
revisionist historians and the blissfully innocent Noam Chomsky who 
foolishly defends their right to turn the truth upside down: "Those 
chinineys over there - they belong to the kitchen. They're not from the 

Rozewicz's closing paragraph is a masterpiece, and is worthy of 
being cited in full: 

The electric train is waiting at the station. The people who have visited 
the museum are seated in the compartments. Little is said about the 
museum. In the direction of the city, smoke can be seen spewing out 
of large factories. A roar can be heard from the nearby stadium. Trees 
are silhouetted against the silver-gray autumn sky. Copper clouds 
stretch leisurely in the fading sunlight. Church steeples loom in the 
background. Old women sit along the tracks. Bony, white goats with 
pink udders are grazing. The sun-washed clouds flare a deep red, then 
quickly cool and darken. A freight train rolls by on the adjoining track. 

On a descriptive (or affective) level, he reproduces that sense of 
fatigue and satiety, familiar to all sightseers, that sets in when a 
hoHday excursion is winding down to its natural conclusion. The autumn 
day itself is shutting down. The tired and surfeited excursioners are 
ready to return from their "diversion" to their everyday lives. But into 
this realistic mood, Rozewicz has continued to weave suggestive and 
even symbolic meanings. For example, "The electric train is waiting at 
the station," waiting to carry the tired excursioners back to their 
homes, a far cry from the steam engines that in the early forties used to 
transport people here from their homes, to be tortured and murdered, 
and at the same time an echo of the electrified barbed-wire fences. In 
their fatigue, and in contrast to their idle chatter in the museum, the 
people are silent. What are they thinking? One would like to imagine 
that they are ruminating over what they have seen, pondering the 

150 The Modern Age: Literature 

cruelty and barbarism of a high culture become "an old bitch gone in the 
teeth," perhaps even weighing their own complicity (or that of their 
countrymen) in genocide and mass murder. But their behavior and talk 
in the museum would make such thoughts unlikely. 

Now it is also possible for the excursioners to see one of the 
"realities" that was missing from the museum at Auschwitz, the smoke 
that so traumatized every Auschwitz survivor (and inmate) that not 
one of those who writes about the camp fails to mention it. Rozewicz 
has inserted a (perhaps not so subtle) reminder of those who would 
absolve themselves by claiming to have known nothing. If these 
homebound excursioners can see the smoke spewing from the factories of 
the distant city, then is it possible that no one but the inmates saw and 
smelled the smoke that bellowed out of the crematories of Birkenau? 

In a most tender lyric vein, Rozewicz continues the description of 
the waning day as if he might be describing any sunset: Nature sinking 
to rest, silhouetted trees, copper clouds, church steeples in the 
background. Then the day gives its death rattle and expires, as "The 
sun-washed clouds flared a deep red, then quickly cooled and 
darkened." But artist that he is, Rozewicz does not let the reader leave 
on this deceptively tranquil note. Against the depicted scene of 
exhausted vacationers sitting in their comfortable railroad 
compartments waiting to go home to the meal that they missed at the 
museum, Rozewicz casts one more devastating Holocaust symbol that 
shocks the reader into recognizing the excursioners' complacency and 
unwillingness to face the past: "A freight train rolled by on the 
adjoining track." This, like the smoke, has been missing from the 
museum: the cattle cars filled with human cargo - including women and 
children - rolling all over Europe, and certainly through Poland. But 
the good people of Europe were as oblivious to the cattle cars then as 
the tourists are to the freight train now. 

Rozewicz's story succeeds precisely where the museum itself fails. 
The museum as a whole represents "history" untouched by imagination. 
Those who visit the museum are ordinary unthinking people, 
insensitive, perhaps, but not malicious. The museum has failed them 
and failed those it is intended to commemorate because it is founded on 
the assumption that "facts will speak for themselves." But, as 
Rozewicz knows, facts in themselves are mute; unless they are brought 
to life by a spark of creative imagination they dwindle and eventually 
disappear, or else they lose their authenticity (the woman who cannot 
believe that the "pacifiers" could have been left over from the time 
that the camp was functioning). The guide struggles to make the dead 
facts live, but his imagination is not up to the task. The best he can do is 
shuffle numbers. As many Holocaust historians have pointed out, there 

Tadeusz Rozewicz Faces the Holocaust Past 151 

is no historical situation to which to conipare the death camps; so the 
guide is reduced to calculating how much space the dead bodies will 
occupy either if piled on top of each other or laid side by side. Joseph 
seems to go to the other extreme. He appears to want to make facts live 
by understating (or even misrepresenting) the actual brutality and 
savagery. Either he feels that he must tone down the reality to make it 
bearable, or he misuses his imagination to paint over the horrors in the 
hope of making them more credible. But this misuse of imagination 
backfires by creating an absurd and inexplicable gap between the 
account it renders and the data shown in the film and the museum. 

Rozewicz, however, like Robert Frost's Oven Bird, "...knows in 
singing not to sing." His imagination finds exactly the right note. He 
knows from the museum itself, and from his own moral imagination, 
that he cannot encompass the crimes and suffering of Auschwitz by 
treating them directly. So he invokes the reality of the death camp by 
writing about it indirectly, describing the moral abomination itself by 
innocently pretending to describe only its aftermath. 

Part Seventeen 


The Politics of Yiddish in Tsarist 

David E. Fishman 
Jewish Theological Seminary of America 
and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research 

In 1897, Tsarist Russia conducted a census in which it recorded the 
nationality and language of its inhabitants. Of the 5,215,000 Jews 
living in the empire, 97% declared Yiddish as their native tongue. 
Only 24.6% claimed to be able to read Russian.^ Given this impressive 
degree of Jewish linguistic cohesion upon the threshold of the 
twentieth century, one would expect to have found a lively and 
developed modern Yiddish culture in Russia at the time, in the spheres 
of literature, the press, periodical publications, theater, education, as 
well as social and cultural organizations. In fact, however, th,ere was 
not a single Yiddish newspaper, daily or weekly, and not a single 
Yiddish literary journal in all of Tsarist Russia in 1897. Nor were there 
any established, well-known Yiddish theater ensembles, any modern 
Jewish schools with instruction in Yiddish, or any social or cultural 
organizations operating in Yiddish. Few other languages in central or 
eastern Europe could "boast" such a paucity of cultural institutions. 

Whereas Yiddish fiction, published in book or pamphlet form, was 
a substantial force in Russian-Jewish life from the 1860s on, the other 
institutions of modern Yiddish culture lagged far behind it in their 
historical development. The Yiddish short story and novel were among 
the most important vehicles by which Jewish intellectuals expressed 
themselves and communicated with the Jewish public. Tens of 

^Solomon M. Schwartz, The Jews in the Soviet Union, Syracuse, New York, 1951, 
pp. 12-13. 


156 The Modern Age: History 

thousands of Russian Jews flocked to their local book-peddlers to obtain 
the belletristic writings of Isaac Meyer Dik, Mendele Moykher 
Seforim, Isaac Yoel Linetski, Nokhem Meyer Shaykevitch (Shomer), 
and the young Sholem Aleichem. The spread of Yiddish belle lettres 
altered the reading habits, leisure activity, and - most of all - 
thinking patterns of a broad segment of the Russian Jewish community. 
But in the areas of press, periodical publications, theater, and 
schooling, Yiddish activity was sparse, sporadic and flimsy at best. 
During the 1890s it was virtually non-existent. Not until the first 
decade of the twentieth century did a multi-dimensional modern 
Yiddish cultural system (i.e. not only belle-lettres, but also the above 
mentioned spheres of cultural endeavor) emerge, and begin to have an 
impact on a sizeable segment of Russian Jewry. This fact has often gone 
unnoticed because of the remarkable literary achievements of Mendele, 
Sholem Aleichem, and Peretz during that very period of time. Indeed 
the very term "Yiddish culture" did not gain currency until the early 
years of the twentieth century.'^ 

The retarded development of modern Yiddish culture demands a 
historical explanation. After all, the nineteenth century was a period 
when the languages of so many nationalities in eastern and central 
Europe came into their own - the flourishing of Polish-language 
theater, the rise Russian-language education, the development of a 
strong and diverse Czech and Hungarian periodical press.^^ Yiddish 
would have all of this too, but only much, much later than its co- 
territorial languages. 

Those who have addressed the question directly or indirectly have 
offered two complementary explanations. The first maintains that 
Russian Jewry underwent minimal economic, social, and cultural 
modernization during the nineteenth century. The vast majority of 
Russian Jews continued to live in small market-towns (shtetlekh), and 
their every-day lives conformed to traditional pre-urban, pre- 
industrial cultural patterns. The need for knowledge, information, 
moral guidance and spiritual enrichment, entertainment and leisure- 
activity were satisfied by the kheyder, beys medresh, Hasidic shtibl 
and Hasidic court, and of course in home and neighborhood settings. 
Only on the verge of the twentieth century did a significant proportion 
of Russian Jewry become urbanized, industrialized, and secularized. 

^Chaim Zhitlovsky may have been the first to use the coinage "yidishe kultur" 

in his "Tsionism Oder Sotsialism" (1898) Gezamlte Shriftn vol. 5, New York, 1917, 

p. 72. 

■'Ricardo Piccio (ed.). Aspects of The Slavic Language Question in the 19th 


The Politics of Yiddish in Tsarist Russia 157 

The complexity and impersonality of urban life, and the spread of a 
secular, rational world-view made the adoption of modern European 
cultural forms, such as the newspaper, magazine, theater, and modern 
school, possible and indeed necessary for Russian Jewry. The requisite 
social and economic conditions for the rise of a modern Yiddish culture 
did not exist until the turn of the century.^ 

The problem with this macro-sociological explanation is that it 
flies in the face of many facts. Its static and simplistic view of Russian- 
Jewish life in the nineteenth century is untenable. The urbanization and 
industrialization of Russian-Polish Jewry was well-apace by the 1860s, 
as was its cultural transformation. To cite just a few major 
developments: the secularizing influence of Haskalah-ideology was 
pronounced in such centers as Vilna, Kovna, Berdichev and Odessa. 
There emerged a sizeable Russified Jewish intelligentsia in St. 
Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa, and Kiev, and by the 1870s, the number of 
Jews in Russian gymnasia and universities superseded the number of 
yeshiva students. In Warsaw, a Polonized Jewish bourgeoisie assumed 
key positions in the Jewish community and, more strikingly, in Polish 
cultural life. A spectrum of modern-Jewish schools - state-sponsored, 
private, and communal - arose, combining Jewish and general studies, 
and the Hebrew press (including, as of 1886, two daiUes) flourished.^ 
However, these modern cultural trends expressed themselves 
overwhelmingly in Russian, Polish and Hebrew; not in Yiddish. 

At this point, the second explanation is usually raised. The 
Maskilim and Jewish intelligentsia viewed Yiddish with disgust and 
contempt, as the hving embodiment of the much-hated medieval past. 
The Maskilim created their cultural outlets in Hebrew, which they 
worshipped as "the beautiful tongue, our last remaining remnant" (ha- 
safa ha-yafa ha-serida ha-yehida), whereas the intelligentsia 
enthusiastically embraced Russian as the language of its periodicals, 
schools and organizations. Yiddish was supposed to wither and die, the 
sooner the better. At best, it was viewed as a necessary evil and 
relegated to the limited, transitory role of spreading enlightenment 

^This is the impression conveyed by Mark Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog in 
Life is With People, New York, 1952; Avrom Menes' erudite and evocative 
study "Di Mizrekh Eyropeishe Tkufe In Der Yidisher Geshikhte," Algemeyne 
Entsiklopedye - Yidn vol. 4, New York, 1950, pp. 275-430, suffers from the same 

^Steven Zipperstein,"HaskaIah, Cultural Change and 19th Century Russian 
Jewry: A Reassessment," Journal of Jewish Studies vol. 34, no. 2 (1983) pp. 191- 
207, and his The Jews of Odessa: A Cultural History, Stanford, California, 1985; 
Jacob Shatzky, Geshikhte fun Yidn In Varshe, vol. 3, New York, 1953. 

158 The Modern Age: History 

among the older generation of unlettered Jews, for whom it was too late 
to acquire another language. With such a negative attitude toward the 
language, there was no ideological basis for the emergence of a modem 
Yiddish culture. Only at the turn of the century, primarily under the 
influence of the Jewish labor movement and its political arm, the Bund, 
did a segment of the Jewish intelligentsia change its attitude toward 
Yiddish, and begin to view it as a valued cultural medium or as a 
national cultural treasure. That is when the Yiddish press, school, and 
theater burst forth onto the historical arena.^ 

This ideological explanation, which was especially popular among 
Bundists who wished to lay claim to the emergence of modern Yiddish 
culture, is much too smooth and easy. From the 1860s on, a growing 
number of writers and intellectuals endorsed the use of Yiddish as a tool 
for spreading enlightenment. Alexander Zederbaum, S. J. Abramovitch, 
Moshe Leyb Lilienblum, Abraham Ber Gotlober, and Abraham 
Goldfaden are only the most famous early examples. They may have 
felt uneasy about writing in the despised "jargon," and have doubted its 
long-term viability and desirability, but nonetheless they plodded 
ahead, in the face of rather vociferous opposition. Even some Russified 
intellectuals such as lyla Orshanski and Menashe Margulis saw merit 
in advancing enlightenment by means of the folk-idiom.^ After the 
pogroms of 1881-2, a sizeable segment of the Jewish intelligentsia shed 
its embarrassment or ambivalence toward the language. The view that 
Yiddish was a legitimate cultural medium with an invaluable role to 
play in both the present and long-term future gained greater 
acceptance. Sholem Aleichem and I. L. Peretz were the pre-eminent 
converts to this view during the 1880s, but many others followed in 

^"The Bund created a Yiddish culture.. .it turned the market jargon into a 
language in which serious scientific affairs can be discussed. Furthermore, the 
Bund taught the Jewish masses how to read. Before. ..only the enlightened 
understood Mendele Moykher Sforim, only a few read Peretz's Bletlekh. The 
Bund created a great circle of readers which needed good books and 
newspapers, and it created a new literature for that circle." This tendentious 
statement by a Bundist newspaper is taken by Samuel Portnoy to be an 
accurate summation of the Bund's contribution to Yiddish culture; Vladimir 
Medem: The Life and Soul of A Legendary Jeioish Socialist New York, 1979, pp. 

''One can even point to I. J. Linetski and Y. M. Lifshits as writers who insisted on 
Yiddish as the sole valuable vehicle of enlightenment and mockingly 
disparaged the use of Hebrew; on Margulis, see Peter Shaw, The Jewish 
Community of Odessa: A Social and Institutional History, unpublished Ph.D. 
dissertation, Hebrew University, 1988, on Orshanski, see below; cf. Miron, A 
Traveler Disguised, New York, 1973, pp. 1-66. 

The Politics of Yiddish in Tsarist Russia 159 

their aftermath, including Y. H. Ravnitsky, Simon Dubnow, and 
Yankev Dinezon. A comprehensive study of the subject would, in my 
opinion, reveal that the favorable change in the attitude toward 
Yiddish occurred first among a segment of the "bourgeois" intelligentsia 
(in the 1880s), and only later among the Marxist and radical 
intelligentsia (in the 1890s).8 

If the requisite socio-economic and ideological conditions for the 
flourishing of a modern Yiddish culture were in place perhaps by the 
1860s, and certainly by the 1880s, then why was there no broad cultural 
renaissance until considerably later? In my opinion this delay aught to 
be attributed to an "external" factor, which has been much neglected; 
i.e., the problematic poHtical status of Yiddish in Tsarist Russia. The 
Tsarist policy of banning and outlawing Yiddish in various contexts 
prevented the full scale flourish of modern Yiddish culture until the 
prohibitions were relaxed or removed. It is to this subject, the Imperial 
politics of Yiddish, to which we now turn. 

Periodical Press 

During the nineteenth century, there was only one Jew in all of 
Tsarist Russia who was successful at obtaining a state permit to publish 
a newspaper in Yiddish - Alexander Zederbaum. Zederbaum had the 
necessary poUtical connections in the government chancellories, and 
was an accomplished "shtadlan" who knew how to persuade, reassure 
and bribe Imperial officials. Nonetheless even he encountered 
considerable official opposition to his publication of Kol Mevaser, the 
first modern Yiddish newspaper (Odessa, 1862-1871). His initial 
request to publish the weekly was rejected by the Ministry of Interior. 
He was only able to secure a legal status for the paper by issuing it as a 
"supplement in Jewish German to Ha-Melitz," the Hebrew weekly of 
which he was editor and publisher. For years, Kol Mevaser labored 
under the legal fiction that it was a supplement to Ha-Melitz, and that 
it was in German. In 1868 the Imperial censor nearly discontinued 
publication of Kol Mevaser, when it realized that, contrary to the 
original permit, the weekly was not in German with Hebrew letters, 
but in Yiddish. It took months of lobbying with the authorities, and an 

^See E. Goldsmith, Modern Yiddish Culture; the Story of the Yiddish Language 
Movement, New York, 1987, pp. 45-70, and on the polemic generated by the 
publication of Sholem Aleichem's Yudishes Folks-Bibliotek in 1888, see G. 
Kresel "A Historishe Polemik Vegn Der Yidisher Literatur," Goldene Keyt no. 
20 (1954) pp. 338-355. 

160 The Modern Age: History 

apparent editorial decision to recommit itself to "Germanizing" the 
language of Kol Mevaser, to save the paper from forced closure.^ 

When Zederbaum obtained permission to move Ha-Melitz from 
Odessa to the capital city of St. Petersburg, a similar petition to 
relocate Kol Mevaser was refused. Zederbaum was forced to leave the 
Yiddish paper behind, in the hands of an inept editor who sealed its 
fate rather quickly. Once in St. Petersburg, Zederbaum faced an iron 
wall of bureaucratic opposition to his issuing a Yiddish newspaper in 
the capital. For years, his interventions were to no avail. Finally, 
during Count Nikolai Ignatev's brief term of office as Minister of 
Interior (March 1881 -June 1882), Zederbaum obtained a permit for the 
publication of the weekly Dos Yudishes Folksblat (1882-1890). 
Zederbaum and Ignatev were long-standing personal acquaintances.^^ 

The existence of a Yiddish language press in Russia depended 
entirely on this one man's luck and perseverance. When Dos Yudishes 
Folksblat closed down (after it too was placed in the hands of an inept 
new editor), the 5.8 million Jews of Tsarist Russia were left again 
without a single newspaper in Yiddish. All other applicants met with 
total failure. Mendele Moykher Seforim was frustrated time and time 
again during the 1860s, 70s and 80s in his efforts to obtain permission to 
edit a Yiddish news-paper.^ ^ I. J. Linetski faced failure more 
ingeniously. He crossed over into neighboring Galicia (in the Habsburg 
Empire), joined forces with Abraham Goldfaden, and began publishing 
Yisrolik (Lemberg, 1875-6), a newspaper expressly intended for readers 
in Russia. But before long, the Tsarist authorities prohibited the 
mailing of the newspaper into Russia, and having lost its clientele, 
Yisrolik closed down. Mikhoel Levi Radkinzon followed Linetski's 
lead, and published Kol La 'am (Koenigsburg, 1876-1879) from 
neighboring Prussia, with a Russian Yiddish readership in mind.^^ It 
seems likely that already in the 1870s, the Ministry of Interior had 
adopted a ban on Yiddish newspapers in Russia as a matter of policy 
(rather than mere bureaucratic obstructionism and foot-dragging). At 
least one contemporary observer, Aaron Lieberman, the father of 
modern Jewish socialism, believed such a ban was in effect. Writing to 

^S. L. Tsitron, Di Geshikhte Fun Der Yidisher Prese, Vilna, 1923, pp. 9, 63; also 

chapter on Zederbaum in Dray Literarishe Doyres, vol. 3, Warsaw, 1928, pp. 96- 


^^Tsitron, Geshikhte p. 117; Dubnow "Dos Yudishe Folksblat in Peterburg," Fun 

Zhargon Tsu Yidish, Vilna, 1929, pp. 10-16. 

"Chone Shmeruk, Sifrut Yiddish - Prakim Le-Toldoteha, Tel Aviv, 1978, pp. 289- 


^^Tsitron, Geshikhte pp. 89-116. 

The Politics of Yiddish in Tsarist Russia 161 

the Russian socialist V. Smirnov to explain why he was publishing his 
journal Ha-Emet in Hebrew rather than Yiddish, he stated: 

Since we are talking about a legal newspaper,the Hebrew language 
had to be chosen. Zhargon [i.e., Yiddish] is suppressed by the Russian 
government in order to Russify the Jews; and zhargon publications 
issued abroad encounter insurmountable hardships, regardless of 
their content.^^ 

Lieberman's assumption that the ban on Yiddish periodicals was 
designed to further the Jews' linguistic Russification may well have 
been on the mark. 

The picture is much clearer for the 1880s and 1890s. Y. Feoktistov, 
the official in charge of press-affairs at the Ministry of Interior, 
repeatedly turned down applications to issue Yiddish dailies or 
weeklies with the flat declaration that "there will never be a Yiddish 
newspaper in Russia." In his memoirs, Feoktistov claimed that Yiddish 
newspapers would be impossible to control, since one couldn't find 
reliable censors for them. No one in the office of press-affairs knew the 
language, and experience proved that Jews, even converted Jews, simply 
couldn't be trusted with the job of censorship. His successor, Soloviev, 
likewise opposed licensing any Yiddish newspapers, and warned that 
"Yiddish is extremely dangerous from the state's point of view." Since 
Jews were well-known to be revolutionaries, Yiddish newspapers 
would, if published, undoubtedly spread revolutionary ideas. He cited 
the underground Yiddish press of the Bund as proof. ^'^ 

As a result, the requests to publish a Yiddish daily newspaper by 
Mordechai Spector in 1894, S. Rapoport (a partner in Ha-Melitz) in 
1896, Eliezer Kaplan (chief of the Warsaw publishing house 
"Ahiasaf") in 1898 and later, by Leon Rabinovitz (editor of Ha-Melitz) 
in 1900, and Zvi Prilutski in 1902, were all rejected. According to one 
account, the ministry of interior had 35 such requests on file in 1902.^^ 

With no hope for a governmental permit, Kaplan resorted to an old 
ploy of Linetski and Radkinzon. His Warsaw-based publishing house 

^^K. Marmor (ed.), A. Liberman's Briv, New York, 1951, p. 141. 

^"^S. Ginzburg, "Di Ershte Yidishe Teglekhe Tsaytung in Rusland - 'Der 

Fraynd,'" Amolike Peterburg, New York, 1944, pp. 185; Dovid Druk, Geshikhte 

Fun Der Yudisher Prese (In Rusland Un Poyln), Warsaw, 1927, pp. 9-10. Forty 

issues of the Bundist Arbeiter Shtime appeared in Russia between 1897 and 

1905; see Y. S. Herz "Di Umlegale Prese Un Literatur Fun Bund," Pinkes Far 

Der Forshung Fun Der Yidisher Literatur Un Prese, vol. 2 (ed. Chaim Bass), 

New York, 1972, pp. 294-366. 

i^Druk, Geshikhte pp. 14-15, 20, 21, 23; Niger, Yitskhok Leybush Perets, Buenos 

Aires, 1952, pp. 228-9. 

162 The Modern Age: History 

issued a Yiddish weekly, Der Yud (1899-1903), which was edited by Y. 
H. Ravnitski in Odessa, but was printed across the Austro-Hungarian 
border in Cracow. From there it was mailed to readers in Tsarist 
Russia.^ ^ 

Salvation came from unexpected quarters. When Vyacheslav von 
Plehve became Minister of Interior, in 1902, he decided to permit a 
single Yiddish daily in Russia as an experiment, in an attempt to 
counter the influence of the Bundist underground press. That is how Der 
Fraynd, the first Yiddish daily in Russia came into being. A true 
explosion of Yiddish dailies and weekUes occurred during and after the 
revolution of 1905, when a greater measure of freedom of expression was 
instituted, and mass circulation dailies such as the Haynt and Moment 
appeared on the scene. ^^ 

But the internal social conditions for the emergence of a Yiddish- 
language daily press existed long beforehand. In Rumania, with a 
fraction of Russia's Jewish population, but without the interference of 
Imperial authorities, a Yiddish daily first appeared in 1877, and 
numerous weeklies engaged in fierce competition during the late 19th 
century. And in Russia itself, there were two Hebrew dailies from 1886 
on - Ha-Melitz in St. Petersburg, and Ha-Tsefirah in Warsaw. (A third 
daily, Ha-Yom, was short lived.) No doubt Yiddish, with its larger 
potential readership, could have sustained at least as many dailies, 
were it not for the Tsarist ban on Yiddish newspapers during the late 
19th century. The ministerial policy toward Hebrew was more lenient, 
precisely because Hebrew newspapers reached a much more limited 
reading audience.^^ 

The same policy applied to literary and other journals in Yiddish 
as well. According to Tsarist administrative regulations, all periodical 
publications - regardless of frequency, format, or subject matter - were 
subsumed under the category of newspapers. Hence there were no 
Yiddish magazines of any sort in 19th century Tsarist Russia. Sholem 
Aleichem's Yudishes Folks-Bibliotek (1888,1889), and Mordechai 
Spector's Hoyz-Fraynd (1888, 1889, 1894, 1895, 1896) were not journals 

^^Druk, Geshikhte pp. 23-30; after half a year of publication, Ravnitsky was 

replaced as editor by Dr. Yosef Luria, a resident of Warsaw, thus simplifying 

the complicated logistics involved in the newspaper's publication. 

^''Druk, Geshikhte p. 15; on "Der Fraynd" see Ginzburg, "Di Ershte Yidishe..."; 

on the subsequent explosion of newspapers see the comprehensive listing of 

Avrohom Kirzhnits, Di Yidishe Prese hi Der Gevezener Rusisher Imperye, 

Moscow, 1930. 

^^Volf Tambur, Yidish-Prese In Rumenye Bucharest, 1977; relaxity toward 

Hebrew, Ginzburg, "Di Ershte..." p. 185; Druk, Geshikhte p. 9. 

The Politics of Yiddish in Tsarist Russia 163 

(although they are occasionally referred erroneously to as such), but 
thick literary almanacs, which appeared no more than once a year. As 
such, each volume was considered by the Tsarist authorities to be a 
separate book. The publication and censorship of books belonged to a 
separate section of the Ministry of Interior; there was no 
administrative policy prohibiting the publication of books in 

The impossibility of pubUshing a Yiddish periodical of any sort 
led I. L. Peretz to a rather ingenious idea. He issued a series of 
pamphlets in 1894-6, each one ostensibly in honor of a different Jewish 
holiday or fast, and was thereby able to publish a de facto magazine, 
which historians of Yiddish literature refer to as the "Yontev 
Bletlekh." Legally and administratively, each pamphlet was a 
separate book, with its own title ("the Shofar," "Hoshanah," 
"Hamisha Asar," "Greens for Shavuos" etc.). The only signs of 
continuity between one pamphlet and the next were the inscription 
"Peretz publication" on the title page, and the type-face. Other 
Yiddish writers attempted similar projects. -^^ 

But such pseudo-journals were difficult to negotiate through the 
censorship bureaucracy. The Ministry of Interior may have been wise to 
the schemes used to circumvent the ban on Yiddish periodicals. In any 
case, the longer lead-time for books between their composition and 
their review by the censors was an impediment against such devices. As 
a result, Yiddish magazines and journals only began to appear in the 
first decade of the twentieth century, when the press-policy changed. 


The most sensational Tsarist decree against Yiddish was the 
comprehensive ban on Yiddish theater issued in August 1883'. A secret 
memorandum from the Ministry of Interior to all provincial governors 

Taking into consideration that certain plays in the Yiddish language 
which were permitted to be performed are absolutely inappropriate, it 

^^The three volumes Peretz's literary almanac Di Yudishe Bibliotek (two in 
1891, one in 1895) were was likewise considered by the censors as separate; see 
Niger, Perets pp. 204-222. 

^'^Niger, Perets pp. 229-246; Linetski had published a series of 11 pamphlets on 
a monthly basis, each under a different title, in 1887; Z. Reisin,"Yitskhok Yoel 
Linetski," Leksikon Fun Der Yidisher Literatur, Prese, Un Filologye, vol. 2, Vilna 
1930, p. 171. 

264 The Modern Age: History 

has been deemed necessary to prohibit the performance of plays in 
Yiddish in the theaters.^^ 

Enforcement of the ban was put in the hands of the police- 

This curt and categorical directive is of little help in uncovering 
the motives and reasons for the theater-ban. It has been suggested that 
the ban was the result of denunciations by members of the Russified 
Jewish bourgeoisie in St. Petersburg, who were offended and 
embarrassed by the performance of Yiddish productions to packed halls 
in the capital city. Others have suggested that Goldfaden's operetta 
Bar Kokhba, which idealized the ancient Judean uprising against 
Rome, was taken by the authorities to be a veiled allegory in favor of 
revolution in Russia. -^^ The latter explanation strikes me as more 
convincing, given the official paranoia over revolutionaries and, 
specifically Jewish revolution-aries. It also seems to be supported by 
the text of the ban, which alludes to permitted plays which ought not 
have been performed. 

In any event, the more important question is why the Ministry of 
Interior vigorously enforced the ban on Yiddish theater for seventeen 
years (until 1900), reiterated its validity in 1888, 1891, 1897, and 1900, 
and frequently invoked its authority in later years as well.^^ There 
was certainly no sustained denunciation- campaign against the Yiddish 
theater on the part of the Russified Jewish bourgeoisie for nearly two 
decades! Bureaucratic inertia can be given some share of the credit, but 
broader political considerations of "state security" must have been 
involved as well. Since the official memoranda are silent on the subject, 
we can only surmise. Jews were viewed in official circles as treacherous, 
treasonous, plotting to destroy Russia, and the stage was recognized as 
the most uncontrollable of public forums. Texts (of books, newspapers, 
and even plays) could be censored, but who could control the content of 
what people actually said on the stage, in front of a large audience? 
The fear of revolutionary propaganda being spread via the Yiddish 
stage must have loomed large. The ban of 1883 dealt a devastating blow 
to the brief flourish of Yiddish theater in Russia which began in 1879, 
when Abraham Goldfaden, the father of modern Yiddish theater, 
brought his troupe from Rumania to Odessa. His plays were smash hits. 

21y. Riminik, "Redifes Kegn Yidishn Teater in Rusland in Di 80er un 90er Yorn," 
Teater-Bukh, Kiev, 1927, p. 87, S. Ginzburg, "Der Farbot Fun Yidishn Teater," 
Historishe Verk vol. 1, New York, 1937, p.l67. 

^^The former hypothesis is pursued by Riminik "Redifes..." the latter is 
mentioned by Nahma Sandrow, Vagabond Stars, New York, 1977, p. 62. 
23Ginzburg, "Der Farbot..." p. 170, Riminik "Redifes" p. 88. 

Tlie Politics of Yiddish in Tsarist Russia 165 

and before long Goldfaden's company was performing in cities and towns 
throughout the Pale, and even in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where the 
general Russian press reviewed his work favorably. Rival theater- 
groups sprung up, some of them off-shoots from Goldfaden's original 
cast, and plagiarized the master's repertoire. Odessan Jewry was in the 
throws of a veritable theater-mania when the ban was issued. 
Goldfaden traveled to St. Petersburg and appealed to the authorities to 
reverse their decision, but had no success.^'^ 

The effects of the ban were felt rather quickly, and before long, the 
best Yiddish actors (e.g., Jacob Adler, Boris Tomashevsky, Zigmund 
Mogulesko) left for England and the United States. Goldfaden moved to 
Warsaw in 1886, where enforcement of the theater-ban was lax during 
the first few years. His company was able to perform there on a quasi- 
legal basis, it being officially subsumed as part of a licensed Russian 
theater-company, with which it shared facilities. But by 1887 
Goldfaden found this arrangement and the overall condition of Yiddish 
theater in Russia intolerable, and he too left for America.^^ 

One of the few remaining Yiddish theater directors in Russia, 
Avrohom Fishzon, is credited with developing the stratagem of 
presenting Yiddish plays under the mask of "German" theater, which 
saved Yiddish theater from extinction. He submitted translated 
German texts (of Goldfaden's operettas!) to the censors, and applied to 
local police officials for permission to stage German plays in town. This 
guise became the life-line of wandering Yiddish theater troupes in 
Russia during the 1880s and 90s. But it was far from a panacea. In most 
cities and towns, police officials weren't willing to play the fool, and 
refused to grant permits to the bogus "German" performances. The larger 
Jewish cities (Warsaw, Vilna, Berdichev, Zhitomir and others) were 
closed to Yiddish troupes. According to the memoirs of writer Yankev 
Dinezon, there was no Yiddish theater in Warsaw for 18 years. 
Yiddish performances were could not be staged in entire gubernias 
(Kiev, Chernigov, Vohlyn, Poltava, Grodna et. al.) where police 
officials strictly enforced the ban. Wandering Yiddish theater 
companies had better chances of obtaining (or, more accurately, 
purchasing) a permit in small God-forsaken towns, where the local 

24b. Gorin, Di Geshikhte Fun Yidishn Teater, New York, 1918, vol. 1, pp. 204-256; 
B. Vaynshteyn, "Di Ershte Yorn Fun Yidishn Teater in Adas Un Niu York," 
Arkhiv Far Der Geshikhte Fun Yidishn Teater Un Drame (ed. Jacob Shatzky), 
New York- Vilna, 1930 pp. 243-254; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, "Avrohom Goldfaden," 
Leksikon Fun Yidishn Teater, vol. 1, New York, 1931, pp. 302-312. 
25Gorin, Geshikhte vol. 2, chapter 10; Jacob Shatzky, "Goldfaden In Varshe," 
Hundert Yor Goldfaden, New York, 1940, pp. 1-16. 

166 The Modern Age: History 

constable was less fearful of being caught by his superiors. Thus, 
Fishzon's troupe performed in the small town of Zvil [Russian: 
Novograd-Volynski] for half a year, but couldn't find anywhere else to 

There were problems even when permits were granted. The local 
constable usually required that the performance be in German, and 
would send a spy or come by himself to check what language was being 
used on the stage. If the actors weren't speaking something 
approximating German, he would annul the permit after the first 
performance, or even worse, interrupt the play and confiscate the box 
office. If, on the other hand, the actors did their utmost to speak 
German, the audience couldn't understand what they said, and after 
one or two performances people stopped coming to see the show. Bribes 
were essential to the existence of the Yiddish theater in those years, 
and the burden of paying a quarter or even a half of the box to the 
constable led most troupes into bankruptcy.^^ 

Yiddish theater existed in Russia under these severe constraints for 
close to twenty years. All the while, waves of aspiring young actors and 
actresses kept emigrating to America. What kind of "brilliant career" 
could they hope for in Russia with the doors of Warsaw, Odessa, St. 
Petersburg and every other major city closed to Yiddish theater, and 
actors leading a life resembling that of fugitives on the run? The lure of 
emigration contributed further to the instability and short-livedness of 

Officially, Yiddish theater was still contraband in Russia on the 
eve of the revolution in 1917, and as late as 1904, the Russian senate 
considered (and rejected) an appeal by Fishzon to formally lift the ban. 
But in fact, the police began to relax their enforcement of the ban in 
many parts of the Empire in the year 1900. That is when the first 
reviews of Yiddish plays began to be published in the Russian-Jewish 
periodical press. Shortly thereafter, impresarios started arranging 

2^The most important source on Yiddish theater in Russia after the ban are 
Fishzon's memoirs, "Fuftsik Yor Yidish Teater" (Zikhroynes) which appeared in 
serialized form in the Margin Zhurnal on Fridays, October 10, 1924 to May 1, 
1925, October 23, 1925 to November 13, 1925, December 11, 1925, January 15 
and 22, 1926. See in particular the installments of October 23, 1925 and 
November 13, 1925; also Yankev Dinezon, "Dos Yidishe Teater," Zikhroynes un 
Bilder, Warsaw, 1927, p. 222, Noyekh Prilutski "Di Rekhtlekhe Lage Fun 
Yidishn Teater," Yidish Teater, Bialistok, 1921, pp. 73-77. 

^^Fishzon, "Fuftsik Yor..." loc. cit. and January 15, 1926; Prilutski, "Di Rekhtlekhe 
Lage"; Y. Lubomirsky, "Der Yidisher Teatr In Tsarishn Rusland," Teater-Bukh, 
Kiev, 1927, pp. 95-98. 

The Politics of Yiddish in Tsarist Russia 167 

special guest-tours for actors and troupes from America. In 1904, the 
censors at the Ministry of Interior began to review scripts in Yiddish, 
without requiring that the texts be submitted in German.^^ 

The renaissance of Yiddish theater in Russia began in 1905. The 
Kaminski-theater starring Ester Rokhl Kaminska, which had been for 
many years one of the struggling, wandering troupes in the Empire, 
acquired its own building in Warsaw; several popular ensembles 
revived the Goldfaden repertoire and staged the melodramas of Jacob 
Gordin and others, with considerable financial success. And in 1908, the 
"Hirschbein Troupe" with its literary repertoire was founded in 
Odessa, and launched a successful tour throughout the major urban 
centers of the the Russian Pale.-^^ 

The crucial factor behind the theater explosion of 1905 and later 
was political. The Tsarist authorities loosened its reigns, and allowed 
pent-up cultural forces to flow. 


Yiddish was the language of instruction in thousands of Khadorim 
across the the Russian empire whose curriculum consisted almost 
exclusively of "khumesh un gemore" (the Pentateuch and Talmud). But 
modern Yiddish schooling was a negligible phenomenon in Tsarist 
Russia until shortly before World War I. By modern Yiddish schooling, 
I mean schools where general subjects (such as mathematics, geography, 
and natural science) were taught in Yiddish, or alternately new Jewish 
subjects (such as Jewish history, Yiddish language and literature) were 
taught in Yiddish. The total absence of the children's native language, 
Yiddish, in some capacity, is a striking feature of modern Jewish 
education in Russia in the nineteenth century. Classes were conducted in 
Russian, from the earUest grades on, although this created tremendous 
pedagogical difficulties. The idea of providing modern Jewish 
schooling in Yiddish first occurred to Ilya Orshanski, the Odessan 
Jewish lawyer and historian, who wrote a memorandum on the subject 
to the Society for the Dissemination of Enlightenment Among the Jews 
of Russia ("Hevrat Mefitse Haskalah").-^^ Others may have shared 

28Ginzburg, "Der Farbot..." pp. 170-172; B. Gorin, Geshikhte vol. 2, pp. 190-197; N. 
Oyslender, Yidisher Teater 1887-1917, Moscow, 1940, pp. 7-52, 315. 
^^Oyslender, Yidish Teater...; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, "Avrom Yitskhok Kaminski," 
Leksikon Fun Yidishn Teater, vol. 6, Mexico City, 1969, pp. 5254-5281, 
"Hirshbeyn Trupe," vol. 1, New York , 1931, pp. 612-613. 

^^Orshansky's memorandum is mentioned in passing in A. Golomb's "Di 
Yidish-Veltlekhe Shul (Algemeyner Iberzikht)," Shul Almanakh, Philadelphia, 

168 The Modern Age: History 

Orshanski's opinion that teaching young children in a language they 
hardly knew was counter-productive, but there was little they could 
have done, given the educational policy of Tsarist Russia. After the 
Polish uprising of 1863, the Tsarist Ministry of Education imposed 
Russian as the sole language of instruction in all elementary and 
secondary schools in the Kingdom of Poland and the western provinces 
of Russia (including the Ukraine). This step was primarily designed to 
uproot Polish and combat the spread of Polish nationalist sentiments 
among the younger generation. Secondarily, it was intended to pre-empt 
the independent cultural development of other small Slavic languages, 
such as Ukrainian and Lithuanian. But it also had a direct impact on 
modern Jewish schooling, and their use of Yiddish.^^ 

In the second half of the nineteenth century, there were three main 
types of modern Jewish schools: (a) the network of state schools for 
Jewish children, originally established under Nicholas I; (b) private 
and association-sponsored schools, led and underwritten by Maskilim, 
intellectuals, and philanthropists; (c) Talmud Torahs, financed by 
Jewish communal funds and intended for the poorest children. According 
to state directives, Talmud Torahs were required to provide a program 
of general studies. All three types of schools were subject to the 
supervision of the Tsarist Ministry of Education, which certified their 
teachers and regulated their curriculum. Like all other elementary 
schools in the Empire, the mandatory language of instruction was 
Russian. An exception was made for the Talmud Torah, which was a 
hybrid institution, half-kheyder, half-modern school. For half a day, 
general studies were taught in Russian, and half a day, the traditional 
khumesh un gemore were taught in Yiddish.^'^ 

In the Jewish state, private, and association schools, teaching in 
Yiddish was totally prohibited. Hirsh Abramovitsh, who studies in a 
state school in the early 1890s, writes: 

All studies in the Jewish state schools were conducted in Russian, even 
religion ('zakon bozhi' [God's law]) and the prayers before the 
beginning of class.. ..The children, especially in the first grade, didn't 
know a word of Russian. There was a regulation that in the first grade 
(and only in it) one could translate into Yiddish in an emergency, if a 

1935, pp. 19-20; I have not yet located the original document in Rosenthal's or 
Cherikover's histories of "Mefitse Haskalah." 

3ipiotr S. Wandycz, The Lands of Partitioned Poland, Seattle, 1974 , pp. 196, 243. 
^^Zvi Scharstein, Toldot Ha-Hinukh Be-Yisrael Ba-Dorot Ha-Ahronim vol. 1, 
New York, 1945, pp. 320-321, Sabina Levin, "Toldot Bate Sefer Ha-Yehudi'im 
Ha-Hiloni'im Be-Polin Be-Arbai'm Ha-Shanim Ha-Ahronot Shel Ha-Meah 
Ha-19," Gal-Ed vol. 9 (1986) pp. 77-90; H. S. Kazhdan, Fun Kheyder Un Shkoles 
Biz Tsisho, Buenos Aires, 1956, pp. 194-202. 

The Politics of Yiddish in Tsarist Russia 169 

child couldn't understand. But the teachers, including Gozhansky, 
almost never availed themselves of that regulation. They struggled 
long and hard in order to avoid using Yiddish?'^ 

Dr. Zemach Shabad similarly reported that "the Tsarist 
government severely suppressed the teaching of 'zhargon' in the 
schools. Only one language of instruction u^as permitted - Russian. "^'^ 

The traditional kheyder, on the other hand, w^as a bastion of 
Yiddish, thanks to the fact that it was exempt from ministerial 
regulation. In 1859, Imperial lav^ recognized the kheyder as a strictly 
religious institution, and from then on the authorities did not interfere 
in the kheyder's affairs, including its language of instruction. The 
Russian Zionists took advantage of this loophole in the law to create 
the "Heder Metukan" in the 1880s and 90s. Since these schools were 
registered as khadorim, they were not subject to the supervision of the 
Ministry of Education. This enabled them to construct their own 
curriculum, and more importantly, utilize Hebrew as the language of 
instruction in classes of Hebrew language and literature, Jewish history 
and Bible. Scores of such Khadorim Metukanim functioned in Russia at 
the turn of the century, and formed the basis for the modern Hebrew 
schools of the "Tarbut" network.^^ 

The modern Yiddish school had a much more difficult time 
emerging than its Hebrew equivalent. Since these schools did not teach 
any religious subjects, they could not pass as khadorim and register 
themselves as such. (Usually such registration required a certification 
from the local Crown Rabbi concerning the religious character of the 
school.) The first Yiddish schools were illegal, underground 
institutions. Avrom Reisin visited such a school in Warsaw in 1900, 
with 20 to 30 students, which functioned clandestinely in the building 
of a legally registered private Jewish school. In Nesviezh, a school in 
which all studies were conducted in Yiddish (with 60 students), existed 
from no more than two years before the police closed it down in 1903, 

^^Hirsh Abramovitsh, "S. Gozhansky," Farshvundene Geshtaltn, Buenos Aires, 
1956, pp. 33-34. 1 would like to thank Ms. Dina Abramovitsh, Research Librarian 
at the YIVO Institute, for drawing my attention to this reference. 
34Zemach Shabad "Di Yidishe Shuln In Vilner Kant (A Kuk Oyf Tsurik)," Shul- 
Pinkes, Vilna, 1924, p. 43. 

35Scharfstein, Toldot Ha-Hinukh pp. 305-6, 377-410; Rahel Elboim-Dror, 
"Temurot Ba-Hinukh Ve-ba-hevra Ha-Yehudit," Ha-Hinukh Ha-Ivri Be-Eretz 
Yisrael 1854-1914, Jerusalem, 1986, pp. 11-57. Elboim-Dror's contention that 
there were 774 Hadarim Metukanim in Tsarist Russia in the early 20th century 
seems to be exaggerated, but there is no doubt that this type of schooling had 
spread across scores of Jewish communities, whereas Yiddish schooling was a 
negligably small phenomenon. 

170 The Modern Age: History 

and confiscated all its possessions. Other underground Yiddish schools 
existed for short spans of time in Mir, Baranovitsh, Gorodeya, Stoipts, 
Zamirie, and elsewhere. The first secret teachers-conference of Yiddish 
language schools was held in Vilna in 1907, at which time the police 
arrested the participants, and their deliberations continued in prison.-^^ 
The first larger, stabler Yiddish language schools in Russia arose in 
the years before World War I in Demievka, a suburb of Kiev, and in 
Warsaw. Both had several grades of classes and over 100 students. 
Their impact was limited, given the fact that they could not be written 
about in the then-flourishing Yiddish press. Because of their 
questionable legal status (the Demievka school was registered as a 
kheyder, the Warsaw school - as a Talmud Torah), it was considered 
wise not to attract too much publicity and attention. As a result, few 
Jews in Russia new about their existence. A correspondent of a Bundist 
newspaper lamented in 1913 that there were not a single Yiddish- 
language model-school in Russia. "Despite all the obstacles," he wrote, 
"it would not be impossible to establish such a school," apparently 
unaware that it had already been done.-^^ 


The suppression of cultural, educational, and social activity in 
Yiddish was an integral feature of Tsarist Russia's repressive policies 
toward the Jews. Official Judeophobia expressed itself not only in the 
policies of restricting Jewish residence-rights and occupations, 
instituting quotas on Jews in higher education, condoning and supporting 
outbursts of violence against Jews and so forth, but also in the 
prohibitions against Yiddish in print, on the stage, in schools and in 
other public forums. >^^ Yiddish was, in a word, part of the "Jewish 
question" In Tsarist Russia. 

The struggle for the rights of Yiddish in Russia was taken up by 
virtually all the Jewish political movements, including the Russian 
Zionist movements in its Helsinsfors platform (1906). It also underlay 
the key resolution of the 1908 Czernovitz conference for the Yiddish 
language, which is rarely cited in its entirety: 

^^Kazhdan, Fun Kheyder un Shkoles.... pp. 178-184, S. Niger, In Kamf Far A 

Nayer Dertsiung, New York, 1943, chapter 1. 

^^Kazhdan, Fun Kheyder Un Shkoles.... pp. 186-193. 

^^Police also supressed the use of Yiddish at public meetings, and disrupted, 

for instance, the meetings of legal trade unions in 1906, ordering that Russian 

be spoken; Di Geshikhte Fun Bund, vol. 2, New York, 1962, pp. 426, 433. 

The Politics of Yiddish in Tsarist Russia 171 

The first conference for the Yiddish language recognizes Yiddish as a 
national language of the Jewish people, and demands for it political, 
social, and cultural equal n'^/2fs.^^[emphasis added] 

It would be false to leave the impression that Yiddish was the only 
language which was persecuted by the Tsarist regime. Polish was 
systematically hounded out of the schools, and excluded from all 
official governmental functions in "the Kingdom of Poland." But the 
suppression of Polish was not as comprehensive; Polish theater 
flourished in Warsaw and other cities during the late nineteenth 
century, and the number of Polish-language periodicals grew from 22 in 
1864 to 92 in 1894. The treatment of Ukrainian was harsher. In 1876, the 
Tsarist regime proscribed the use of Ukrainian in print - books, 
newspapers, journals, everything - and banned Ukrainian theater 
(with certain very limited exceptions). The use of Ukrainian in schools 
was, of course, prohibited. If one is to find an analogue to the Tsarist 
policy toward Yiddish, it is Ukrainian.^O 

But Jews as a group were more modernized than Ukrainians - more 
urbanized, secularized, in contact with modern culture and science. The 
prospects for a rich, modern cultural sphere in Yiddish were greater 
than for Ukrainian. If such a culture did not come into existence until 
the early twentieth century, the delay should be attributed first and 
foremost to the politics of Yiddish in Tsarist Russia. 

39d/ Ershte Yidishe Shprakh-Konferents, Vilna, 1933, p. 108; for the text of the 
Russian Helsingsfors platform, and its demands concerning the rights of the 
"national language" (Hebrew) and the "spoken language" (Yiddish) see 
Yehuda Reinhartz and Paul Mendes Flohr, The Jew in the Modern World, 
Oxford, 1980, p. 343-344. 

'^OWandycz, Lands of Partitioned Poland, pp. 253, 264, 267; George Y. Shevelov 
"The Language Question In The Ukraine In The Twentieth Century (1900- 
1941)" Harvard Ukrainian Studies vol. 10 no. 1-2 (1986) pp. 70-171; more 
generally see Riccardo Piccio, Aspects of the Slavic Language Question In the 
Nineteenth Century. 


From Yishuv to Sovereign State: 

Changes in the Social Structure of 

the Jewish State in the 1940s^ 

Jehuda Reinharz 
Brandeis University 

The new state of Israel, born to independence on May 14, 1948, arose 
upon the foundation of a society that was itself young and incomplete. 
In the first years of its existence, Israel absorbed a mass of inrmiigrations 
equal in number to its original population but sharply different in many 
significant social, economic, and cultural traits. What does it mean, 
then, if, under these circumstances, one speaks of the social structure of 
the new Jewish State? 

Obviously, an analysis of the structure of a society implies a 
description of its stable elements. But only the future can really tell us 
how far and in what respects Israel today exhibits the elements of 
stability characteristic of older, better established societies. Thus, a 
description of Israel's social structure is necessarily a venture in 
prediction. The best approach may be to analyze Israel's most 
significant unsolved social problems - those, that is, whose solution is 
likely to have the most significant historic effect. 

In this respect Israel is similar to other states that have emerged in 
our time. History and social structure are inseparably joined in such 
states, as they are in all revolutionary - or, as we now call them. 

^This article is based in part on a larger work 'The Emergence of the Jewish 
State," written by Ben Halpern and myself. 


174 The Modern Age: History 

rapidly developing - situations. The contemporary social problems of 
the new "underdeveloped" nations are clearly rooted in their past 
history, while the shape of their historic future is being decided by the 
very policies through which they attempt to solve these contemporary 
social problems. Thus, the extreme poverty and wretched conditions of 
India's "untouchables" are closely connected with the religious 
tradition of Hinduism; and, on the other hand, whether India will 
become a united, stable, and powerful modern nation greatly depends on 
its raising the level of literacy, the degree of social acceptance, and the 
economic productivity of the pariahs and other depressed groups.^ 

These relationships are usually well understood by those 
responsible for determining the policies of new or rejuvenated nations. 
Even half a century ago the young Turks under Kemal Pasha Ataturk 
held the veiling of women and other Moslem traditions responsible for 
the cultural stagnation and social debility of the Ottoman regime. 
Consequently, they made "Westernization" a paramount aim of 
nationalist policy. Thus, measures intended to abolish social ills were 
also intended to accomplish historic - or even more precisely, political 

The same observations apply to Israel. The Jewish State is one of 
those modern societies that seeks to make itself more easily understood 
by proclaiming its fundamental purposes (not only political, but social, 
economic, and cultural) as elaborately articulated principles. Israel is 
both a state and a social structure conceived before its birth as a means 
of solving a specific social problem - the modern Jewish Problem - in all 
its ramifications; moreover, since its establishment, Israel has 
continued to regard the solution of the Jewish Problem as a fundamental 
purpose. Consequently, the institutions and values of Israel, both the 
state and the society, have been and continue to be structured by their 
functions in solving the Jewish Problem. This, at least is an ideological 

^See for example the following: Dilip Hiro, Untouchables of India, new 1982 ed. 
London: Minority Rights Groups, 1982; Veena Das, Structure and Cognition: 
Aspects of Hindu Caste and Ritual. 2nd ed. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 
1982; Mark Juergensmeyer, Religion as Social Vision: The Movement Against 
Untouchability in 20th Century Punjab. Berkely, California, 1981; Milton Israel, 
National Unity: The South Asian experience. New Delhi: Promilla, 1983. 
^See the following: Bernard Lewis. The Emergence of Modern Turkey. London, 
New York: Oxford University Press, 1961; Seif Mardin. The Genesis of Young 
Ottoman Thought: A Study in the Modernization of Turkish Political Ideas. 
Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1962; Richard D. Robinson. 
The First Turkish Republic: A Case Study in National Development. 
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983. 

From Yishuv to Sovereign State 175 

demand that Israel recognizes. History alone will decide how far 
reality will conform to the ideal. 

Thus, the Zionist movement before the rise of Israel proclaimed, in 
addition to the goal of political sovereignty, the following nationalist 
objectives: to develop Hebrew as a spoken language and as the 
foundation of a Jewish national consensus; to transfer to Palestine all 
Jews who could not or did not wish to Hve in Diaspora countries; to 
establish a Jewish community in Palestine free from the peculiar social, 
economic, and cultural problems that beset the Jewish status as a 
minority people scattered throughout the world; and to carry out the 
transformations in the Jewish social and economic distribution, to create 
the appropriate social institutions, and to foster the cultural changes 
that were the necessary means for attaining the above ends. 

The State of Israel has committed itself no less clearly and 
comprehensively than did the Zionist movement before it to 
elaborately articulated ideological principles. Upon the creation of 
the state in 1948, the ideal of national independence was 
institutionalized in the ultimate form, that of political sovereignty. 
By that date, too, the Jewish community in Palestine had already 
developed institutions realizing the related nationalist aims. Hebrew 
was a spoken language, widely enough disseminated to become the 
national tongue of the new state, and social and economic institutions 
had been developed, an occupational distribution achieved, and 
cultural values established in conformity with the ideal of a self- 
sustaining, balanced community capable of controlUng its own destiny in 
the same way as other free peoples do. But following 1948, in extending 
its welcome to all Jews who could not or would not remain in their old 
homes, Israel received a mass immigration that, for the most part, did 
not possess the specific national attributes already developed by the 
settled population. In consequence of this immigration policy, Israel's 
tasks henceforth included the following: to enable the newcomers to 
master the language and share in the other elements of social consensus 
existing in the settled community; to enable them to participate in the 
social institutions and cultural life of the settled community; and 
transform the social and occupational distribution of the new 
immigrants so that they would conform to the settled population and 
become self-supporting, at the same time helping the state become 
economically self-sustaining. 

From this survey it is evident, however, that in certain respects 
Israel is sharply different from the other new states to which we have 
compared it. The problem intended to be solved by acquiring 
sovereignty in Israel and establishing a free Jewish society there was 
not the problem of an autochthonous community whose pattern of living 

176 The Modern Age: History 

was rooted in centuries of adjustment to its own locale. It was instead 
the problem of a people suffering exile. Its first stage was the return of 
the people to a homeland to which only their dreams but not the 
minute details of their diverse ways of life, were intimately attached. 
In the very act of migration, the returning Zionists implicitly 
committed themselves (as did other emigrants to other overseas lands) 
to renounce habits that might not be suited to the new country; and their 
adjustment to modern requirements in the new country, too, was 
relatively free from the handicaps of a rigid local tradition. Thus, the 
establishment of new patterns of living, rationally suited for 
adjustment to the social, cultural, and economic as well as political 
requirements of a modern nation in Palestine, was made far easier than 
for the native Asian and African communities that have acquired 
independence in our time. A rather more suitable comparison would be 
new nations of the Western Hemisphere, colonized by immigrants from 

Another major difference from the new Asian and African states 
(and here, too, the situation may properly be compared with other 
modern societies built up by colonization) is closely related to the first. 
Israeli society, as it stood in 1948, represented (in conception, at least, 
and to a considerable degree in fact) a successful solution of the social 
problems with which the Zionist movement is concerned. While the 
mass influx of new immigrants after 1948 undoubtedly produced severe, 
new social problems, one might contend that Israel had already 
succeeded in developing the social institutions, or at any rate the 
values and principles, which in appropriate application could solve 
the new problems. If this were a fully satisfactory description of 
Israel's present situation, Israel would then resemble the United States 
during the mass immigration of 1880 to 1920 more than it does a country 
like India or Egypt today. Its major task would be merely social - how 
to absorb a "formless" mass of newcomers into an already established 
social milieu - rather than historic - how to devise new institutions or 
convert traditional social forms into a suitable environment for 
"modern" living. 

The differences from other "underdeveloped" countries in this 
respect must indeed be recognized from the outset; but it is equally 
essential to recognize how different in magnitude and in kind was 
Israel's task from such a process as the integration of immigrants in 
rapidly developing nineteenth-century America. If there is a proper 
comparison, it would more nearly be to the impact of immigration in 

From Yishuv to Sovereign State 177 

colonial America^ or, later, just behind the moving Western frontier, for 
the relative scale of immigration to Israel was so great that the 
"established" institutions had to adjust to the immigrants no less than 
the immigrants to the institutions. In addition, the change from a 
community living under a Mandate government to an independent 
Jewish State, with all the other political, social, economic, and 
cultural upheavals that attended it, undoubtedly loosened the 
underpinnings of the old institutions. It could be said, therefore, that 
Israel's social institutions and values were and are more in flux than 
they are fixed. 

In sum, the study of Israel's pressing domestic problems today can 
and should be more than a study of merely social issues. The questions 
that demand solution, if we may put the issue in technical terms, 
probably arise from something more than a merely frictional 
maladjustment, and the answers to them may represent something more 
than the restored equilibrium of a stable, "boundary-maintaining" 
social structure. The solutions of Israel's social problems are likely to 
have historic significance. They may determine the shape in which 
still undefined IsraeH social institutions and values eventually become 
fixed and stable. 

Any social structure that is at all involved in historic processes is, 
to that extent, a structure of hypotheses and of provisional values that 
are continually challenged by alternatives. In a situation as fluid as 
that of Israel, such alternatives assert themselves with special force. 
In no rapidly developing country that absorbs large numbers of 
immigrants do the newcomers have to adjust to a monolithic code of 
values; instead, they find a range of nuanced alternatives that are 
recognized as legitimate by the social consensus of the settled 
community. In no rapidly developing country are the newcomers 
integrated into a direct social relationship with all or even a 
representative sample of the settled population; instead, they enter 
into complex relationships of reciprocal acceptance and rejection with 
selected elements among the old settlers according to the particular 
social functions they take up or are assigned. Where the relative 
weight of the immigrant population is so large as it is in Israel, the 
support the newcomers lend to alternative values, which may lie latent 
among the older settlers, could well force the revision of the patterns of 

^See Bernard Bailyn. Peopling of British North America: An Introduction. New 
York: Knopf, 1986; Daniel Boorstein. The Americas: The Colonial Experience. 
New York: Random House, 1958; Richard D. Brown. Modernization: The 
Transformation of American Life 1600-1865. New York: Hill & Wang, 1976. 

178 The Modern Age: History 

society throughout the whole range of its functions - political, 
economic, cultural, and purely social. 

So large an immigration relative to the settled population could 
also force recognition of quite new alternatives to Israel's institutions, 
not represented even as latent, deviant trends among the older settlers. 
Moreover, the right of Jewish immigrants to determine the patterns of 
Israel's future existence has a strong ideological grounding in Zionist 
principles. Israel exists, according to its own proclamation, in order to 
solve the problem of the homelessness and lack of independence of the 
Jewish people^ - that is, to provide a rational solution for the problem 
of Jews in exile and to allow the Jews of the dispersion, in returning to 
the homeland, to become masters of their own national destiny. This 
surely means that the new immigrants are not less entitled to advocate 
their own patterns of living as appropriate for Israeli society as a 
whole, or for part of it, than were their predecessors who established 
the social institutions with which Israel began in 1948. 


In all the new states that have emerged in our day, the conversion 
from dependency to sovereignty has produced new, complex social 
problems and raised issues of historic significance. Israel's 
independence was won in rebellion and war; and the conditions under 
which Israel had to plan its future after the hostilities subsided were 
radically different from all that had existed under the Mandate and 
from anything that was ever planned or would have seemed likely 
beforehand. From the very beginning the Jewish State was confronted 
not only by the ordinary readjustments to independence, taxing enough 
in all cases, but by quite unusual special difficulties. 

In Israel, as in many other instances, the colonial administration 
did not hand over to the new state functioning institutions and trained 
officials fully able to cope with the responsibilities of sovereignty. On 
this count alone, the transfer of authority to Israel could not be smooth. 
It came as an abrupt challenge that had to be met at the first shock by 
improvised expedients, with many attendant difficulties. Over the 
long pull, the readjustment to a new governmental structure placed a 
severe strain on many institutions of the Yishuv, which had been built 
up in the absence of a Jewish state, and here, too, difficulties similar to 
those of other new states arose. 

^Itamar Rabinovich and Jehuda Reinharz, eds. Israel in the Middle East, p. 14. 
New York: Oxford University Press, 1984. 

From Yishuv to Sovereign State 179 

In some ways, however, Israel was much better equipped for 
sovereignty by the legacy of the Mandate period than were other ex- 
colonial areas. Even though the Mandate administration was unable to 
create a legislative council or an advisory council enabling the 
population to gain experience in government at the highest level, a fair 
number of Jews were employed in the higher ranks of various 
government departments. Additional personnel with general 
administrative experience could be drawn from the many welfare and 
development agencies with which the Yishuv was so well supplied. 
The Jewish Agency, the Histadrut, and the minor party organizations 
conducted social, economic, cultural, and political activities in many 
ways parallel to those of a state. There were, nevertheless, many 
important functions not paralleled or not adequately represented in the 
experience of the Jewish public institutions. The Mandate government, 
bitterly hostile to the United Nations' resolution to partition Palestine 
and particularly antagonistic to the plan for a Jewish State, did 
nothing to help, and a great deal to hinder, Jewish preparations for 
statehood during the brief transition from Mandate to independence in 
1947-1948. The United Nations Palestine Commission worked to the 
best of its ability under difficult conditions to help the Jews meet this 
problem; and the Jews applied themselves vigorously to the task. 
Owing to these efforts and to the well-established infrastructure of a 
modern state that the Yishuv bequeathed to Israel, the new Jewish 
polity was able to avoid the crippling confusion, conflict, and general 
pohtical instability that has often beset early years of independence in 
other states. Even so, Israel at its birth had to struggle with severe and 
urgent problems of reorganization in order to convert its existing 
institutions and improvise supplementary agencies capable of 
preserving its independence. The extraordinary extent of the activities 
carried on by the Yishuv' s partisan organizations separately, as well 
as by most of them jointly through the Jewish Agency and the 
Palestinian Jewish community council, was a curse as well as a blessing 
in the first years. The new state was born with relatively well- 
developed organs of self-maintenance, education, and self-defense. The 
difficulty was that it had not only one but many well-staffed agencies 
for absorbing immigrants, not only one but many full-scale school 
systems, and, worst of all, not only one but many military organizations, 
each seeking to establish and defend the Jewish State according to its 
own strategic and tactical plans. 

Israel was very early able to overcome its inherited, plural form of 
military organization. The clear and present danger of defeat was 
enough to make the Israeli government take drastic measures and the 
Israeli population supported them. The state represented, however, a 

180 The Modern Age: History 

new force intent upon unification not only in military n\atters but over a 
wide range of inherited institutional structures, and in these 
unifications did not have the same support. There were strong interests, 
and strong functional demands as well, for the continuation of the 
pluralistic institutional structure Israel derived from the New Yishuv. 
This applies even to Israel's political institutions. 

The values and habits essential to the efficient functioning of a 
state were not lacking in Israel to such a dangerous extent as in many 
another new state. Although large numbers of the new immigrants came 
from countries where industrial civilization and democratic government 
were not familiar, the Yishuv had long been accustomed to modern 
ways of administration and was prepared by experience to induct 
newcomers into its advanced institutions. 

Nevertheless, there were certain respects in which the sudden 
assumption of new governmental functions, and the sudden expansion of 
central bureaucracies, sharply altered the conventional attitudes of the 
Yishuv. The Yishuv had valued expansion, growth, dynamism, and 
initiative as much as any modern code of rational values could wish, 
and it had generally favored the idea of planning. But from the 
beginning in the Second Aliyah it had also strongly stressed the 
autonomy of small groups and the right to experiment with a variety of 
approaches to social, economic, and cultural problems. It had grown into 
a pluralistic society even more diverse, perhaps, than was desired by 
the protagonists of group autonomy themselves - for each partisan 
group felt, after all, that the others ought to accept the principles it 
upheld. But the rise of the state machinery, with its broad-range drive 
toward unity, not only endangered the vested interest of established 
partisan organizations. The value it placed on central authority, on 
discipline, on obedience, also ran counter to the established values of 
grass-roots autonomy, spontaneity, and initiative that were 
conventional in the Yishuv. Thus the sudden rise of the state machinery 
forecast possible conflicts not only over matters of social organization 
but over values. Not only were the vested interests of the Yishuv 
challenged, but is ideals were questioned and its sensibilities shocked. 

The assumption of sovereignty, then, meant the rise of social 
problems and historic issues for Israel, as for other new states of our 
time, though not of the same kind or severity. The circumstances in 
which Israel gained its independence and had to defend it in the early 
years, raised almost unique difficulties. Not to recognize the legitimate 
existence of new states is an innovation not infrequent in our times; but 
few new states are so completely encircled as Israel by neighbors that 
deny its right to exist. Undeclared, cold, and other varieties of 
unconventional war are also not without precedent in our times; but few 

From Yishuv to Sovereign State 181 

states are so harried with blockades, boycotts, and border clashes as 
Israel has been since its birth. As a result, Israel has been an armed 
camp, and its entire population, a citizen army. 

The social and cultural consequences of a virtually total 
conscription policy have been far-reaching and significant. The army 
has been the meeting place of all IsraeHs, segregated so sharply in 
their civilian capacities. The common danger and the common service 
have inspired a high esprit de corps throughout the nation, 
particularly responsive to outer threats. For the immigrants, the army 
has served, by conscious plan, as a primary school of Israeli 

No less significant have been the economic and political effects of 
Israel's exceptional security situation. Only by a high productive 
capacity can Israel sustain relatively huge military capabilities. Cut 
off from its immediate hinterland, Israel has been forced to seek 
economic ties abroad. It has had to compete in the markets of the 
advanced industrial countries of the West; and it has had to seek 
economic as well as political relations with distant, new territories 
emerging into independence in Asia and Africa. Unable to rely on 
resistance to Arab blacklisting by foreign transport lines, Israel has 
been driven to organize its own merchant marine and airline, to develop 
new ports and expand its airHne terminal facilities. 

Even an Israel left at peace by its neighbors would face 
extraordinary social and economic problems. The new country was half 
arid, and the mass of entering immigrants, unprecedently great. The 
insecurity of Israel immeasurably complicated the situation. As 
political refugees, most immigrants entered in a state of utter 
deprivation and many in poor health. So, too, the supply of capital and 
the location of industry and agricultural settlements, the methods of 
absorption and the aims of acculturation of immigrants were all 
different in the encircled Israel that arose out of the Arab-Israeli 
conflict than would otherwise be the case. 

Like other new countries, independent Israel faced social and 
economic readjustments that developed from its having severed the ties 
that bound it to another people during its colonial period. But the new 
Israel not only broke its bonds with Britain, the far-off colonial power. 
It also found itself, after the war of independence, separated from a 
major part of the local population of prewar Palestine, the Arabs. Both 
changes involved drastic revisions in the social and economic 
relationships contemplated for the new state. 

It was, of course, the fundamental purpose of Zionism to make the 
Jews autonomous not only in their political but in their social and 
economic institutions. Nevertheless, success in achieving sovereignty 

182 The Modern Age: History 

brought with it unexpected problems arising from the sudden erection of 
a state apparatus. So, too, when Zionism achieved an intrinsic aim by- 
freeing Israel from the subordination of its judiciary to British legal 
practices and legal authorities, it encountered the unexplored 
difficulties of living according to a Jewish law. 

British control of Palestine's economic policy had been a major 
obstacle to Zionism, most serious after the adoption of the 1939 White 
Paper. The advantages of Britain's departure were clear. Israel now 
had a free hand to explore the mineral resources of Palestine and plan 
the intensive development of land and water without restriction. 
Another economic grievance had been the tariff policy of the 
Mandatory, which, Zionists charged, was unduly rigid in granting 
equal access to the Palestine market for all League of Nations members 
while unduly responsive to the commercial interests of neighboring 
countries, and inconsistent with the rapid development of a modern 
industrial economy in Palestine. With independence, Israel obtained 
the freedom to adopt such foreign trade policies as would best serve its 

But the economic consultants of the Zionist Organization, in 
criticizing British economic policy in Palestine, had naturally 
proposed alternatives that assumed the continuance of the Mandate - 
that is, the persistence of an economic connection with Great Britain. 
They proposed, for example, the inclusion of Palestine within Britain's 
imperial preference scheme. The immediate effect of Israel's 
independence, even before the formal proclamation, was the severance 
of all economic ties with Britain. Palestine was removed from the 
sterling bloc. The new Jewish State was not obliged to devise such 
policies that could support a more or less stable currency upon the sole 
basis of its own economy instead of sharing, as previously, in a balance 
comprising total economic activities of the sterling bloc. 

Whether or not the severance of economic ties with Britain had 
critical economic significance, it gave new prominence to a task that 
Zionism had not clearly considered earlier and required an emphasis on 
somewhat different economic criteria. In the many plans that Zionists 
had made for the economic development of Palestine, the stress had 
been strongly technological: how to derive maximum yields from the 
land and to achieve the most efficient employment of all available 
men and women and capital. The criterion of a profitable balance at a 
given level of productivity was given less prominence, regarded as an 
economic goal that could be deferred until the prior aim of raising the 
level of productivity to a maximum had been achieved. The question 
the Zionists asked was how they could best use any piece of land in 
Palestine and in what way they could best provide employment for any 

From Yishuv to Sovereign State 183 

immigrant who might come, not which lands should be exploited first 
and at what point land became submarginal or how many immigrants 
should be allowed to enter at a given time. The latter, of course, were 
the criteria that a hostile Mandatory pressed upon them. After Israel 
was created and cast upon its own resources to achieve a balance of its 
accounts, the objective situation required Israel itself to make solvency, 
not merely efficiency, a major economic aim. 

Much more far-reaching were the effects of separation from the 
Palestinian Arabs. In its economic planning during the Mandate, 
Zionists had elaborated proposals for large-scale land acquisition 
throughout Palestine. This involved gradually, but radically reducing 
the overwhelming preponderance of Arab landownership and extending 
to the maximum the area cultivated by the advanced methods of the 
Jews. It also involved specific plans for raising Arab agriculture, on the 
reduced areas available, to the highest level. The idea was to begin 
with the resources and techniques available to the Palestinian 
fellaheen and, by a graded progression, supply them with new 
facilities and accustom them to new methods, arriving by a different 
route at the same destination as Jewish agriculture. 

The fighting of 1947-1948 brought in its train the mass flight and 
some expulsions of Arabs out of the area of Israel. All at once, instead of 
by gradual stages, virtually the whole land area became available for 
development by Jews. The problem became one not of slowly purchasing 
occupied areas but of rapidly settling vacant areas, which would 
otherwise run to weed and which, unoccupied, might be overrun by the 
unopposed incursion of border raiders and enemy forces. Plans for 
agricultural retraining now had to be designed in terms of new Jewish 
immigrants with virtually no farming tradition, not in terms of the 
much less pliant Arab fellaheen, with their set ways and ancient 

The absence of the Arabs also altered the terms in which the 
problems facing Jewish agriculture itself had to be understood. In spite 
of the Zionist aim to build a balanced economy in which Jews would 
themselves produce all their own necessities, at least to the same 
extent as other nations in their own land, Jewish farming under the 
Mandate had an uneven development. Many characteristic farm 
products, natural to the Palestinian soil, were provided to the Jewish 
economy either entirely or in large part by the Palestinian Arab 
farmers. Unable to compete with local Arabs in growing native grains 
and certain fruits and vegetables, Jewish farms produced, like the 
Arabs, citrus for export and dairy products for the Yishuv. We have 
referred to the many factors that threw the new state of Israel on its 
own resources: the Arab boycott and blockade, the severance of economic 

184 The Modern Age: History 

ties with Britain. The disappearance of so many Arab farmers from 
Israel and the cessation of trade with Arab suppUers across the border 
had a similar effect. Jewish farming now had to plan to supply many 
basic commodities previously available from Arab sources. In view of 
the new importance of national solvency, it now also had to plan to use 
the whole area at its free disposal in the light of the requirements of 
Israel's foreign trade balance. 

The sudden absence of the Arabs from Israel's countryside and from 
the cities where they had been neighbors of the Jews obviously had 
direct social and cultural effects. Among these, one had a significant 
impact on the Israeli code of values. Living next door to a hostile 
neighbor nurtured the militancy inherent in the Zionist ethos as surely 
when the Arabs lived in close conjunction with Jews throughout a 
common land under the Mandate as when they were separated by 
political boundaries after independence. In the earlier period, the fact 
that Jews and Arabs would some day have to reach a modus vivendi 
was brought home to the Zionists in every field of their daily activity: 
at work, in the marketplace, at home, and on the roads. After 
independence, the need for an understanding with Arabs became remote 
and was relegated mainly to the field of external poHtics, in which the 
Israeli man-on-the-street was personally involved only when 
mobilized for military service. 

Another value of the Zionist ethos was affected, too, in a more 
tenuous form. The principle that Jews, in order to liberate themselves 
from economic dependency (or "parasitism"), must become workers had 
a specific relevance and impact when Arab farmers and workers were 
available in such numbers to supply the Yishuv. Jewish labor and 
Jewish self-supply, the slogans of the socialist Zionist parties, found 
considerable opposition from the middle-class party. They were, 
nonetheless, ideals generally recognized by the consensus of the Yishuv; 
and the constant clash of these ideals with Palestinian realities made 
Jewish labor a particularly live issue in the community. Those who 
dedicated themselves to the realization of this part of the Zionist 
ideal enjoyed an undisputed elite position. With the flight of most of 
the Arab population, the whole question was sharply depreciated in 
significance. Now the Jewish community had to supply itself to the 
fullest extent possible - quite apart from any ideals involved. Now 
many of the new immigrants had to become workers and farmers; and it 
was a bureaucracy, not an idealistic youth movement, that proved best 
suited to the task. 

Fro7n Yishuv to Sovereign State 185 


In achieving independence, the new State of Israel achieved or 
incurred sharp changes of the conditions under which it would 
thenceforth have to pursue its national purpose. In some respects the 
transition was smoother for Israel than for other new states of our era. 
Before becoming independent, the community had already created a 
social infrastructure quite capable of supporting a modern polity. There 
would undoubtedly be strains to overcome, in the long as well as the 
short run, but the fundamental pohtical stabiHty of Israel was beyond 

In other respects, Israel's situation was unusually difficult. The 
land was small and poor. The Israeli policy of open doors for all 
displaced or unsettled Jews presented unprecedented problems of 
economic absorption and social adjustment. These difficulties had been 
foreseen and were more or less inherent in the essential purpose of 
Zionism. Other problems had not been expected and were due to 
extraneous circumstances. The sudden collapse of the Mandate, the 
sharp conflict with and persisting hostility of the Arab states, and 
particularly the vacuum created by the absence of the Palestinian 
Arabs, abruptly and totally altered the conditions under which Israeli 
policy would thenceforth have to be formulated. 

The changes were no less significant for Israel's domestic problems 
than for its foreign policy. To some of the new demands of the times, 
Israel was able to adjust its institutional structure rapidly and 
effectively. To others, the adjustment is still to be made. The problems 
involved are not only the major social questions that concern the people 
of Israel today but the historic issues that will shape the institutions 
of Israel in the future. 

Note on Bibliography 

The literature dealing with Zionism and the State of Israel, is 
voluminous. Recent articles on Zionism and the State of Israel can be 
tracked down in the yearly bibliographies in the journal Studies in 
Zionism, with older works Usted in Israel Klausner's Toldot ha-Zionut, 
Jerusalem: Merkaz Zalman Shazar ve-ha-Hevrah ha-Historit ha- 
Israelit, 1975. David Vital in the back of each of his three volumes on 
the history of Zionism surveys the literature dealing with the period 
until 1922. Ben Halpern's The Idea of the Jewish State, 2nd revised 
edition, Cam.bridge: Harvard University Press, 1969, is still the best 
treatment of the evolution of the concept of Jewish nationality. 

186 The Modern Age: History 

The literature dealing with nationality and state-building is too 
vast to try to summarize here. A good place to start would be the 
bibliography Nationalism and National Development: An 
Interdisciplinary Bibliography. Edited by Karl W. Deutsch and 
Richard L. Merit. Cambridge, Massachusetts: M.I.T., 1970. More recent 
work can be traced through International Political Science Abstracts 
published in Paris by the International Political Science Association. A 
good general survey of nationalism is Elie Kedourie Nationalism, 
London: Hutchinson University Library, 1971. 

There are any number of surveys dealing with the development and 
transformation of Israeli society. The following is a brief selection: 
Mitchell Cohen. Zion and State: Nation, Class and the Shaping of 
Modern Israel. London: Basil Blackwell, 1987. Michael Curtis and 
Mordechai Chertoff, eds. Israel: Social Structure and Change. New 
Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1973. S. N. Eisenstadt, 
Rivkah Bar Yosef and Chaim Adler, eds. Integration and Development 
in Israel. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1970. S. N. 
Eisenstadt. The Transformation of Israeli Society. London: Weidenfeld 
and Nicolson, 1985. Dan Horowitz, and Moshe Lissak. The Origins of 
the Israeli Polity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979. V. D. 
Segre. Israel: A Society in Transition. London, New York: Oxford 
University Press, 1971. 

The problem of absorption of immigrants is dealt with by 
Eisenstadt in his The Absorption of Immigrants: A Complete Study. 
London: Routledge and Kegan, 1954. See also Moshe Lissak, "Image of 
Immigrants: Stereotypes and Stigmatization in the Period of Mass 
Immigration to Israel in the 1950's." (Hebrew) Cathedra, no. 43 (March 
1987): 125-144; and Judy Shuval. Immigrants on the Threshold. New 
York: Atherton Press, 1963. 

For a history of the Israeli army see Zeev Schiff. History of the 
Israeli Army 1874 to the Present. New York: Macmillan, 1986; Edward 
Luttwak and Dan Horowitz. The Israeli Army. New York: Harper and 
Row, 1984. 

The following works trace the development of Zionist ideology. 
Reinhard Weimar. "The Theories of Nationalism and Zionism in the 
First Decade of the State of Israel." Middle Eastern Studies 23 (1987): 
172-187. Aharon Kellerman. "To become a free nation in our land." 
Transitions in the Priorities of Zionist Objectives and their 
Geographical Implementation. (Hebrew) Haifa: University of Haifa, 
Dept. of Geography, 1987. Yosef Corny. "The Zionist movement: from 
National Liberation to National Self-Preservation." Zionist Ideas 11 
(1985): 81-88. 

From Yishuv to Sovereign State 187 

For a discussion of Israeli politics and the Arabs see Gershon 
Kieval. Political Politics in Israel and the Occupied Territories. 
Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1983. See also Meron 
Benvenisti. West Bank Data Project: A Survey of Israel's Politics. 
Washington: American Enterprise Institue for Public Policy Research, 

Religious conflict is dealt with among others by Norman Zucker. 
The Coming Crisis in Israel: Private Faith and Public Policy. 
Cambridge, Massachusetts: M.I.T. Press, 1973; Eliezr Don-Yehiya and 
Charles S. Liebman. "The Dilemma of Reconciling Traditional Culture 
and Political Needs: Civil Religion in Israel" (Hebrew) Megamot 38 
(1984); 461-485. 


Ideology of Antisemitism: The 
American Jewish View 

Gary Tobin 
Brandeis University 

I. Introduction 

Much of what is written about antisemitism focuses on the 
antisemitic beliefs and attitudes of non-Jews. A vast literature 
documents antisemitic incidents, discrimination, and violence. 
Histories have been written on antisemites, authoritarian 
personalities, and the roots of antisemitic beliefs and behaviors. The 
idea of antisemitism, however, cannot be properly addressed without 
analyzing the ideology of Jews as they assess antisemitism. This essay 
explores how Jews in the United States think about antisemitism in 
contemporary America. 

Antisemitism is a combination of ideology, attitudes and behavior. 
Ben Halpern, in his article "What is Antisemitism?" defines it as "a 
hostile attitude toward the Jews (regarded as a threat) that develops 
into a tradition and becomes institutionalized."^ Halpern notes that 
the threat can be expressed collectively, socially, economically, or 
politically. This threat, he states, can vary in terms of intensity, and 
be expressed by minor fringe groups or through major political forces. 
Most Jews in the United States share this outlook. 

American Jewish perceptions are molded by events of the past, 
what is happening now, and how all the information from both the 
past and the present is transmitted to them. To a great extent, Jews 

^Ben Halpern, "What is Antisemitism?" Modern Judaism 1 (December 1981), 
pp. 252-253. 


190 The Modern Age: History 

teach one another about antisemitism in all its forms and expressions. 
An individual's awareness of antisemitism has its roots in a collective 
awareness that was, and continues to be, passed on through a wide 
variety of mechanisms. 

Although Jews are well integrated into American culture, they 
have maintained distinct neighborhood, friendship, and cultural 
institutions. They operate freely in two worlds, mixing with non-Jews 
where they live, where they work, where they go to school, and in a 
wide array of social, political, and economic contexts. At the same 
time, there exists a separate world served by Jewish institutions and 
organizations, a separate Jewish media, close friendship patterns, and 
some clustering of Jews in particular neighborhoods. Thus, Jewish 
awareness of antisemitism stems both from their integrated life within 
American culture and from their more separate life as part of the 
Jewish subculture. 

American Jews are positioned along a continuum of assimilation and 
isolation. For example. Orthodox Jews are much more likely than non- 
Orthodox Jews to live in densely Jewish neighborhoods, and Reform 
Jews are much more likely to marry a non-Jew than either Conservative 
or Orthodox Jews. Furthermore, Jews are differentiated by class, 
political beliefs, and many other factors. They are by no means 
unidimensional. As a result there is no single view or single set of 
perceptions that Jews hold about antisemitism. Jewish perceptions are 
a collection of views. 

But along a continuum of varying views, some common perceptions 
do appear. Nearly all Jews believe that there is some antisemitism in 
the United States, and nearly all Jews say that they have experienced 
some form of antisemitism in their lifetime. The extent to which they 
have experienced antisemitism and their interpretation of those 
experiences exemplify a wide variety of views. But there are some 
commonly held beliefs. 

First, it is almost universally believed that antisemitism cannot be 
completely eradicated. Jews view it as a constant, a problem that may 
ebb and flow but that never disappears. This basic precept colors all 
other perceptions of antisemitism. Second, even among the few who 
believe that antisemitism has almost disappeared, most believe that 
wariness is essential. They hold that if antisemitism cannot be 
eradicated, then it must be closely watched, monitored, and combatted. 

Contemporary Jewish experience is influenced partly by a 
collective history, both modern and premodern. Indeed, the litany of 
persecutions that Jews have suffered is an intricate part of their liturgy 
and their traditional ritual observances. Formal Jewish education, 
which touches nearly all Jews in the United States at some point in 

Ideology of Antisemitism: The American Jezoish View 191 

their lives, focuses on the mistreatment of Jews in a variety of contexts, 
from Egypt through Spain and into the 20th century. Jews are taught 
about one antisemitic culture after another, and the ultimate expulsion 
or discrimination that beset Jews in every society in which they 

Most first- and second-generation American Jews carry with them 
multiple sets of collective memories. In addition to what they have 
been taught, either through formal Jewish education, ritual observance, 
or the adopted folklore of the subculture, these Jews experienced first- 
hand systematic discrimination in the United States. Housing, for 
example, was closed to Jews in most areas through legally enforced 
restrictive covenants. These were not declared unconstitutional until 
the late 1940s. Universities had quotas on the number of Jews that could 
be admitted, certain employers would not hire Jews, positions of 
leadership were often closed to Jews in the cultural and political circles 
of the local and national scene. While the United States was a 
hospitable environment, it was by no means a completely open system 
for Jews. Certainly, the United States offered economic opportunity, 
even though certain avenues were closed. Jews experienced a social and 
political freedom that they had rarely known elsewhere. 
Nevertheless, forms of institutional antisemitism were an integral part 
of the American scene 40 years ago. 

The extent of antisemitism in the United States until the coming of 
age of the third generation of American Jews should neither be 
overstated nor minimized. On the one hand, antisemitism in the United 
States was different from antisemitism in Europe. Discrimination 
against Jews was never part of official government action in this 
country. The legitimacy of state-sanctioned or -instigated violence 
never took root in the United States. Furthermore, Jews found 
themselves enfranchised in the political system in this country. Here 
they were able to utilize the electoral process to protect their 
individual and civil rights. 

But discrimination in schools, housing, and employment were all 
quite real. Although the government did not promulgate antisemitic 
rhetoric and action, the government certainly sanctioned, and in some 
cases enforced, certain forms of antisemitism until the recent past. For 
example, restrictive covenants were supported through the courts, 
endorsed by the Federal Housing Administration, and enforced by state 
governments. Until the late 1940s, the imprimatur of federal and state 
legitimacy was granted to the segregation of neighborhoods by race and 
religion. Legal protection of many civil rights is a very recent 
phenomenon in American history. 

192 The Modern Age: History 

In addition, in the first half of the 20th century many Jews were 
foreign-born. They carried with them the experiences of Eastern 
Europe. Primarily from Poland and Russia, these Jews were the victims 
of systematic discrimination and s':ate-sanctioned violence. 
Grandparents have relayed to third and fourth generations of 
American Jews stories of pogroms - sanctioned violent attacks on Jewish 
settlements. These stories, too, continue to be a part, although a fading 
part, of Jewish consciousness in the United States. 

More than any other factor, the Holocaust now frames all Jewish 
perceptions of antisemitism. About half the Jews in the United States 
lived through this time period. For them it remains a conscious 
memory. Much has been written about the Holocaust and its effect upon 
Jews in the United States. The Holocaust represents the ultimate 
expression of antisemitism, a systematic destruction of Jews throughout 
Europe. Persecution in Egypt and Spain cannot possibly affect Jewish 
perceptions as profoundly as the Holocaust. 

The Holocaust took place in the modern civilized world. It flashes 
on film before American Jewish eyes, registering as the most horrible 
event of the 20th century. Furthermore, the meaning of the Holocaust is 
now a major component of almost every child's Jewish education. 
Children are taught that an assimilated Jewish community in Germany 
and less assimilated Jews elsewhere were systematically massacred by 
a nation at the height of its scientific and cultural achievements. They 
are also taught that most people of other nations did not rush to help 
the Jews. Furthermore, questions are raised repeatedly about why the 
Jews did not resist more, and why they denied the impending 
Holocaust. These are questions that haunt first- and second-generation 
Jews and perplex third- and fourth-generation Jews. 

II. The Dual Identity of American Jews 

American Jewish ideology about antisemitism comes from American 
Jews living in two worlds. Most Jews are increasingly well integrated 
into the fabric of American society and culture, while at the same time 
maintaining a separate Jewish identity, although often marginal and 
vague. America's Jews are clearly just that: products of the general 
society. In many fundamental ways American Jews behave and believe 
much as do other white middle-class Americans. Yet distinct 
differences remain. Most Jews still adhere to enough minimal religious 
activity to separate them from the Christian majority. 

As a result of their dual identity, the Jewish looking glass through 
which antisemitism is examined is really more like a pair of bifocals. 
The vision changes depending on whether or not the Jewish lens or the 

Ideology of Antisemitism: The American Jewish View 193 

American lens is used. And as with bifocals, until the wearer adjusts to 
them, objects tend to blur, unless the view through the lens is perfectly 
balanced. The vision of antisemitism seems less threatening when 
viewed through the American lens: security, acceptance, and success 
characterize the American experience. The Jewish lens offers 
something different: marginality and a collective history of 
persecution. Jewish perceptions of antisemitism are molded by the 
tension of living with a multiple personality. 

The dual character of American Jews can be conceptuaHzed along a 
continuum of identity, with greater and lesser degrees of assimilation. 
A relatively small proportion of Jews behave only as Americans and not 
as Jews, while the proportions who would identify themselves only as 
Jews, and not Americans, are even smaller. The vast majority find 
themselves somewhere between these two extremes. 

Nor is an individual's identity permanently fixed in time. Each 
identity is buffeted and moved by external events, both personal (life 
cycle) and more global. While the Six-Day War affected the 
consciousness of an entire generation of Jews, a college course, the death 
of a parent, or the birth of a child may alter the religious consciousness 
of an individual. 

A certain kaleidoscopic quality characterizes the identity of 
American Jews, both individually and as a group. This amorphous 
identity shifts with time and events, sometimes dramatically and 
sometimes subtly. Colors combine differently with each turn of a 
kaleidoscope, and the picture changes if it is passed from one person to 
another. No matter how one might try, the colors shift ever so 
delicately with the slightest movement. 

Indeed, the American Jewish community, as a descriptive phrase, is 
something of a misnomer. America's six million Jews hardly constitute a 
monolithic entity. Occupation, geographic distribution, recreational 
patterns, and other dimensions of American life are substantially 
different within the Jewish population. Jews are very likely to hold 
white-collar positions, to have high levels of education, and to live in 
large metropolitan areas. But not all Jews are professionals, not all Jews 
have Ph.D.s, and not all Jews live in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New 
York. Too often, disproportionate differences between Jews and non-Jews 
are somehow exaggerated into false stereotypes believed by Jews and 
non-Jews alike. 

Differences among Jews in terms of religious profiles are even more 
pronounced. One of the more troubling aspects of Jewish life in the 
United States is the ever-deepening rift occurring along denominational 
lines. Contemporary Jews in the United States are segmented by 
differences in levels of ritual observance and belief, as well as relative 

194 The Modern Age: History 

assimilation into the greater n^ainstream of American society. A Jew 
can be at one end of the assimilation continuum, a largely observant Jew 
in terms of ritual practice and observance, and be well integrated into 
most aspects of general American culture, in terms of social, political, 
and economic activities. An Orthodox Jew can make sure his head is 
covered at a mainstream American activity, such as a major league 
baseball game, by simply donning a baseball cap. 

On the other hand, one can be a largely nonobservant Jew and yet 
have relative isolation from mainstream American life, in terms of 
neighborhood, friends, and social life. It is often assumed that the most 
observant Jews are also the most geographically or socially isolated. 
Such is the case for clusters of Orthodox Jews in sections of New York. 
However, even the least observant, those who consider themselves "just 
Jewish," practicing few if any Jewish rituals, exhibit tendencies to 
remain within the Jewish realm. Many say that the majority of their 
closest friends are Jewish, live in neighborhoods where Jews constitute 
substantial minorities, and in a multitude of other ways remain within 
the Jewish world, although they certainly do not remain religiously 

Except for those Jews who completely abandon their Jewish 
identity, some separateness for Jews remains a reality. No matter how 
much Jews dress like other Americans, have the same recreational 
patterns, adopt white middle-class values and accept white middle- 
class cultural norms, participate in the political system, or advance 
economically, they continue to adhere to a minority religion. While 
Judaism has been accorded status as one of three of America's "main" 
religions, this status does not imply "sameness." 

Whether Jews define themselves as "just Jewish," "ethnic Jews," 
"nonreligious Jews," or some other phrase that classifies them as more 
assimilated, most know that they differ from other Americans. 
Furthermore, when Jews say that they are not religious Jews, in terms of 
their self-definition, they are usually indicating that they are not 
ritually observant Jews and do not attend synagogue or temple very 

Jews, as long as they remain Jews, are different from most 
Americans. While Polish Americans, Irish Americans, and German 
Americans may maintain some sentimental ties to their country of 
origin and may have developed sociocultural patterns that define them 
as differentiated subgroups of Christian Americans, they remain part 
of the religious majority. Italians and other white immigrant groups 
have gradually lost or will lose their more distinguishing 
characteristics. But Jews, although well integrated as white middle- 
class Americans, maintain a singularly separating characteristic, their 

Ideology of Antisemitism: The American Jewish View 195 

religious identity, which keeps them apart. Jews are certainly free to 
practice their religion, and in some ways they are even encouraged to do 
so by the general culture. Such acceptance and tolerance do not negate 
the reaUty of the distinctiveness and minority status of Judaism within 
the Christian society. 

Nearly all Jews are aware of this marginality. Some may believe 
that it is insignificant. Others may feel that the schisms between 
American Jews and other Americans are deep. Some Jews assert that 
they are neither like nor different from other Americans: They are 
Jewish Americans. Others see the differences as all-encompassing. Yet 
it is the recognition of this difference, for most Jews, coupled with the 
collective histories of the Jewish place in other host cultures, that 
keeps Jews wary. Most Jews still practice religion differently from 
nearly all other Americans, and these practices are part of a set of 
religious beliefs that are fundamentally different from those of other 

III. Denial, Wariness and Fear 

Living in two worlds produces a complicated set of feelings about 
antisemitism. Looking through American eyes, signs of economic, social, 
and political success indicate very low levels of discrimination against 
Jews. Such an assessment might lead some to deny that antisemitism 
exists at all. However, looking through Jewish eyes may produce 
feelings of fear. Signs of antisemitism in the United States, both 
behavioral and attitudinal, continue to be present in one form or 
another. For most Jews, this results in wariness, the large middle ground 
between denial and fear. 

Sometimes the interpretation of what is seen through American 
and Jewish lenses is reversed. The bitter history of antisemitism, 
viewed through Jewish eyes, causes some Jews to deny the continued 
presence of prejudice, hostility, or violence. Coping is facilitated by 
denying the problem. Yet American Jews, as Americans, have an almost 
obsessive concern with individual rights and freedoms, and abhor 
potential infringements upon those rights. Such an obsession may 
produce fear, and this fear may in turn result in obsession, mutually 
reinforcing one another. American Jewish responses to antisemitism are 
clearly a combination of their hyphenated identity. But neither 
response, whether it be fear or denial, is the sole product of identity as 
either Americans or Jews. 

The wariness response is the most common blending of the dual 
identity. Ties to collective Jewish history cannot be disengaged, but 
neither can the collective experiences and acculturation of Jews in 

296 The Modern Age: History 

American society. Combining the two identities, Jewish Americans or 
American Jews, separate and blended, results in a broad perceptual 
view of antisemitism, both as a group and as individuals within the 

Some Jews are at either extreme in their views of antisemitism. At 
the denial end of the continuum is complacency. Since antisemitism is 
not, for those who deny its existence, a reality - that is, overt, actions 
against Jews never take place, or when they do are random and trivial - 
there is no need for concern, and certainly no need for action. Jews at the 
denial end of the continuum are most likely to see their fellow Jews as 
"paranoid," looking for enemies that do not exist. Often, they believe 
that organizations that fight antisemitism are self-perpetuating, 
fostering myths of antisemitism in order to serve their own bureaucratic 
and institutional ends. Antisemitic acts are somehow explained away 
by those denying its presence. If a swastika is painted on a synagogue, 
they produce explanations as to why it is not an antisemitic act. The 
denial response is usually most prevalent and strongest among the most 
assimilated Jews. 

Fear of antisemitism centers around issues of acceptance, social and 
political power or lack thereof, and concern for physical safety, 
individually or for all Jews. Such fear itself may result in several 
responses: withdrawal, the need for collective isolation within the 
larger society, or combativeness, the need to fight back, either as 
individuals or collectively through organizations and institutions. 
Again, most behavioral response will be between the two extremes. 
Sometimes, a combination of fear and denial may cause organizations 
and individuals to downplay the threat of antisemitism, while 
simultaneously calling for strategies to combat it. The rhetoric of 
community relations agencies frequently reflects this perceptual 
conflict. They play a balancing role, taking these disparate beliefs into 
account in their program planning. The results are often programs 
characterized by caution and wariness, sometimes aggressive, 
sometimes timid. 

Those who want to feel that they are fully assimilated Americans 
are particularly likely to be a part of the denial contingent, generally 
supporting less emphasis on programs to combat antisemitism and 
advocating very careful assessment of a "Jewish" response to particular 
political and social issues. At the most extreme end of the fear 
continuum are those who have translated the combativeness that comes 
from fear into a more aggressive seek-and-destroy mode. Feeling that 
only Jews can take care of Jews, these individuals, or groups such as the 
Jewish Defense League, even advocate violence if they perceive it as 
necessary to protect Jewish interests. 

Ideolog}/ of Antisemitism: The American Jewish View 197 

Interestingly, at both ends of the continuum, both groups are so 
comfortable as Americans that neither questions their freedom within 
the larger society to state their views. In either extreme, both 
underplaying and overplaying their hands may be the result of a 
distorted view of how accepted, integrated, and "safe" they are within 
the American context. 

Most Jews are unlikely to be found at either extreme of the fear and 
denial continuum. Few would argue that antisemitism no longer exists in 
the United States. Nor would many argue that Jews are immediately 
threatened by any large-scale antisemitic behavior. Most rest in the 
large gray area in between, wary and concerned. The primary evidence 
used by those on the denial side that antisemitisni is not a problem is 
the widespread success of Jews in the United States and various polling 
data. For those most fearful of antisemitism, bits and pieces of 
information, including the rhetoric of extremist groups, isolated acts of 
discrimination, and their own personal experiences are utiUzed in order 
to draw the conclusion that antisemitism is dangerously active in the 
United States. Those most afraid of antisemitism also Unk trends in the 
United States to those of other countries, particularly the Middle East 
and the Soviet Union, to corroborate their view that much of the world, 
including the United States, remains hostile to Jews. 

The denial philosophy has its adherents. Recently, Charles 
Silberman argued that "antisemitism is no longer a significant factor in 
American Jewish life."^ He cites the economic, social, and political 
success of American Jews since the 1960s as evidence in arguing that the 
old antisemitism is dead (old stereotypes and discrimination) and that 
there is no possibility of a new antisemitism in the future. Silberman 
states that Jews "have difficulty distinguishing between reality and 
their own worst imaginings."-^ 

Some of those at the denial end of the continuum are actually 
responding to what they perceive to be the hysteria of other Jews. They 
seek to be a calming influence, placing any particular act of 
antisemitism into a broader context. Individuals who play this role 
attempt to determine the motive of perpetrators of antisemitic acts, in 
order to assess whether or not an act, such as painting a swastika on a 
synagogue, is "ideological" or just an activity of adolescent hostiUty. 
Of course, to the victims of such acts, the trauma may be deep, 
regardless of the perpetrator's motives. 

^Charles Silberman, Certain People: American Jews and Their Lives Today, as 
quoted in Kenneth L. Woodward, "Jews in a Soulful Debate," Religion Section, 
Newsweek 106 (23 September 1985), p. 77. 

198 The Modern Age: History 

Nevertheless, some of those who deny the existence of 
antisemitism may state the need for moderate response, careful 
analysis, and measured examination, expressing through actions rather 
than by statements their belief that antisemitism has not disappeared. 
But a few refuse to acknowledge the presence of antisemitism. Milton 
Himmelfarb has been one of the leading proponents of the denial 
philosophy, using polling data to substantiate his view. In an article on 
Jewish voting patterns, Himmelfarb argued that Jews do not even vote 
in their own self-interest because they have a paranoid view of 
antisemitism in the United States. He presented data showing that 
47% of Jews believed that antisemitism is still a serious problem, 
alongside data from the same study showing that Jews believed by a 
very wide majority, 83% to 6%, that the United States has offered Jews 
more opportunities and freedom than any other diaspora country. 
Juxtaposing these two sets of polling data, Himmelfarb flippantly 
comments about what he obviously views as Jewish paranoia. In 
combination, these data, he states, "evoke a kind of pity for the poor 
little rich girl.'"^ He is essentially mocking the Jewish public that 
holds these seemingly conflicting beliefs, when he himself believes 
that "prejudice and discrimination are lower than ever before."^ 

To those furthest along the denial continuum, all important 
discriminatory barriers are now gone. Any exhibitions of antisemitic 
behavior or attitudes are viewed as aberrations, and therefore trivial, 
or they are not even antisemitic. Painting a swastika on a synagogue is 
usually explained away by such adherents as an adolescent prank, even 
though the adolescent chose a swastika for the symbol and a synagogue 
as the target. The effect on the victims is almost dismissed, because 
they should "recognize" the irrelevance of the act. All antisemitism is 
ultimately explained away. For example, rising black antisemitic 
beliefs are described as antiwhite and therefore somehow not anti- 
Jewish by those asserting that antisemitism is no longer significant. 
Antisemitic statements couched in anti-Zionist diatribes are viewed as 
third world philosophy, and again not antisemitic. It is odd that these 
Jews, who believe that other Jews are looking for antisemites under 
every rock, could be hit over the head by an antisemite (with the same 
rock) and either deny it took place or find a logical and rational 
argument for why the perpetrator was not really antisemitic. 

Milton Himmelfarb, in a forum sponsored by Present Tense 
magazine that featured Charles Silberman and Marvin Schick, a 

^Milton Himmelfarb, "Another Look at the Jewish Vote," Commentary 80 

(December 1985), 41. 


Ideology of Arttisemitism: The American Jewish View 199 

columnist for the Long Island Jewish World, defended Silberman's 
thesis. Schick had challenged Silberman's optimistic premise that 
antisemitism is no longer a major factor shaping the lives of American 
Jews. Himmelfarb, the third panelist in the forum, supported Charles 
Silberman's book, saying that Jews "attack the messenger that brings 
them good news."^ He beHeves that most American Jews are paranoid, 
and that "quite simply, we do not allow the facts to invalidate our 
logic. "^ Clearly, the same can be said for those who are so adamant 
about dismissing the antisemitism that still persists in the United 

On the other hand, there are numbers of Jews who see antisemitism 
in every act, deed, and word of the gentile world. Like those at the 
denial end of the continuum, they account for only a small proportion of 
all Jews. Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) and 
a prominent spokesman for this group, argues vociferously against 
relying on non-Jews or on the American system alone. "Nor will all the 
efforts to mingle with the gentile, to prove to him our melting-pot 
qualities, succeed in our winning favor in his eyes in time of crisis," he 
stated in 1971. "At best we are tolerated; the tolerance, sooner or later, 
wears thin. All our attempts to compromise and tailor our Jewishness so 
that it may prove acceptable to a modern world are foolish, self-hating 
moves that, properly, earn us nothing but the contempt of the gentile."^ 
In this view, the world has a clear delineation, a "them" and an "us." 
Some may not view Kahane as an "expert," but he speaks for Jews at 
the fear end of the continuum. 

Whatever real progress American Jews have made in developing 
intergroup cooperation is trivialized by these views. To some, the 
United States is merely another society waiting to exploit the Jewish 
minority as a scapegoat in times of economic or social crisis. Individuals 
who are the most concerned about antisemitism existing everywhere use 
the isolated incidents of antisemitism coupled with the rhetoric of 
either the right or the left, but usually the right, as their primary 
evidence of antisemitism's prevalence. The collective history of Jews, 
along with continued antisemitic rhetoric from around the world, 
corroborates the composite picture. Furthermore, there is a continuous 
barrage of information about the danger of antisemitism, coming 
primarily from the Anti-Defamation League and, more recently, the 

^Benjamin Levitman, "Silberman and Schick Debate Nature of Anti- 
Semitism," Palm Beach Jewish World, 18-24 April 1986, p. 2. 

^Meir Kahane, Never Agaiyi? A Program for Survival (Los Angeles: Nash, 1971), 
p. 210. 

200 The Modern Age: History 

Wiesenthal Center. The ADL consistently publishes information on the 
radical left and right, which finds its way into both the Jewish and 
the general press. Each release of one of these documents is used by 
those who are most fearful to substantiate their views.^ 

Each antisemitic incident is viewed as part of the ultimate move 
toward another Holocaust. This fear, the ultimate expression of 
antisemitism, is incorporated into this group's view of America as 
simply another temporary good time for Jews. An article in the 
Baltimore Jewish Times, which looked at antisemitic literature spread 
by hate groups, noted: "Those who say 'It can't happen here' should be 
reminded that not very far from Baltimore - only a 45 minute drive 
from the White House - at Loudon, Virginia, Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., 
has recently established on a $2.3 million property the national 
headquarters of his well-read anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi organization 
which lists as its enemies 'narcotic gangsters, liberals, Zionists, agents 
of Moscow, the Rockefellers, the Trilateral Commission, the Queen of 
England and international terrorism. '"^^ The article concludes by 
saying, "Not only can it happen here; it is happening here."^^ For 
example, Sylvia Mandelbaum, writing from Safed, Israel, warned 
American Jews that they must leave the United States for Israel. In 
describing all sorts of antisemitic incidents, she says: "These are signs 
of the times. ..can we see them? Can we hear them? Do we understand 
them? Jews are guests in their host country for as long as the host 
pleases. It appears that Jews have outworn their welcome."^ ^ After 

^Below is a sampling of some ADL publications: TJw Populist Party: The Politics 
of Right Wing Extremism, Vol. 30, No. 2 (New York: Anti-Defamation League of 
B'nai B'rith, Fall 1985; Extremism on the Right: A Handbook (New York: Anti- 
Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1983); Franz Mintz, The Liberty Lobby and 
the American Right (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985); Terrorism's Targets: 
Democracy, Israel and Jews, ADL Special Report (New York: Anti-Defamation 
League of B'nai B'rith, 1981); Extremism Targets the Prisons, ADL Special 
Report (New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1986); Liberty 
Lobby and the Carto Network of Hate, ADL Facts, Vol. 27, No. 1 (New York: 
Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1982); Propaganda of the Deed: The 
Far Right's Desperate Revolution (New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai 
B'rith, 1985); Holocaust "Revisionism": A Denial of History, ADL Facts, Vol. 31, 
No. 1 (New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, Winter 1986). 
^^"Anti-Semitic 'Literature' Apparently Proliferating," Baltimore Jewish Times, 
25 October 1985. 

^^Sylvia Mandelbaum, "Anti-Semitism on the North American Continent," 
Jewish Press (Brooklyn, NY) 1 November 1986, p. 9. 

Ideology of Antisemitism: The American Jewish View 201 

raising the specter of discrimination and, ultimately, the Holocaust, 
she argues that a safe cHmate exists only in Israel. 

For those at the most extreme end of the fear continuum, 
antisemitism is not assessed solely in terms of levels of discrimination, 
or the rise and fall of antisemitic attitudes, but rather whether or not 
American Jews will be subjected to mass violence or murder. While most 
Jews classify the Holocaust as a unique historical event within the 
context of societies that are unlike those of the United States (even 
though they are wary about potential signals), those at the fear end of 
the continuum cannot distinguish between the United States and other 
societies at all. Therefore, the Holocaust is not just a threat that can 
happen at almost any time, it is just around the corner. 

Most Jews take the middle road, neither oblivious nor fearful. An 
article by one Jewish author, Rochelle Wolk, which analyzed Jewish 
perceptions of antisemitism, was entitled "Prophecy or Paranoia?"^ ^ 
The title alone represents the more extreme views of Jewish perceptions 
of antisemitism: prophecy of another Holocaust, and paranoia about 
unreal enemies, the myth or reality of the levels of antisemitism in the 
United States today. Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation 
League, says that the Jewish community may be affected by 
"schizophrenia."^'^ We live, he says, in what we might call the other 
"promised land," and yet, he continues, there is "uneasiness, a tension, 
and an anxiety."^ ^ Most Jewish observers neither predict nor fear 
another Holocaust, but neither are they sanguine that antisemitism is 
no longer a potential threat in the United States. 

American Jews are vigilant. The Jewish public is unsure of how to 
realistically assess antisemitism. Earl Raab, the former executive 
director of the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council, 
offers an insightful summary of the nature of this dilemma. He notes 
that "American Jews have been supplied evidence that antisemitic 
attitudes are decreasing while antisemitic incidents are increasing. In 
their innocence, many Jews believe that these two signals are 
incompatible. They are not. Jews perceive no real growth in economic or 
social discrimination against Jews, or Neo-Nazi groups; but public 
expressions of antisemitism seem more common, along with warnings 
about growing antisemitism from their non-Jewish friends. 
Complacency derives from reliance on one set of signals; despair derives 
from reliance on another set. Neither mood is warranted."^ ^ For Raab, 

^^Rochelle Saidel Wolk, "Prophecy or Paranoia?" Lilith 7 (Fall 1980), 8-10. 

^'* Abraham H. Foxman, "The Jewish Soul," B'jiai B'rith Record, December 1983. 


^^Earl Raab, "Anti-Semitism in the 1980s," Midstream 29 (February 1983), p. 11. 

202 The Modern Age: History 

a keen observer of the state of antisemitism in the United States, 
unpleasant signs in the 1980s point to the need for action on the part of 
the Jewish community, measured action commensurate with both the 
degree and the nature of antisemitism in tl-'.e United States. His views 
are shared by most American Jews. Jews remain sensitive, and sensibly 
so. But those who see no antisemitism and those who see only 
antisemitism everywhere represent minorities, relatively small ones, 
of American Jews. 

Wariness about the present and the future are an integral 
component in the Jewish psyche in dealing with antisemitism. While 
Jews assess antisemitism in the past and the present, their feelings are 
also colored by attempts to assess how antisemitic attitudes and 
behaviors will affect Jews in the future. The ultimate effect of Jewish 
perceptions of antisemitism on the ways they lead their lives is 
unknown. However, it is clear that perceptions of antisemitism are 
neither overly pessimistic nor free from fear and concern. Jews remain 
uncertain about the exact nature of antisemitism today. They accept the 
current good times, recognizing relatively low levels of antisemitism. 
But at the same time they look over their shoulders to make sure 
antisemitism does not creep up from some unknown comer. 


French Jewry and the 

Centrality of Israel: 

The Public Debate, 1968-1988 

Phyllis Cohen Albert 
Harvard University 

In 1968 the phrase "centrality of Israel" was catapulted to the 
foreground of the on-going debate about relations between the state of 
Israel and the Jewish Diaspora. In adopting its now-famous "Jerusalem 
Program" in June of that year, the twenty-seventh Zionist Congress 
reformulated an earlier definition of Zionism which had included 
three aspects, ingathering of Diaspora Jews in Israel, guaranteeing the 
unity of the Jewish people, and strengthening the state of Israel.^ 
Perhaps in tacit acknowledgement of the permanence of the Diaspora 
and the unlikelihood of aliya ever to appeal to the majority of Jews, 
the 1968 program^ while still calling for ingathering of Jews in Israel, 
proposed the formula, "the unity of the Jewish people and the 
centraHty of Israel in its life...."^ "Centrality" appealed to those who 
called themselves Zionists but who could not commit themselves to 
settle in Israel. It was an elastic notion, admitting various 
interpretations, and gave rise to a range of individual and collective 
behaviors, short of aliya, which focused on Israel. 

^The 23rd Zionist Congress, Jerusalem, August 14-30, 1951 (the first to be held in 
the State of Israel); Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel, Jerusalem, 1971, p. 210. 
^Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel, p. 212. 


204 The Modern Age: His tori/ 

Although the phrase became common parlance only after 1968, "the 
centrality of Israel" was already being used in Zionist circles since the 
early 1960s and had been introduced to the general public by Georges 
Friedmann in his 1965 publication. La Fin iu Peuple ]uif?^ It reflected 
sentiments that had been developing gradually throughout the first 
two decades of Israel's existence, and even had roots in pre-state 
Zionist ideology. 

During the twenty years under consideration here, from 1968 to 
1988, the phrase was repeated frequently, both approvingly and 
disapprovingly, but it was not understood in a single, consistent manner. 
Analysis of the controversy engendered by the Jerusalem Program is 
complicated by the lack of a uniform understanding of the term and its 
implications. French Jewry, perhaps more than any other Diaspora 
community, has pursued a vigorous public debate over the acceptability 
of the notion, and in clarification of the alternative ideological options 
open to Jews living outside the Jewish state. 

One of the ambiguities of the phrase "centrality of Israel" resides 
in the multiple meanings of "Israel." Although the Jerusalem Program 
undoubtedly refers to the modern state of Israel, it is possible, 
intentionally or otherwise, to construe the word as the people of Israel 
(the world Jewish community) or as the land of Israel (the Holy Land). 
When defending the slogan of centrality, polemicists have often 
wavered among these definitions in order to find acceptable formulas 
based on traditions that were less controversial than are modern 
political ideologies or realities. 

The Zionist leaders who promulgated the 1968 document clearly 
intended to strengthen the Diaspora's orientation toward the state of 
Israel, and not simply to reinforce traditional messianic yearning for 
redemption in the ancestral land. Nor did the drafters of the Jerusalem 
Program intend to place the locus of centrality in the collective world 
Jewish population, but rather, in the modern Jewish state. Yet, in 
defending the notion of centrality, such alternative interpretations 
were indeed offered to a French Jewish population reluctant to relegate 
the Diaspora to second place in funding, programming, or loyalties. 

^Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, wrote in 1963 
that "Acceptance of the 'centrality' of Israel is certainly not yet fully shared by 
all the Jews of the world...." He called on Zionists to explain to the Diaspora that 
"Israel is the center of Jewish life and the source of the main values on which 
the communities in the Diaspora will live spiritually." Jerusalem Post Weekly, 
March 29, 1963, quoted by Georges Friedmann, The End of the Jewish People?, 
New York, 1967, p. 227. (The French edition of the book was published in Paris 
in 1965.) 

French Jeiory and the Centrality of Israel 205 

French Jewish leaders posited an identity between Judaism and 
Zionism, raising support of Israel to an eternal religious duty, and 
introduced liturgical changes that strengthened this interpretation. 

French Zionists circulated a fourteen-page document which, after 
sketching the history of the idea of centrality, and explaining it in 
terms of the classical Zionist notion of negation of the Diaspora, argued 
that in three major ways the State of Israel is central to Jewish 
existence: 1) Unlike any Diaspora Jewish community, Israel must 
embrace and reconcile all types of Jews. 2) Israel serves as a central 
source of protection for world Jewry, and must be capable of handling 
Jewish needs anywhere in the world and absorbing Jews from 
everywhere. 3) Israel is a spiritual, intellectual, linguistic and cultural 
center for the Jewish people, the only place it is possible to put into 
practice the specific values of Judaism. Jews everywhere consider Israel 
a source of encouragement for their intellectual efforts. 

But if Israel is supposed to be a cultural center from which Diaspora 
Jews can derive stimulation and support, is it paradoxically in 
competition with the Diaspora, draining energies or creativity from 
local communal institutions and programming? Does Israel siphon off 
local funds that could be used for community projects, and threaten the 
future of the community by appealing to its youth to relocate in the 
Jewish state? Is Israel guiding Diaspora political behavior by forcing 
world Jewry to make political choices in function of Israel's needs? 

A portion of the French Jewish population believes that such a 
conflict does, indeed, exist. Such critics object to what they see as the 
substitution of Israel for local Jewish concerns, and of Israeli culture for 
Diaspora culture. For them, "Israelocentrism" is sapping local 
creativity and diverting funds. On the other side, defendants of 
centrality scorn the notion that Diaspora culture is viable in France. 
They mock Diasporists, claiming that such dreamers think French 
Jewry can replicate the Yiddishkeit of the pre-war Polish Jewish 
population which supported a full-fledged Jewish culture. 

An unresolved problem with the concept of the centrality of Israel 
is the question whether this doctrine requires French Jews to accept 
unquestioningly all policies and actions by Israel. Or do French Jews, 
while recognizing a special relationship between themselves and 
Israel, yet retain the right of public criticism? Although it is possible 
in theory to reconcile centrality with the right to criticize, in practice 
most French Jews have assumed that if they accept centrality they 
must give Israel unconditional support.^ 

'^It was the understanding that centrality implies unconditional support for 
Israeli policies that led Armand Zerbib, in his review of Le Sionisme, by Claude 

206 The Modern Age: History 

French Jews have long been divided on these questions. For some 
there is no problem accepting either the centrality of Israel or the need 
to give unconditional public support to the Jewish state. Others are 
strongly critical of Israeli policies and favor a strong Diasporist 
position. The policy of much of the organized community is to accept 
centrality, although it is divided on the issue of unconditional support. 


"The centrality of Israel" may with justification be traced to 
traditional messianic expectations of redemption. Upon destruction of 
the Jewish state in 70 A.D. the exiled population began contemplating 
its return, which was expected to take place under the protection of a 
redeemer. This conviction became thoroughly imbedded in religious 
ritual, philosophy, and poetry, and profoundly affected the 
psychology of the dispersed Jews. 

Exile and redemption constituted the central myth of Jewish 
Diaspora culture during the nearly 1900 years of statelessness. The land 
of Israel served as a beacon, a destination for those hoping to fulfill the 
religious commandment to live in the Holy Land. During the two 
millenia of exile, stories of the holy places, meetings with emissaries 
from the land, collecting money to send to those living there, gatherings 
around false messiahs and making preparations to travel to the land 
provided an important part of the social and cultural focus of Diaspora 

Even in the nineteenth century, when religion no longer united all 
Jews in messianic belief, the ancestral land continued to be regarded 
with special affection. Only the staunchest Diasporists or secular anti- 
Zionists of the first half of the twentieth century refused a special role 
to Zion. With the rise of political Zionism at the end of the nineteenth 
century, aliya had become the principal goal of the new movement. 
Zionism demanded a very different kind of commitment to the land 
than had religion. Whereas traditional commitment to Zion attracted 
mainly an elderly, piously scholarly immigrant, who expected to spend 
the balance of his life in religious study, supported (however 
meagerly) by alms from world Jewry, aliya was expected to attract the 

Franck and Michel Herszlikowicz, to reject the authors' contention that "nul ne 
peut nier la centralite de I'Etat d'Israel dans la vie juive." Zerbib's criticism of 
Israel has mainly to do with the problem of the role of oriental Jews in the 
Jewish state. Arguing that Israel is not pluralistic, he refuses his unconditional 
support, and therefore denies Israel the right to "centrality." La Presse 
Nouvelle, No. 39, September 1986, p. 7. 

French Jewry and the Centrality of Israel 207 

young and the vigorous for the heavy physical labor of building a new 

It is well-know that Zionism failed in the pre-World War II years 
to gain a Jewish consensus for the estabUshment of a sovereign state. By 
1945, however, the massive destruction of European Jewry had made 
Jewish statehood a principal goal of world Jewry. French Jews, who 
had been among the most hesitant, now expended much of their 
communal effort in support, first of the establishment of the state, and 
then of its defense. Although few Jewish leaders intended to settle in 
the Jewish State, their support of Israel grew into an increasing 
preoccupation, and a de-facto centrality of Israel began to take shape. 

French Jewish ideology in the post-war years was influenced by the 
arguments expressed by Arthur Koestler in his 1949 publication. 
Promise and Fulfillment. Claiming that exile in the traditional sense 
no longer exists now that the State of Israel has been established, and 
that all future Jewish life would take place in that state, Koestler 
declared that Jews who remain in the Diaspora will either cease being 
Jews through assimilation, or will prepare themselves for settlement in 
the Jewish State. The logic of Koestler's analysis stimulated some 
people to plan their own aliya, and this group of people awaiting 
resettlement in Israel may be said to have lived a life in France which 
was centered on a future move to Israel. 

In the post-war years there were far fewer observant Jews in France 
than there had been before the deportations. This was not only because 
foreign Jews, who suffered greater decimation, had constituted a high 
percentage of the religious population.^ It also appears that non- 
religious native Jews who before the war had found no way to express 
their Jewishness other than through religious institutions, now tended 
to accept an ethnic and political identification. Activity on behalf of 
the Jewish state filled the void left in the community by the decline in 
ritual observance. "Israelocentrism" began to characterize community 
institutions well before "centrality" became an explicit ideological 

This tendency is observable in two major organizations that were 
formed during and after the war, the Conseil Representatif des 
Institutions Juives de France (CRIF) and the Union des Etudiants Juifs de 
France (UEJF). The first was an umbrella organization formed 
clandestinely towards the end of the war to serve as a political 
spokesman for French Jewry. The second was the national Jewish 
student association formed just after the war. The two organizations 

^Loss of religiously observant population was partially offset by the 
immigration of traditional Jews from North Africa in the early 1960s. 

208 The Modern Age: History 

had in common a characteristic that was new to French Jewry: they 
both united a broad spectrum of political and religious opinion for the 
purpose of concerted effort toward mutual interests. One of the 
principal concerns of the membership of each group was the creation of 
a Jewish State. To be sure there remained anti-Zionists among French 
Jews, both within and outside the organized community, but post-war 
French Jewish institutions were overwhelmingly supportive of the 
creation of a Jewish State in Palestine. 

From 1950 the newly-created central funding agency, the Fonds 
Social Juif Unifie (FSJU), undertook to shape French Jewish planning 
and to set priorities. It, too, emphasized the importance of Israel, and 
through its power of the purse strings significantly contributed to the 
tendency for Israel to become the prime subject in Jewish cultural 
programming and political activity. Although the consistories (the 
administrative bodies which supervised religious institutions) were 
cooler to Israel for some years, by the 1970s they, too, incorporated 
enthusiastic pro-Israel programming, and the rabbis instituted 
liturgical changes which incorporated Israel into religious rituals. 

Israelis and Zionists, in the first two decades of the state, before 
the promulgation of the Jerusalem Program, routinely took the notion of 
centrality for granted. The world had opportunity to note this fact 
during the much-publicized Eichman trial of 1961, when, in defense of 
holding the trial in Israel, the judges stated that Israel was the 
sovereign state of the entire Jewish people.^ The successive Zionist 
congresses, always taking pains to define Zionism and the nature of the 
relationship between Israel and the Diaspora, repeatedly stressed the 
bond between these two poles of Jewish existence. Zionists believed 
that it was Israel's responsibility to help Diaspora Jewry in its struggle 
against spiritual disintegration and assimilation. In 1964-5 Nahum 
Goldmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, called on 
Israel and the Diaspora to join in a new era of cooperation.^ 

When the twenty-seventh congress, in its Jerusalem Program, 
proclaimed "the unity of the Jewish people and the centrality of Israel 
in its life,"^ the slogan ignited polemical fires in France. Yet, as we 
have seen, the creation of the phrase was little more than a belated 
naming ceremony for a phenomenon that was already fully grown. 
Supporters of the slogan were challenged within the Jewish 

^Wladimir Rabi (pseudonym for Rabinovich), Un Peuple de Trop sur la Terre?, 
Paris, 1979, p. 85. 

^At the 26th Zionist Congress, Jerusalem, December 30, 1964- January 11, 1965. 
See the summary in Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel, p. 211. 
^Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel, p. 212. 

French Jewry and the Centrality of Israel 209 

community, on the one hand by Diasporists, who found the notion of 
centrality excessive, and on the other by Zionists who found it 
insufficient. From outside the community they were accused of "double 
loyalty," a serious charge implying potential treason against France. 
The organized community, which largely accepted the slogan of 
centrality, felt itself pressed both to explain and to justify the formula, 
and they expended much effort in this endeavor throughout the 1970s. 

Throughout the 1970s, in partial response first to the Six-Day War, 
and to De Gaulle's Middle East policy at that crucial time, and then to 
the Yom Kippur War, and clearly influenced by the spirit of the 
Jerusalem Program, Jewish leaders and institutions exhibited a growing 
concentration on Israel. French rabbis became active in Mizrachi and 
they revised synagogue ritual by incorporating prayers for Israeli 
Independence Day. Religious leadership argued with increasing 
frequency that support for the State of Israel is a religious obligation.^ 

One such leader was Emile Touati, a member of the Paris consistory. 
Touati identified Zionism with religion, and not just with Judaism, but 
with universal salvation. He emphasized the link between the people 
and the land, and between the people's election and the salvation of 
the whole world. In a mystical vein, he tied together faith and law, 
body and soul, earth and heaven, material and spiritual, political and 
religious, temporal and eternal, religious and national particularism 
and universalism.^'^ After the war in Lebanon the consistory went so far 
as to issue a declaration that "it identifies fully with the people of 
Israel and the State of Israel."^ ^ 

The rehgious institutions were not the only ones to embrace Israel in 
the 1970s. Jewish social and political organizations were also engaged 
in similar pursuits. Early in the decade, the central funding and 
planning agency, the Fonds Social Juif Unifie (FSJU), developed the 
slogan, "a strong community to help Israel." Although this is not 
traditional Zionist ideology, as it emphasizes strengthening the 
Diaspora, the entife rationale for strengthening the community is cast 
in terms of benefit to Israel. Centrality was here working its way into 
French Judaism both theoretically and practically. 

At the same time, the president of the Fonds Social, Guy de 
Rothschild, sought to explain the depth of French Jewish feeling for 

^At the annual meeting of the Paris consistory, in 1971, for example, the 

consistory expressed solidarity with Israel on behalf of "all French Jews 

whatever their degree of identification." Le Monde, June 10, 1971. 

^'^Emile Touati, "Sionisme et Judai'sme," Sens, March 1976. 

^^Shmuel Trigano, "Zionism as a Strategy for the Diaspora: French Jewry at a 

Crossroads," Zionist Ideas, No. 9, Fall 1984, p. 73. 

220 The Modern Age: History 

Israel. In 1970, apparently following Albert Memmi's theory about the 
liberation of the Jew, Rothschild emphasized that even for those who 
are assimilated and have no plans to emigrate, Israel's existence has 
liberated them from the disgrace of persec-ition. This is why Diaspora 
Jews feel such strong distress when the existence, identity, or honor of 
Israel appears threatened.^ ^ 

Albert Memmi, whose analysis of Jewish bondage and liberation, 
based on a colonial model, had done much to sensitize French Jews to 
Israel, reflected much of French Jewry's fear of the reemergence of 
Diasporism after the war of 1973. At a meeting of Jewish intellectuals 
Memmi said that Jewish existence is based on the notion of a people- 
nation that anticipates restoration. If this idea were to disappear, he 
warned, Judaism would fall back into exilic notions of eternal Jewish 
suffering or the inferiority of Jewish existence, with no perceptible way 
out of the impass.^^ 

The language of centrality began more explicitly to enter the 
vocabulary of spokesmen for the community by the middle of the 
decade. Speaking only for herself in 1976, Annie Kriegel described 
Israel in relationship to a peripheral Diaspora. ^^ Her ideas quickly 
found expression in a critical communal document when she played an 
important role in the committee of intellectuals established to define 
Jewish existence in the Diaspora and the relationship between French 
Jews and Israel. Acting on behalf of the CRIF (Conseil Representatif 
des Institutions Juives de France), the committee drafted a "charter" 
which was published early in 1977. This document declared that "for 
almost 4000 years the Jewish soul has been attached to Israel and to 
Jerusalem. This historical, spiritual, and essential link explains why 
the French Jewish community considers Israel the privileged expression 
of Jewish existence."^ ^ This declaration that there existed an historic, 
spiritual, and vital link between Israel and French Jewry, promulgated 

^^Le Monde Jiiif, No. 57-58, 1970. 

^•^Typed notes of a "study day" organized by the "Circle of Jewish Intellectuals 

for Israel," June 23, 1974, on the topic, "The Diaspora after the Yom Kippur 

War, Awakening or Resignation," quoted by Rabi, Un Peuple, p. 88. 

^"^ Annie Kriegel, Israel Hebdo, No. 47, October 15-21, 1976, in which she wrote, 

"Etre sioniste signifie que I'unite du monde juif est pour aujourd'hui et pour un 

avenir previsible, constitue par le rapport indissoluble unissant la Diaspora 

peripherique et I'identite juive en fonction d'Israel." 

^^The "charter" was discussed and approved by the general assembly of the 

CRIF on January 25, 1977 under the name, "la communaute juive dans la cite." 

It was widely disseminated in the general and Jewish press in January and 

February 1977, and was also distributed in pamphlet form by the CRIF. Le 

Monde published it on January 28, 1977. 

French Jewry and the Centrality of Israel 211 

by an umbrella organization representing nearly all of organized French 
Jewry, was the strongest expression of pro-Israel orientation ever 
publicly made in the name of a wide spectrum of the French Jewish 

The charter received much publicity. It was printed in the major 
daily newspapers and much commented in the press. Through it France 
was put on alert that its Jewish population intended to hold France 
accountable for a foreign policy that might jeopardize the security of 
the Jewish State. This came in the wake of increasing terrorism, the 
laxity of western governments in bringing terrorists to justice, and the 
United Nation's declaration that Zionism is racism (1975). 

Even former anti-Zionists and non-Zionists felt compelled to defend 
Zionism from the abhorrent charges. At the same time a movement of 
return began to take place among Jewish former leftists, who gravitated 
to a pro-Israel position after their disillusion with the international 
left, especially with that of the Arab world after the Munich attack on 
Israeli athletes. From anti-Zionism, the former leftists moved toward 
a non-Zionism that supported Israel's right to exist. Some of these 
"returnees" went on to become vociferously right-wing and 
Israelocentric. Others retained a left-wing perspective and, while 
supporting Israel, refused to condone all her policies or to accept the 
centrality doctrine. Some of them joined groups affiliated with the 
Alliance of Jews of the Left, a coalition of various French Jewish left- 
wing organizations. 

By 1978 there were frequent public discussions in which French Jews 
expressed strong feelings of attachment to Israel. At one such gathering 
in a Parisian Jewish community center, a prominent Jewish leader 
declared, "We have a visceral attachment to [Israel]. ..,It is the 
essential factor irrigating our conscience... the guarantee for the Jew of 
his right to be Jewish...." A reporter for Le Monde noted that several of 
the speakers emphasized "the centrality of the State of Israel for the 

Because vociferous opposition continued to impede the development 
of a consensus on the centrality of Israel, encouraging instead Diaspora 
culture based on minority status in a culturally pluralistic France, those 
who called themselves Zionists increased their effort to defend the 
value of centrality. The popular Zionist journalist, Arnold Mandel, for 
example, attacked and ridiculed Diasporist thinking, arguing that 

^^The meeting was held at the Centre Rachi on May 21, 1978, and the speaker 
was Gerard Israel, of the Alliance Israelite Universelle. A reporter from Le 
Monde, Robert Ackermann, published an account of the meeting on May 25, 

212 The Modern Age: History 

what had been possible in Eastern Europe was not reproducible in 
France. The only possible geographical locus now for French Jewish 
culture is the Holy Land. No tradition ties Jews to France, not even as 
much as Ashkenazic culture relates to Germany or Sephardic culture to 
Spain. In fact, even Sephardic tradition is strongly linked to Zion, 
Mandel argued in an article in 1980. As though to clinch the argument 
he quoted the great Spanish Jewish poet, Yehuda Halevi, who had 
written that although he, himself, was in the west, his heart was in 
the east. "He believed in the 'centrality of Israel,'" Mandel 
triumphantly declared.^ ^ 

The debate continued to stir passions within the community. Each 
time "official" spokesmen declared that all French Jews embraced the 
concept of the centrality of Israel, irate Jews, affiliated with 
dissenting groups, or entirely unaffiliated, protested publicly that they 
and many others Hke themselves wished to be excluded from such 
statements falsely made on their behalf.^ ^ 

In defense, the pro-centrality leadership expanded its campaign. 
At a meeting about Israel-Diaspora relations, held by the FSJU, 
leaders defended the slogan against what they thought were 
misunderstandings. The organization's president, David de Rothschild, 
tried to destroy the impression that one must make a choice between 
Israel and the Diaspora. It is possible to accept the centraUty of Israel 
and still live happily in the Diaspora, he insisted. 

Ady Steg, a popular community leader who had been president of 
the CRIF, expanded upon this notion of reconciling existence in the 
Diaspora with a strong and unconditional attachment to Israel. He 
argued that French Jews are mainly "Israelocentristes" who are not 
planning aliya, and who, in order to reconcile themselves to their 
unconsummated affair with Israel, become very staunch supporters of 
the Jewish state. They are less critical of Israeli policies than are 

^'^L'Arche, September-October, 1980, pp. 282-283. To demonstrate what he 
considered to be the ludicrous nature of Diasporist thought, Mandel 
sarcastically imagines a future "Bund" in Paimpol and a "Bashevis Singer 
Institute" in Honfleur. He mockingly predicts the establishment of French 
shtetls, such as "Kassrilevke in Dauphine," and "Jerusalem in Tarn-et- 

^^See, for example, Georges Brissac's open letter to Jean-Paul Elkan, president 
of the Paris consistory, published in La Nation, June 15, 1971. Brissac is angry 
that Elkan presumes to speak in his name when he declares publicly that all 
Jews experience solidarity with Israel "in deeds as well as in words." Brissac 
condemns identification with a foreign country. He chastises Israel's policy of 
occupation, even if he congratulations her for some accomplishments. He 
accuses Zionism of playing into the hands of antisemites. 

French Jewry and the Centrality of Israel 213 

many other Jewish communities. Steg cites the war in Lebanon as an 
example of Israeli policies that French Jews supported with less 
hesitation than did other Diaspora Jewries. ^^ 

Critics and advocates, alike, have been united in the observation 
that identification with Israel provides the substance of French Jewish 
collective identity. The philosopher, Shmuel Trigano, explains this 
phenomenon as a product of French social and cultural values. Because 
French society leaves no room for Jewish specificity within a purely 
French context, French Jews find themselves required to masquerade in 
Zionist garb in order to gain recognition as an authentic community with 
its own identity. Israel is a substitute for local collective identity.^^ 

Trigano's persuasive argument that Israel provides a focus for 
communal identity acceptable to the host society, furnishes only part of 
the explanation for Israelocentrism.^l It is necessary also to look at 
internal Jewish dynamics, both in Israel and between Israel and the 
Diaspora. In Israel the war of 1973 marked the end of a period of 
euphoria and inaugurated a recognition of vulnerability and danger. 
Despite the Jerusalem program, the centrality idea had not been fully 
accepted, nor entirely worked out. Israel renewed its commitment to 
encouraging divergent elements within the Diaspora to come together 
to develop or strengthen their commitment to work in partnership with 

Less intrusive, authoritarian and offensive than they had once 
appeared to French Jewish leaders, resentful of intrusions into their 
own area of authority, Zionist emissaries had now learned to flatter 
Diaspora egos with this emphasis on partnership. French Jews 
responded positively to the new approach, feeling that Israel was at 
last acknowledging their importance. Nor was Israel offering vain 
flattery. There was clearly a desire to cultivate French Jewry as a path 
to the French government, whose Middle East policy had not been 
favorable to Israel since 1968. The Yom Kippur war had convinced 
Zionists of both the isolation of Israel and the powerlessness of the 

^^BuUetin de I'Agence Telegraphique Juive, March 5, 1984. Ady Steg was 

president of the CRIP from 1970 to 1974. At the time of this writing he is 

president of the Alliance Israelite Universelle. 

^^Ziotmt Ideas, No. 9, Fall 1984, p. 73. Richard Marienstras had already made a 

similar point in "Les Juifs de la Diaspora, ou la vocation minoritaire," in Les 

Temps Modernes, August-September 1973. 

^^Although Trigano's argument is persuasive in part, we must also keep in 

mind that the opposite response was often produced by French Zionism or 

Israelocentrism. Frenchmen often used Jews' attachment to Israel as an 

excuse to accuse Jews of "double loyalty." 

214 The Modern Age: History 

Diaspora, and had persuaded them to strengthen the Zionist movement 
in Europe. In this way Zionists expected to overcome their 
powerlessness and to be able to use the Diaspora to help Israel out of its 
isolation. ^^ 

One of the organizations that Zionists saw as useful in this 
endeavor was the Comite Juif d'Action, which had been founded in 
1973, and which in 1976 and 1977 had been largely responsible for two 
very successful demonstrations called "Twelve Hours for Israel." 
Although of local inspiration and leadership, and proud to proclaim 
itself a French group which takes no orders from Israel, the reorganized 
group, known after 1979 as "Renouveau Juif," has had close ties to the 
Jewish Agency. It is mainly a one-issue organization, focusing on 
maintaining concern and support for Israel and on pressuring the French 
government to adopt a Middle East poUcy more favorable to Israel's 
interests. Yet the group does take some interest in Jews in precarious 
situations in other lands and in the transmission within France of 
Jewish culture. 

Renouveau Juif has explicitly endorsed the centrality of Israel, 
while not insisting that all French Jews must commit themselves to 
settlement in Israel. It encourages aliya for those who wish it, and for 
those who cannot make this commitment, it urges increased 
involvement with Israel in a number of ways. "There is a centrality of 
Israel in Jewish life of the end of the twentieth century. This is 
manifest in an increasing number of areas, including what we could call 
'Jewish civilization,' especially in cultural, religious, and moral 
aspects. Jews of our time are active subjects in history through Israel." 
In case the full meaning of this is not sufficiently clear, the group's 
credo states categorically that they consider themselves "doubly loyal, 
and with no sense of being torn apart." 

It is generally assumed that members of Renouveau Juif take an 
unconditional approach to their support for Israel. Yet Henri 
Hajdenberg, the president of the group, has made it clear that he is 
independent of Israel and considers himself free to criticize particular 
Israeli policies. When, however, in September 1982 he spoke out 
against the Israeli army's failure to prevent the massacres at Sabra 
and Chatilla, more than half of his audience of about 2000 people 
became infuriated. Outshouting his speech, they chanted, "Begin and 

22Arie Ya'ari, in his response to Richard Marienstras, "Apres la Tragedie, la 
Farce," in Nouveaux Cahiers, No. 36, Spring 1974, said that the war of 1973 
showed both how isolated Israel is and how powerless the Diaspora is to help 
Israel. Bernard Chaouat repeated the same idea in his "Le Retour de la 
Diaspora," in L'Esprit, April, 1983. 

French Jewry and the Centrality of Israel 215 

Sharon, we are with you!" Although Hajdenberg later declared that 
the disruptive individuals were high school radical Zionists from 
groups like Betar and students who belonged to extreme Zionist 
organizations, he was not successful in dismissing the impression that 
Renouveau Juif includes among its members many who do not tolerate 
any criticism of Israel.^-^ 


Just as the idea of centrality pre-dated the creation of the phrase, 
so did opposition to the concept. The opposition was, of course, rooted in 
the anti-Zionism of the pre-state period, but later it took the form of 
resistance to the tendency of world Jewry to concentrate its resources, 
energy, and sense of identification on Israel. People who spoke out 
against the channeling of Jewish identity into an Israeli mold were 
often mistakenly identified as anti-Zionists, accused of being hostile to 
Israel, and recently some of them have been denigratingly labeled 
"neo-Bundist," despite the inaccuracy of the tag. In truth, with only a 
few exceptions, Jews who questioned the tendency to transfer Jewish 
identification from the local community to Israel were supporters of the 
Jewish State. Their quarrel was with those who would give Israel 

^^Writing in Le Monde as early as October 26-27, 1980, Hajdenberg tried to 
explain that Renouveau Juif does not approve of all of Israel's policies. Yet, he 
explained, French Jews must first build a strongly identified Jewish community 
which will be in a position to push France for a more favorable Middle East 
policy, and only then will French Jews be able to afford outspoken criticism of 

See, also, the collection of press clippings and other memorabilia of the 
organization, distributed by the group in 1983 under the title, Renouveau Juif, 
1973-1983. Unfortunately not all the clippings include dates of publication. 
Appended to the volume is a manifesto, "Perspective 2000," possibly written at 
the time of publication, which provides the point of view of its leadership on the 
major questions we are interested in here. See, especially, pp. 167, 176, 183-187. 

See, also, Le Monde, September 24, 1982, in which Hajdenberg declares that 
Israel is the "center of Judaism," and Le Quotidien de Paris, September 22, 
1982, one among the many accounts of his being forced off the podium and 
escorted away from the September 1982 demonstration called by Renouveau 

In all, three giant meetings have taken place under the banner of "Twelve 
Hours for Israel," in 1976, 1977, and 1980. The impact of this repeated spectacle, 
half political demonstration, half fair, cannot be underestimated. As many as 
150,000 people are thought to have attended at least the second and third 
"Douze Heures," and this both helped to promote and reflected a de-facto 
centrality of Israel in French Jewish life. 

216 The Modern Age: History 

priority as a center for Jewish expression and those who would insist 
that all Israeli policies be endorsed by world Jewry. 

Perhaps the first French Jewish intellectual to call attention to the 
threat to Diaspora cultural independence posed by such concentration on 
Israel was Richard Marienstras. As early as 1952 Marienstras urged 
Jews to strengthen Diaspora culture and to repudiate their assigned role 
as a reservoir for the future population of Israel.-^'^ 

Others had already argued that the Zionist label need not be 
reserved for those who intend to settle in Israel. In the Algerian Jewish 
press a schoolteacher urged that Zionists in France support the 
existence of the Jewish state for the benefit of unfortunate Jews who 
have nowhere else to go. In Paris the Jewish student union republished 
his article in their journal, Kadimah. They endorsed his view of 
Zionism, which not only failed to require plans for aUya of those who 
would call themselves Zionists, but actually opposed the aliya of Jews 
who hold citizenship in the free countries.^^ 

Although, when pronounced in the early years of the Jewish State, 
such ideas were intended as resistance to the domination of Israel, they 
actually helped to develop the notion of "centrality of Israel" in 
Zionist theory. By promoting definitions of Zionism which did not 
require a personal commitment to settle, but only support for the state, 
such definitions encouraged the development of the "Israelocentric" 
Jews identified by Steg as suffering an unconsummated affair with 

The third colloquium of French Jewish intellectuals, meeting under 
the auspices of the World Jewish Congress in May 1963, discussed the 
topic, "Israel and the Diaspora." The Israeli cultural attache, Saul 
Lewin, spoke at length about the contribution of Israel to rescuing 
Jewish culture after the destruction of the ghettos. World Jewry, he 
declared, would have run a great risk after the war if it had not found a 
living center in a Jewish State where it had the necessary conditions for 
the development of Jewish life. 

French Jewish intellectuals in attendance at the meeting were quite 
irritated by what seemed to them like suggestions of Israeli hegemony 
in matters of Jewish culture. They spent a lot of time defending the 
Diaspora's past and present contribution, and rejecting any cultural 
superiority of Israel. Among the participants arguing for full 
recognition of the value of the Diaspora were Emmanuel Levinas, 

^'^Richard Marienstras, "La Fin de I'Exil," in Kadimah, 6th year. Summer 1952, 
p. 2. 

25Henri Cohen-Bacri, "Sionisme et Patriotism," Kadimah, No. 33, July 1950, 
pp. 1, 3 (reprinted from Information). 

French Jewry and the Cetitrality of Israel 217 

Edmond Fleg, Isaac Pougatch, and Alexandre Minkowski. Lewin tried 
to soothe the hurt feeUngs by insisting that the state of Israel was not 
an end, but a means, and that it was at the service of world Jewry. 
Israel, he assured them, did not negate the value of the Diaspora, 
which also plays an essential role.^^ Despite such reassurances, French 
Jewish intellectuals in the years before the Six-Day War continually 
bridled at Zionist attempts to arrogate to Israel a privileged role. 

When, in the aftermath of the 1967 war, French Jewry began to 
concentrate increasingly on Israel, it was again Richard Marienstras 
who led the resistance. As the French Jewish community was re- 
organizing to take up the fight on behalf of Israel, to raise money, to 
improve Israel's pubUc image in France, and to gain more favorable 
treatment for Israel from the French government, Marienstras and his 
friends were creating a new organization, the Cercle Gaston 
Cremieux,^^ which was devoted to propagating Diaspora culture and 
resisting the growing Israel-orientation. The Jerusalem Program's 1968 
call for "the centrality of Israel" provided a clear focus for their 
rebuttal of the majority position. 

Although the group has remained small over the years,^^ the 
Cercle Gaston Cremieux can perhaps boast disproportionate influence. 
They have defended Diasporism in the very public forum of the general 
intellectual press, including L'Esprit and Les Temps Modernes. They 
have organized public meetings to celebrate Yiddish culture, and have 
supported the teaching of Yiddish in the universities. Through their 
efforts the French public has been educated to the existence and 
vocabulary of Diaspora culture, and has experienced aspects of it in 
public places of culture, such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris. 
Marienstras has joined with other minority groups in France working 
for a pluralist society, and was appointed by Mitterand to the 
committee which reported on minority cultures shortly after the 
socialists came to power in 1981 .^^ 

In his various writings and talks Marienstras has articulated the 
right of all minorities to assistance for cultural survival. He compares 

^^Lfl Conscience Juive, Colloque des Intellectuels Juifs, Paris, 1963, pp. 22-33. 
^^The group was named for a Jew who died in the Paris commune. Most of the 
French are unaware of the existence of Gaston Cremieux, whom they tend to 
confuse with Adolphe Cremieux, the Jewish statesman and Minister of Justice 
responsible for granting citizenship to the Jews of Algeria in 1870. 
^^Marienstras estimated a membership of one hundred families in 1981 when I 
interviewed him. 

^^Henri Giordan, Democratie Culturelle et Droit a la Difference (Rapport au 
Ministre de la Culture), Paris, 1982. 

218 The Modern Age: History 

the fate of the Jews in France with that of French provincials; they 
were all nnisled into abandoning their old identities and developing a 
patriotic chauvinism for France. Eventually the Jews transferred their 
loyalties to Israel. Marienstras prefers the Diasporist choice, rather 
than either Zionism or religious Judaism, and blames France's denial of 
recognition to cultural minorities for the excessive Jewish identification 
with Israel."^^ 

Attacked by Zionists for his public pronouncements, Marienstras, in 
the following year, defended his ideas in a further explication of his 
position. Defense of minority rights is not Bundism, but a widely-held 
value in the contemporary world. Nor is he anti-Israel, as the Bundists 
were. Marienstras warns that the only centrality is a centrality of 
danger and risk. Only in Israel is Jewish life in real danger today, and 
this fact should make Jews of the Diaspora worry very much. He 
repudiates the plans of the Zionist Organization to control Diaspora 
institutions through institutional and financial involvement, and calls 
instead for a real partnership between the two and for the development 
of local Jewish cultiire.^^ In the same year, 1974, the Cercle Gaston 
Cremieux participated, together with Basques, Bretons, Occitans, 
Armenians, and others, in a large public meeting of national minorities, 
held at Versailles. ^^ 

^^Les Temps Modernes, Aug-Sep 1973, especially pp. 72, 73, 82, 87. 
•^^Richard Marienstras, Les Nouveaux Cahiers, 36, Spring 1974. It is interesting 
to note that shortly after this publication the Zionist rhetoric did begin to 
change, as we have mentioned above, and they addressed the French Jews 
more in terms of partnership. In the same issue there appears the major attack 
to which Marienstras is responding, an article by the Zionist emissary, Arieh 
Ya'ari, who misrepresented Marienstras as an anti-Zionist Bundist. Ya'ari also 
argued that without Israel Diaspora Jewry's survival would have been 
inconceivable. Furthermore, he challenged, the very reason that there has 
been a post-war revival of faith in diasapora culture is the existence of Israel. 
Ya'ari warns that culture was never enough to protect a defenseless minority 
and that even those who affirm the centrality of Israel but argue that there is a 
safe future for the Diaspora are committing a serious error. 
■'^The meeting was called "Six Hours for the National Minorities." It appears to 
have provided the inspiration for the name for the pro-Israel rallies that were 
later held under the banner "Twelve Hours for Israel." 

Another group, the "Association of Anti-Zionist Jews," participated in the 
national minorities demonstration along with the Cercle Gaston Cremieux. Not 
much is known about this group. In an interview with the left-wing journal. 
Liberation, they explained that they refused to accept Zionism as a stage in the 
liberation of the Jewish people, but, rather, saw it as a result of the interests of 
the great powers. They also stressed the positive nature of the Diaspora and 

French Jewry and the Centrality of Israel 219 

In the following year Marienstras published a book in which he 
collected his writings and talks on this topic. The book received much 
publicity when it was reviewed in the general press, and helped to 
spread knowledge about internal Jewish ideological disputes and the 
efforts of the Diasporists to combat the growing concentration on Israel. 
Alain Guichard, in his review in Le Monde, explained that Marienstras 
is concerned with conserving the values of Jewish tradition in a 
secularized world. This effort is hampered by the centrality myth, 
which is antagonistic to many Diaspora values. In fact, many of the 
major values, including the religious ones, are not historically Unked to 
the Land of Israel, but developed elsewhere. 

The reviewer showed that Marienstras' ideas fit the growing 
demand in France for the "right to be different." He explained that 
Marienstras had been urging the Jewish community to become a model 
for other cultural minority groups by renouncing its focus on Israel in 
favor of developing a strong cultural movement focused on the 
Diaspora. ^^ 

Two years later, the Cercle Gaston Cremieux took the pains to reply 
to the CRIF's 1977 "charter," which we have discussed above. In a long 
communique published in Le Monde, they denied that there is any 
"privileged" expression of Jewish existence. Before and beyond the 
State of Israel there has always been the People of Israel, the 
collective existence of the Jews, wherever they are. It is this people of 
Israel that is central, not the modern state of Israel.^"^ 

There have been other intellectuals, unaffiliated with the Cercle 
Gaston Cremieux, whose views bear certain similarities, although 
they, themselves, have emphasized the differences that separate 
them, rather than the similarities that unite them. Wladimir Rabi, 
after whom a Diasporist group in Strasbourg has since been named, 
contrasted his own views with those of Marienstras. He objected to 
Marienstras" analogy between the Jews and the territorial minorities 
within France, such as the Bretons and the Corsicans, who have both 
language and land. Rabi chastised Marienstras for minimizing the 
"gut" feelings of Jews for Israel. It is not possible, he said, to brush 
away the fact that for several years 100,000 to 150,000 Jews have 
turned up for massive pro-Israel rallies. 

the need to direct their political activity toward society in general and not just 

toward Israel. Liberation, June 12, 1974. 

33 Alain Guichard, Le Monde, May 3, 1975. 

3^Le Monde, February 6-7, 1977; The communique added that a vital link 

between the Diaspora and Israel is felt more in Israel, which depends upon the 

Diaspora's financial assistance. 

220 The Modern Age: History 

Rabi emphasizes his own duaUstic view of the nature of Jewish 
existence. He reminds us that the tension between centrality and 
polycentrality in Jewish life has existed since the Babylonian 
dispersion, and that the modern ideological spUt dates from the end of 
the nineteenth century when the Zionist movement met the resistance 
of the Diasporists. In a Dubnovian vein, he argues that it was 
decentralization that allowed the Jewish people to survive over the 
centuries, because each time one center of Jewish Ufe was destroyed, 
another arose.^^ 

After the war of 1973, Rabi was one of the intellectuals who 
created a pro-Zionist pressure group, but he distanced himself from the 
centrality value. He continued to argue for equality between Israel and 
the Diaspora. Although he beHeved that Zionism needed protection 
against strong anti-Zionist propaganda, he became increasingly 
skeptical of the relative weight of Israel's role in world Jewish life, 
and stressed the need to strengthen the Diaspora component. 

When we examine Rabi's writings and his personal involvement, it 
is hard to discern much concrete difference between him and 
Marienstras. Neither repudiates Israel, nor even lacks sympathy for 
the Jewish state."^^ Nor does either grant it the "centrality" it seeks. 
The differences between the two thinkers are largely in the matter of 
whether Jewish existence may profitably be described in the same 
terms as those used for territorial cultural minorities within a modern 
western state, and whether such an analysis provides a pathway to 
gain support for Diaspora culture. 

Shmuel Trigano, like Rabi, has taken Marienstras to task for 
applying the term "minority" to Jews, but has, nevertheless, also 
endorsed many of Marienstras' basic ideas. Trigano, too, stresses the 
concept of "Knesset Israel," the Jewish people, as more central than 
Israel to Jewish existence.-^ •^ Writing in 1984, Trigano reiterates what 
Marienstras had already suggested in 1952, that identification with 
Israel has been a substitute for local collective identity, " order to 
gain recognition as a collective Jewish community in France," he writes. 

^^Wladimir Rabi, Un Peuple de Trop, chapter 5, "Remise en question de la 

centralite d'Israel." 

^^Rabi, in Le Monde, March 18, 1980, for example, warns Giscard d'Estaing's 

government that France's Jews are becoming dissidents. They are at odds with 

their government over its Middle East policy because of the importance of 

Israel to the Jewish community. 

^''Marienstras' insistence on the importance of the entire people of Israel, in all 

the communities where they may be found, is stressed again in the 

communique of the Cercle Gaston Cremieux, in Le Monde, February 6-7, 1977. 

French Jewry and the Centrality of Israel 221 

"the Jews have been forced to rely on the Zionist symbol three thousand 
kilometers away." Their real desire is to express themselves as a 
Jewish community in France, and they should be encouraged to do this. 
Trigano calls on French Jews to repudiate the "Jacobin" terms of their 
emancipation and to convene a new "Sanhedrin"^^ in order to redefine 
the nature of their existence in France.^^ 

What to the outsider may here appear to be essentially the same 
thesis, is to Trigano and Marienstras two different philosophies 
separated by a wide gulf. Whereas Marienstras is nourished by the 
east European model of multi-cultural states, in which Jews defined 
their secular cultural identity in terms of minority culture, Trigano is 
rooted in a combination of two conflicting elements. He is inspired by 
traditional Jewish communities and, paradoxically, by a political 
analysis that rejects aspects of the French political tradition, yet fully 
identifies with France. This full identification with the French 
tradition explains why he angrily denounces Marienstras' willingness 
to discuss the Jewish case in the context of minorities like the Gypsies 
or foreign laborers. Unlike those groups, Trigano insists, Jews have a 
long tradition of being fully French."^^ 

^^Trigano here refers to the so-called "Sanhedrin," called by Napoleon in 1806, 
to obtain the promise of Jewish leaders that Jewish law and tradition will not 
prevent Jews from being good citizens. Trigano is among the minority of Jews 
who have interpreted that Sanhedrin as a bartering away of the Jewish right to 
be different, in exchange for the rights of the citizen. 

^^Shmuel Trigano, "Zionism as a Stragegy for the Diaspora: French Jewry at a 
Crossroads," in Zionist Ideas (World Zionist Organization), No. 9, Fall 1984, pp. 
69-74, passim (reprinted from "Viewpoint," a publication of the Jerusalem 
Center for Public Affairs). See also, in the same volume of Zionist Ideas, 
Trigano's comments, pp. 18-21. See also his book. La Repubiique apres 
Copernic, Paris, 1982, passim. 

^°Shmuel Trigano, "Communaute en Peril!," in L'Arche, No. 315, June 1983. 
When a public meeting was held at the Centre Rachi to discuss the Giordan 
report on cultural minorities, Trigano took the opportunity to make this point. 
(Personal notes taken at the meeting.) 

Annie Kriegel has also denounced the use of the term, "minority," to refer to 
the Jews. It may sometimes be difficult for the outsider to comprehend fully 
why this term is such an irritant. Perhaps the answer lies not in mathematics, as 
a count of the population is not needed in order to ascertain that the Jews 
constitute a small percentage, but, rather, in the cherished notion that in most 
ways, politically, culturally, and socially, the Jews are an integral part of the 
French population. That they have certain specificities, including an 
attachment to Israel, which they want acknowledged by the rest of the 
population does not make of them a minority group, according to this way of 

Ill The Modern Age: History 

Luc Rosenzweig is a Yiddishist who has railed against the scope of 
Israel's role in French Jewish life. Noting that other vibrant Diaspora 
communities, especially those of America, provide a better model for 
creating modern relationships between Jews and non-Jews than does 
Israel, he exclaims that "Jewishness is not limited to Israel and the 
Hebrew language." In a 1978 article in Le Monde, he accuses the French 
Jewish establishment of displaying indifference to the survival of the 
Yiddish language.^^ 

Included among the opponents of the centrality of Israel throughout 
the 1970s were those who spoke in the name of religion. While it is 
true, as we have seen, that the religious institutions were at this time 
embracing Israel ever more warmly, adding religious rituals that 
honored the state, and propagating philosophical/theological systems 
of thought that tried to link Zionism with religion, other religious 
thinkers, both affiliated and unaffiliated with the "official" 
community, were complaining about the emphasis on Israel's centraUty. 
Among them were the former secretary of religious affairs at the 
consistory of Paris, Robert Sommer, and Joel Askenazi, a Bible and 
Talmud professor in the independent university-level Jewish studies 
program of courses offered to students in Paris alongside the official 

In his courses and in his writings Askenazi argues that inasmuch as 
Israelis often identify only as Israelis, and not as Jews, only the 
Diaspora guarantees the retention of traditional Jewish identity. 
Askenazi rejects as antagonistic to religious tradition all claims that 
Israel embodies messianic fulfillment. He insists that the traditional 
religious centrality of the land of Israel is entirely different from the 
claims of political centrality made by the Zionists. He denounces the 
ties that exist in Israel between religion and the state."^^ 

Robert Sommer's argument is based on the observation that in post- 
war France the acceptable definition of "Jewish" had been changing. 

'^^Le Monde, June 25-26, 1978. See also his edited book. Catalogue pour des 
Juifs de Maintenant, No. 38 in the series, "Recherches," Paris, 1979. 
"^^The Centre Universitaire d'Etudes Juives during many years offered non- 
credit courses in all aspects of Jewish studies. It later became incorporated into 
a community center, the Centre Rachi, and received permission from the 
Sorbonne to offer credit-bearing courses. 

^^Joel Askenazi, "Centralite d'lsrael?," in Nouveaux Cahiers, No. 38, Fall 1974. 
As early as 1965 Georges Friedmann had already alerted France to the Israelis 
who do not consider themselves Jews. He had conluded that therefore Israel is 
not a Jewish State. "There is no Jewish nation. There is an Israeli nation." 
Georges Friedmann, La Fin du Peuple Juif?, Paris, 1965 (English edition, 
p. 239). 

French Jewry and the Centrality of Israel 223 

Whereas previously even the non-observant among French Jews 
accepted the premise that Jewish identity was essentially religious, 
now they embrace the pluralistic value that there are many equally 
good definitions of Jewish identity. Israelocentrism is attacked by 
Sommer as an unacceptable substitute for a religious conception of 

Some of the other religious thinkers who argued against centrality 
evinced extreme hostility to the Jewish State. Emmanuel Levyne, in a 
1969 book entitled Judaism against Zionism, accused Zionism of 
promoting the same goal as had been promoted by the Nazis, the 
removal of all Jews from Europe. Levyne argued that Jewish strength 
had always derived from the fact that Jews were stateless and lived 
only in the realm of Jewish law.'^^ 

From a left-wing perspective, many of the groups affiliated with 
the Association des Juifs de Gauche have repudiated centrality. (The 
major exception, of course, has been the Mapam-affiliated Cercle 
Bernard Lazare.) At a meeting of this coalition, held in May 1983, the 
consensus of the 300-400 people who represented various groups was 
that the Diaspora must be independent culturally and politically. 
They felt that Israel's war in Lebanon, of which they disapproved, 
had confirmed them in the view that as Diaspora Jews they must 
develop their political views locally, and reject any attempt of Israel 
to dictate or to enUst their aid to defend policies which they could not 
accept. They urged greater emphasis on the development of Diaspora 
culture, and discussed a plan for a Jewish cultural center."^^ 

From the opposite point of view, some of the more radical Zionist 
groups, especially the Comite de Liaison des Etudiants Sionistes 
Socialists (CLESS), repudiated the centraHty theory because it tended 
to minimize the importance of aliya, allowing Israelocentrism to 
suffice as a criterion for Zionism. The CLESS, active during the 1970s 
among student groups, held public meetings, distributed literature, 
displayed posters, and eventually captured the leadership of the 
French Zionist organization, all in an effort to promote aliya.'*^ 

^^Robert Sommer, "Crise d'Identite du Judaisme Frangais?," in Le Monde, 

December 27, 1972. 

"^^Emmanuel Levyne, Judaisme contre Sionisme, Paris, 1969. The book was 

reviewed in Combat, December 18, 1969. 

46personal notes taken at the meeting. May 28-29, 1983. 

^^Among the leaders of this student group was Simon Epstein, now of 

Jerusalem, to whom I owe a great debt of thanks for many hours of explanation 

about these and other matters. 

224 The Modern Age: History 


What has been the effect of the centrality debate on the French 
Jewish community? The answer to this question is not as clear or as fixed 
as one might have supposed. While it is true that for a long period of 
time much of French Jewry had become "Israelized,"^^ it is less certain 
that French Jewry is continuing to remain faithful to the model 
proposed by the Jerusalem Program. 

Any attempt to evaluate the relative weight of the groups whose 
ideas and ideologies have been sketched above is fraught with risk of 
distortion. All conclusions are necessarily inipressionistic, as much of 
the available source material consists of polemical literature that may 
have been designed more to win adherents than to portray accurately 
the shifts in Jewish public opinion. 

Thus, when members of the Association of Jews of the Left 
proclaimed that Israel's 1982 war in Lebanon caused many French Jews 
to decide that they could no longer remain tacit unconditional 
supporters of Israeli policy ,^^ this statement may have been an 
observation, but it was more likely an appeal for distancing from Israel. 
Similarly, when Ady Steg assured an audience that French Jews were 
not seriously divided in their support for Israel in 1982,^'^ he may have 
been reflecting a true absence of the serious divisions that had 
characterized other Diaspora communities at that time, but it is more 
likely he was trying to quiet dissent. 

Will French Jewry pursue the path of "Israelization" or of 
"Diasporization?" One can convincingly paint the picture either way. 
Perhaps growing dissatisfaction with Israel's military policies is 
combining with a growing French appreciation of the importance of 
minority cultures to drain support for the centrality of Israel and to 
facilitate Diasporism. On the other hand, it may be Israel, rather than 
the Diaspora, that increasingly dominates French Jewish consciousness. 
As Henri Bulawko, of the Mapam-affiliated Cercle Bernard Lazare 
asked, is it really possible to deny centrality when everything Israel 
does implicates all Jews of the Diaspora?^^ 

Happily, it is not the role of the historian to prophesy. Not even a 
historian foolish enough to tackle a contemporary subject need feel 
obligated to look into the future. Were we, however, tempted to map 
the future of this tension between Israel and the Diaspora, we might 

'^^Pierre Nora, quoted by Rabi, Un Peuple, p. 85 and p. 205, note 5. 

"^^Personal notes taken at the meeting. May 28-29, 1983. 

^^Bulletin Quotidien d'Informations, Agence Telegraphique Juive, March 5, 

1984, p. 4. 

^^Personal notes taken at the meeting. May 28-28, 1983. 

French Jewry and the CeJttrality of Israel 225 

rely on evidence such as rhetoric about pluralism in France. We n^ight 
cite the advocates of territorial minority rights or the ministerial 
instructions that schools should discuss and encourage pluralism. But if 
we did rely on such evidence we might reach an over-confident 
assumption that Diasporism had found fertile ground in a new 
pluralistic France. 

Were we to attempt to predict the future we might just as easily 
cite the growth of the radical right in France, with its racist and anti- 
foreign slogans. We might suggest that the lip service given to 
pluralism will not necessarily translate into anything concrete. We 
might even become cynical and argue that classroom discussions about 
pluralism held one day each year may be the best way to thwart any 
serious movement in that direction. If we reasoned in this way we 
might conclude that xenophobia in France will lead to a resurgence of 

If the historian is not obligated to furnish a blueprint for the future, 
he does, nevertheless, have the job of suggesting how we have arrived 
where we are today. Who and what have determined the direction of 
the debate about the "centrahty of Israel?" Many of the major players 
in the story have already been mentioned, and I will only summarize 
what seems to me to have been the significant lines of development. 

Texts that were of primary importance in setting the parameters 
and definitions of the debate include Koestler's 1949 Promise and 
Fulfillment and Friedmann's 1965 The End of the Jewish People? These 
books posed the basic challenge to the Diaspora and popularized the 
dichotomy between an assimilating Diaspora and Israel. Memmi's 1966 
classic. The Liberation of the Jew, appeared at a critical moment; and 
his analysis of Zionism as the national liberation movement of Jews 
contributed to the "Israelization" of French Jewry that occurred in the 
wake of the 1967 war. 

At the same time Richard Marienstras, who had not waited until 
1967 or 1968 to notice the threat posed by Israel to Diaspora cultural 
development, began to have an impact on larger numbers of people. He 
succeeded in disseminating notions about the importance of Diaspora 
culture that have influenced even many who disagree with him. 

In the late 1970s and the early 1980s the Renouveau Juif and its 
"Twelve Hours for Israel," reached unprecedented numbers of people. 
The potential audience of this same leadership group was extended 
dramatically when Serge Hajdenberg began the first Jewish radio 
station to appear in France after Mitterand's election signalled an 

226 The Modern Age: History 

invitation to establish private stations. ^^ "Radio J/' and its three 
conipetitors, v^hich later became partners, have been influential in 
keeping Israel a constant presence in French Hving rooms. 

To the extent that Diasporism has been gaining adherents, one 
cannot ignore the influence of the United States. Whereas the east 
European model has nourished the ideologists of the Diaspora, that 
model is considered to be incarnated today in the American Jewish 
community. Jewish life in the multi-national, multi-racial, multi- 
cultural United States, and especially New York, serves as an 
inspiration to those who would believe that cultural creativity 
particular to Jews, and yet in a secular and non-territorial form, can 
continue to flourish. 

Writing in 1969, Sylvie Korcaz concluded that although Israel was 
the focus of French Jewish self-identification, it was not the cause of 
this identification. ^3 The implications of Korcaz' observation have 
been insufficiently appreciated. It is possible that Israel serves merely 
as the focus of pre-existing Jewish group sentiment and ethnicity in the 
absence of other symbols or ideologies. Religion no longer serves this 
uniting function, and French Jews have not decided to what extent they 
will accept ethnicity as a rationale for Jewish cohesiveness. Moreover, 
since ties of family, folklore and sentiment bind Jews to the Land of 
Israel, making it difficult to separate the land from the state, Israel 
should not necessarily be credited with maintaining Diaspora 
Judaism's cohesiveness. 

The debate over the "centrality of Israel" has not been limited to 
France. The Jerusalem Program had been addressed to the entire 
Diaspora, and it had repercussions in all large Jewish communities. In 
France it took on a special significance because of the nature of the 
French political tradition and the style of French intellectual debate. 
But, most importantly perhaps, the flavor of the debate has been 
determined by the unique composition of the French Jewish community. 
The passion of the struggle between Israelocentrism and Diasporism 
derives from the varied historical experiences within French Jewry, 
including those of the "native" Jews, whose identification with the 

^^Until Mitterand's election in 1981 the airwaves were a government monopoly. 
The socialist government was expected to legalize private broadcasting and a 
number of would-be radio stations sprang up quickly after the election in order 
to claim recognition. The radio authorities ultimately regulated the chaos by 
assigning frequencies, forcing the merger of some stations and the closing of 
others. The four Jewish radio stations that had been opened were merged into 
one frequency, with divided broadcast time. 
^^Sylvie Korcaz, Les ]uifs de France et I'Etat d 'Israel, Paris, 1969. 

French Jewry and the Centrality of Israel 227 

French Revolution's concept of Jewishness had been disturbed by their 
experience of Vichy, the east European holocaust survivors, who 
transmitted the double legacy of Diasporism and Zionism, and the 
North African Jews who entered metropolitan France late enough for 
their ties with Israel to have been directly with the state, rather than 
via Zionism.^'^ 

^"^The observation about North African Jewry's attachment to Israel is made by 
David Lazar, in his "Comment," (on the article by Doris Bensimon on French 
Zionism), in Moshe Davis, ed., Zionism in Transition, New York, 1980, p. 152. 


Abrahams, Robert 129, 130 
Adam 26, 37, 38, 90, 92-97, 99- 

103, 126 
adjudication 24-27 
Agnon,S.Y. 116 
Ahad Ha'am 65 
Amalekites 19, 21, 22 
American Joint Distribution 

Committee (JDC) 73, 74 
American Red Cross 68 
Angress, Ruth K. 137 
Anti-Defamation League 

(ADD 72, 199-201 
antisemitism 61, 62, 66, 70, 72, 

117, 189-193, 195-202 
Aquinas, Thomas 15 
Arabs 116, 122, 181, 183-185, 187 
Aramaic Targum 56 
Arendt, Hannah 143 
Arieli (Orloff), L.A. 115-122 
Askenazi, Joel 222 

assimilation 8, 190, 193, 194, 

207, 208 
Association des Juifs de 

Gauche 223 
Augustine 109 

Auschwitz 41, 53, 137-142, 144, 

146-148, 150, 151 
autonomy, autonomous 8, 10, 42, 

112, 119, 180, 181 
B'nai B'rith 71, 72, 80, 82, 200, 

Bahja Ibn Pakuda 6 
Balfour Declaration 65, 79 
Bamberger, S.B. 8 
Barbarash, Ernest E. 69, 70 
Bardin, Shlomo 51 
Baron, S.W. 19, 126 
Behrman House 117, 127, 128 
Berdichevsky, M.Y. 119 
Berger, D. 29 
Bernays 5 
Bible 5, 56-59, 78, 87-90, 103, 

Blidstein, G. 22, 23 
Bloom, H. 94, 97, 110, 117 
Borowski, Tadeusz 144 
Brandeis, Louis D. 64, 66, 67, 75 
Brenner,Y.C. 116, 118, 119 
Breuer, Isaac 4 
Breuer, Mordecai 4, 7, 8, 32 



Intellect in Quest of Understanding 

Britain, Mandate for 

Palestine 181-184 
Bulawko, Henri 224 
Bundist 158, 161, 162, 170 
Canaanites 19-21 
Canada 89, 126 
Canadian Forum 126 
Cavell, S. 105, 107 

Central Conference of American 
Rabbis (CCAR) 80-82 

Centrality (cf. Israelo- 

centrism) 4, 44, 53, 80, 88, 203- 

220, 222-226 
Cercle Bernard Lazare 223, 224 
Cercle Gaston Cremieux 217-219 
Chomsky, Noam 149 
Christians 28, 58, 146 
Cohen, Hermaim 24 
Cohen, Mortimer 129, 131 
Columbus Platform 80, 82 
Comite de Liaison des 

Etudiants Sionistes Social- 

istes (CLESS) 223 

complacency 139, 150, 196, 201 
Conseil Representatif des 

Institutions Juives de France 

(CRIF) 207, 210, 212 

Conservative movement 51, 62 
Council of Jewish Federations 

and Welfare Funds 

(CJFWF) 73 

covenant 17, 19, 99 

David 13, 18, 69, 77, 105, 137, 
155, 185 

de Boten, Abraham 18 

de Rothschild, David 212 

de Rothschild, Guy 209 
denial 195-200, 218 
Deuteronomy 19, 20, 101 
dhimmis 19 
Diaspora 66, 80, 119, 131, 135, 

175, 198, 203-214, 216-220, 

Diasporism, Diasporiza- 

tion 210, 217, 224-227 
Dinah 24 
dual character 193 
dual identity 192, 195 
Eden 45, 47, 48, 89-93, 95, 97, 

EHot, T.S. 82, 143 
Emancipation 7, 8, 13, 221 
Emerson, R.W. 106, 109, 110, 114 

Enlightenment 5, 7, 9, 66, 157, 

158, 167 
Epstein, Judith 76 
Epstein, Yehial Michal 14 
Eretz Israel 66, 67, 71 
Eve 89-103, 166 
Fackenheim, Emil 40-42, 44, 45, 

fear 19, 32, 106, 119, 122, 164, 

195-197, 199-202, 210 
Federation of American 

Zionists (FAZ) 62, 63 
Federations 74, 80, 82, 83 
Federbush, Simon 14 
Feibelman, Julian 129-131, 133 
Fein, Leonard 45, 46, 51 
fellaheen 183 



Finkelstein, Louis 18, 20, 32, 76, 

Folly (as character in liter- 
ature) 89, 99 

Ponds Social Juif Unifie 
(FSJU) 208, 209, 212 

Fox, Marvin 125 

Foxman, Abraham 201 

Friedlaender, Israel 63 

Friedmaim, Georges 204 

Frisch, Daniel 79 

Garmaise, Max 126 

Geiger 55 

ger toshab 17, 18, 21, 24, 28 

Gerson, Felix 129, 131, 134 

Giorcelli, C. 114 

God 5, 6, 10, 11, 18-20, 23, 25, 26, 
28-31, 37, 41, 43, 44, 47, 51, 76, 
81, 87-91, 93, 95-97, 99-102, 
109, 123, 134 

Goldman, Frank 72 

Goldman, Solomon 63, 67, 68 

Gottheil, Richard 63 

Grayzel, Solomon 129, 131-134 

Gregory the Great 107, 108 

Grunfeld, I. 9, 10 

Hadassah65, 76 

Hadassah Newsletter 77 

Hadot, P. 110 

Hajdenberg, Henri 214, 215 

Hajdenberg, Serge 225 

halakha 58-60 

Halprin, Rose 76, 77 

Hashomer Hatzair move- 
ment 65 

Hasmonean kingdom 13 

Hath Not a Jew 128 

Hazaz, H. 117 

Hebrew Bible 56, 78, 87-90, 103 

Hebrew 45, 47, 55-57, 68, 69, 73, 
75, 100, 102, 111, 115-118, 120, 
122, 125, 126, 157-159, 161, 
162, 169, 171, 175, 186, 187, 222 

Hebron riots 127 

Hecht, Ben 71 

heder, kheyder 156, 168-170 

Hegel3, 6, 11 

Herzog, Isaac Halevi 14, 69, 

Hillel the Elder 70 
Himmelfarb, Milton 198, 199 
Hisda 26 
Histadrut 179 

Hitler, Adolph 68, 133, 142, 143 
Holocaust 40-43, 61, 65, 68-70, 

73, 76, 80, 82, 83, 137, 150, 192, 

200, 201, 227 
Horowitz, Isaiah Ha-Levi 16, 

Hotel Terminus 137 
Hume, David 15 
identity 49, 192-195, 205, 210, 

213, 215, 220-223 
idolatry 17, 26, 27, 51, 90, 100 
Ihud group 65 
independence 23, 24, 30, 37, 70, 

75, 77, 111, 173, 175, 176, 178- 

Isaac bar Abdimi 26 
Israel 28, 41, 49, 51, 57, 59, 65- 

67, 70-72, 74, 77-83, 101, 116- 


Intellect in Quest of Understanding 

118, 134, 173-187, 200, 201, 
203-220, 222-227 
Israel, land of 17-20, 30, 32, 35, 
102, 117, 204, 206, 219, 222, 226 

Israel, state of 13, 14, 17, 22, 62, 
75, 77, 80, 82, 173, 175, 183, 
185, 186, 203-205, 207, 209, 

Israelocentrism (cf. Central- 

ity) 205, 207, 213, 223, 226 
Isserles, Moses 27, 32 
Jabetz, Z. 118 
Jabotinsky, Vladimir 69 
Jacob 4, 8, 25, 32, 157, 165, 167 
Jakobovits, I. 32 
JDC 73, 74 
Jeremiah 90, 91, 100 

Jerusalem Program 203, 204, 

208, 209, 213, 224, 226 
Jewish Agency 179, 214 
Jewish education 125, 126, 167, 


Jewish Publication Society 
(JPS) 62, 69, 125-134 

Jewish State 14, 18, 21, 22, 57, 
62, 65, 69, 71, 74, 76-80, 82, 83, 
168, 173, 174, 177-179, 182, 
185, 204-208, 211, 212, 215, 
216, 220, 223 

Jewish Theological Seminary 
of America (JTS) 76, 155 

Jewish thought 35, 40, 57, 58, 

Jewry 8, 13, 35, 43, 45, 46, 52, 59, 
60, 66, 70, 73, 79, 80, 83, 156, 
157, 165, 203-208, 210, 211, 
213, 215-217, 224-226 

Joshua 20 

Jubilee 17 

Kabbalah 35, 36, 39-44, 50-52, 

Kahane, Meir 199 
Kallen, Horace M. 64, 75 
Kaplan, Mordecai M. 79, 80, 

133, 161 
Karo, Joseph 16, 21, 32 
Kaufman, Menahem 73, 74 
Klein, A.M. 125-134 
Klein, I. 16 
Klein, Max D. 127 
Koestler, Arthur 207 
Korcaz, Sylvie 226 
Kozlov, Bessie 126 
Kriegel, Annie 210 
Kristallnacht 66, 67 
Kushner, Lawrence 46, 47, 50 
Langan, John 21 
law, Noahide 16, 27 
League of Nations 182 
Lerner, Michael 48 
Levi 24-26, 115,160 
Levinthal, Louis 128-134 
levirate 31 
Levy, Felix A. 81 
Levyne, Emmanuel 223 
Lewisohn, Ludwig 69, 70 
Lindheim, Irma 65 
Loeb, Oscar 127 

Luria, Isaac 35, 36, 39, 44, 45, 

47, 48, 162 
Lurianic myth 36, 42, 43, 45, 46, 

Machiavelli, Niccolo 20 



Magnes, Judah L. 64, 65 
Maimonides 16-31, 58, 131 
Mandate Government 177, 179 
Mandel, Arthur 211, 212 
Mandelbaum, Sylvia 200 
Marienstras, Richard 216-221, 

Matthiessen, F.O. 110 
Meiri 6 

Memmi, Albert 210 
Mendelsohn, Moses 57 
Mendes, Henry P. 62, 76, 171 
Menorah Journal 126, 129, 132 
metaphysics 29 
Michaels, W.B. 113 
Midrash 41, 58, 59, 87, 94, 95, 

Milton, John 87-94, 97-103, 110, 

modernization 156, 174, 177 
Monsky, Henry 71 
Montreal Group 126 
Morals, Sabato 62, 75 
Moses 18, 27-29, 32, 35, 57, 106, 

110, 126 
Muslims 28 
Nahmanides 16, 18, 20, 23-26, 

Nativism 61 

nature 4, 5, 7-10, 29, 39, 43, 49, 
50, 52, 53, 61, 71, 73, 78, 89, 94, 
96, 100, 109, 112-114, 148, 150, 
199, 201, 202, 208, 220, 221, 226 

Nazism 61, 82, 138, 142 

Neo-Nazi 200, 201 

Neumann, Emanuel 68, 69, 79 

Neusner, Jacob 32 

New Palestine 69, 76-79 

Noahides 16-18, 22, 25, 28 

Novak, David 13-15, 28, 30, 32 

Novalis 105, 110, 112 

Old Testament 89, 90, 102, 113 

Palestine 52, 62-69, 72-74, 76- 

79, 81, 82, 115-119, 122, 175, 

176, 179, 181-183, 208 

Palestinian Arabs 183, 185 

Paradise Lost 87-91, 100, 103 

Passfield White Paper 67 

Philo 15, 57, 58 

Pittsburgh Program 65, 79 

Plato 19, 110 

Poetry 87-90, 92, 102, 117, 122, 

125-132, 134, 135, 206 
Progressives 64 
Prophets 49, 62, 68, 75, 78, 87, 

89, 90, 102 
proselytizing 28 
Proust, M. 112 
Proverbs 88, 100 
Raab, Earl 201 
Rabi, Wladimir 219, 220 
Radbaz 30 
Rashbam 15 
Rashi 18, 20, 30, 32 
Raskin, Philip 132 
Realpolitik 3 2 
Reform movement 62, 68, 82 
Renouveau Juif 214, 215, 225 
revelation 3-7, 9, 10, 28-30, 39 
Revisionist 8, 69, 70, 149 
Rosenblatt, Bernard 65, 75, 89 

Brown Judaic Studies 

William S. Green 

Tzvee Zahavy 

William S. Green 

Joshua B. Stein 

S. Daniel Breslauer 

Robert Goldenberg 

Joel Gereboff 

Shamai Kanter 

William S. Green 

Jacob Neusner 

William S. Green 

Howard R. Greenstein 

Pamela Vermes 

Anthony J. Saldarini 

Jacob Neusner 

Jacob Neusner 

Baruch M. Bokser 

Peter J. Haas 
Martin S.Jaf fee 

14000 1 Approaches to Ancient Judaism I 

140002 The Traditions ofEleazar Ben Azariah 

140003 Persons and Institutions in Early Rabbinic Judaism 

140004 Claude Goldsmid Montefiore on the Ancient Rabbis 

140005 The Ecumenical Perspective and the Modernization 
of Jewish Religion 

140006 The Sabbath-Law of Rabbi Meir 

140007 Rabbi Tarfon 

140008 Rabban Gamaliel II 

140009 Approaches to Ancient Judaism II 

1400 1 Method and Meaning in Ancient Judaism 

1400 1 1 Approaches to Ancient Judaism III 

140012 Turning Point: Zionism and Reform Judaism 

1400 1 3 Buber on God and the Perfect Man 

140014 Scholastic Rabbinism 

1400 1 5 Method and Meaning in Ancient Judaism II 

1400 1 6 Method and Meaning in Ancient Judaism III 

140017 Post Mishnaic Judaism in Transition 

1400 18 A History of the Mishnaic Law of Agriculture: 
Tractate Maaser Sheni 

140019 Mishnah's Theology of Tithing 

140020 The Priestly Gift in Mishnah: A Study of Tractate Terumot Alan. J. Peck 

140021 History of Judaism: The Next Ten Years Baruch M. Bokser 

140022 Ancient Synagogues Joseph Gutmann 

140023 Warrant for Genocide Norman Cohn 

140024 The Creation of the World According to Gersonides Jacob J. Staub 

140025 Two Treatises ofPhilo of Alexandria: A Commentary on De Gigantibus 
and Quod Deus Sit Immutabilis David Winstan/John Dillon 

140026 A History of the Mishnaic Law of Agriculture: 

140027 Approaches to Ancient Judaism IV 

140028 Judaism in the American Humanities 

140029 Handbook of Synagogue Architecture 

140030 The Book of Mirrors 

140031 Ideas in Fiction: The Works ofHayim Hazaz 

140032 Approaches to Ancient Judaism V 

140033 Sectarian Law in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Courts, 
Testimony and the Penal Code 

140034 A History of the United Jewish Appeal: 1939-1982 

140035 The Academic Study of Judaism 

140036 Woman Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue 

140037 Formative Judaism: Religious. Historical, 

and Literary Studies Jacob Neusner 

140038 Ben Sira's View of Women: A Literary Analysis Warren C. Trenchard 

140039 Barukh Kurzweil and Modern Hebrew Uterature James S . Diamond 

Irving Mandelbaum 

William S. Green 

Jacob Neusner 

Marilyn Chiat 

Daniel C. Matt 

Warren Bargad 

William S. Green 

Lawrence H. Schiffman 

Marc L. Raphael 

Jacob Neusner 

Bemadette Brooten 

140040 Israeli Childhood Stories of the Sixties: Yizhar, Aloni.Shahar, Kahana-Carmon 

Gideon Telpaz 

140041 Formative Judaism II: Religious, Historical, 

and Literary Studies Jacob Neusner 

140042 Judaism in the American Humanities II: Jewish 

Learning and the New Humanities Jacob Neusner 

140043 Support for the Poor in the Mishnaic Law of Agriculture: 

Tractate Peah Roger Brooks 

140044 The Sanctity of the Seventh Year: A Study ofMishnah 

Tractate Shebiit Louis E. Newman 

140045 Character and Context: Studies in the Fiction of 

Abramovitsh, Brenner, and Agnon Jeffrey Fleck 

140046 Formative Judaism III: Religious, Historical, 

and Literary Studies Jacob Neusner 

140047 Pharaoh's Counsellors: Job, Jethro, and Balaam 

in Rabbinic and Patristic Tradition Judith Baskin 

140048 The Scrolls and Christian Origins: Studies in the Jewish 

Background of the New Testament Matthew B lack 

140049 Approaches to Modern Judaism I Marc Lee Raphael 

140050 Mysterious Encounters at Mamre andJabbok William T. Miller 

14005 1 The Mishnah Before 70 Jacob Neusner 

140052 Sparda by the Bitter Sea: Imperial Interaction in 

Western Anatolia Jack Martin Balcer 

140053 Hermann Cohen: The Challenge of a Religion of Reason William Kluback 

140054 Approaches to Judaism in Medieval Times I David R. Blumenthal 

140055 In the Margins of the Yerushalmi: Glosses on the English 

Translation Jacob Neusner 

140056 Approaches to Modern Judaism II Marc Lee Raphael 

140057 Approaches to Judaism in Medieval Times II David R. Blumenthal 

140058 Midrash as Literature: The Primacy of Documentary 

Discourse JacobNeusner 

140059 The Commerce of the Sacred: Mediation of the Divine 

Among Jews in the Graeco-Roman Diaspora Jack N. Lightstone 

140060 Major Trends in Formative Judaism I: Society and Symbol in 
Political Crisis 

140061 Major Trends in Formative Judaism II: Texts, Contents, 
and Contexts 

140062 A History of the Jews in Babylonia I: The Parthian Period 

140063 The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation. 
XXXII: Tractate Arakhin 

140064 Ancient Judaism: Debates and Disputes 

140065 Prayers Alleged to Be Jewish: An Examination of the 
Constitutiones Apostolorum 

140066 The Legal Methodology ofHai Gaon 

140067 From Mishnah to Scripture: The Problem of the 
Unattributed Saying 

140068 Halakhah in a Theological Dimension 

Jacob Neusner 

Jacob Neusner 
Jacob Neusner 

Jacob Neusner 
Jacob Neusner 

David Fiensy 
Tsvi Groner 

Jacob Neusner 
David Novak 



















From Philo to Origen: Middle Platonism in Transition Robert M. Berchman 

In Search ofTalmudic Biography: The Problem of the 

Attributed Saying Jacob Neusner 

The Death of the Old and the Birth of the New: The 

Framework of the Book of Numbers and the Pentateuch Dennis T. Olson 

The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation. 

XVII: Tractate Sotah Jacob Neusner 

Understanding Seeking Faith: Essays on the Case of Judaism. 

Volume Two: Literature. Religion and the Social Study 

ofJudiasm JacobNeusner 

The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation. 

VI: Tractate Sukkah JacobNeusner 

Fear Not Warrior: A Study of 'al tira' Pericopes in the 

Hebrew Scriptures Edgar W. Conrad 

Formative Judaism IV: Religious, Historical, and Literary 


Biblical Patterns in Modern Literature 

Jacob Neusner 

David H. Hirsch/ 

Nehama Aschkenasy 

The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation 

I: Tractate Berakhot JacobNeusner 

Mishnah's Division of Agriculture: A History and 

Theology of Seder Zeraim Alan J. Avery-Peck 

From Tradition to Imitation: The Plan and Program of 
Pesiqta Rabbati and Pesiqta deRab Kahana Jacob Neusner 

The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation. 
XXIII A: Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapters 1-3 Jacob Neusner 

Jewish Presence in T. S. Eliot and Franz Kafka Melvin Wiik 

School, Court, Public Administration: Judaism and its 
Institutions in Talmudic Babylonia Jacob Neusner 

The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation. 
XXIIIB: Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapters 4-8 Jacob Neusner 

The Bavli and Its Sources: The Question of Tradition 
in the Case of Tractate Sukkah Jacob Neusner 

From Description to Conviction: Essays on the 

History and Theology of Judaism Jacob Neusner 

The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation. 
XXIIIC: Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapters 9-11 Jacob Neusner 

Mishnaic Law of Blessings and Prayers: Tractate Berakhot Tzvee Zahavy 
The Peripatetic Saying: The Problem of the Thrice-Told 
Tale in Talmudic Literature Jacob Neusner 

The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation. 
XXVI: Tractate Horayot Martin S. Jaffee 

Formative Judaism V: Religious, Historical, and Literary 
Studies Jacob Neusner 

Essays on Biblical Method and Translation Edward Greenstein 

The Integrity of Leviticus Rabbah Jacob Neusner 

Behind the Essenes: History and Ideology 
of the Dead Sea Scrolls Philip R. Davies 

140095 Approaches to Judaism in Medieval Times, 

Volume III David R. Blumenthal 

140096 The Memorized Torah: The Mnemonic System of the 

Mishnah Jacob Neusner 

140098 Sifre to Deuteronomy: An Analytical Translation. 

Volume One: Pisqaot One through One Hundred Forty-Three. 

Debarim, Waethanan, Eqeb Jacob Neusner 

140099 Major Trends in Formative Judaism III: The Three Stages 

in the Formation of Judaism Jacob Neusner 

140101 Sifre to Deuteronomy: An Analytical Translation. 

Volume Two: Pisqaot One Hundred Forty-Four through Three Hundred 

Fifty-Seven. Shofetim, Ki Tese. Ki Tabo, Nesabim, Ha'azinu, 

Zot Habberakhah Jacob Neusner 

140102 Sifra: The Rabbinic Commentary on Leviticus Jacob Neusner/ 

Roger Brooks 

140103 The Human Will in Judaism Howard Eilberg-Schwartz 

140104 Genesis Rabbah: Volume 1. Genesis 1:1 to 8:14 Jacob Neusner 

140105 Genesis Rabbah: Volume 2. Genesis 8:15 to 28:9 Jacob Neusner 

140106 Genesis Rabbah: Volume 3. Genesis 28:10 to 50:26 Jacob Neusner 

140107 First Principles of Systemic Analysis Jacob Neusner 

140108 Genesis and Judaism Jacob Neusner 

140109 The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation. 

XXXV: Tractates Meilah and Tamid Peter J. Haas 

1401 1 Studies in Islamic and Judaic Traditions William Brinner/Stephen Ricks 

1401 1 1 Comparative Midrash: The Plan and Program of Genesis 

Rabbah and Leviticus Rabbah Jacob Neusner 

1401 12 The Tosefta: Its Structure and its Sources Jacob Neusner 

1401 1 3 Reading and Believing Jacob Neusner 

1401 14 The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan Jacob Neusner 

1401 1 5 Etymology in Early Jewish Interpretation: 

The Hebrew Names in Philo Lester L. Grabbe 

1401 16 Understanding Seeking Faith: Essays on the Case of Judaism. 

Volume One: Debates on Method, Reports of Results Jacob Neusner 

1401 17 The Talmud of Babylonia. An American Translation. 

VII: Tractate Besah Alan J. Avery-Peck 

1401 1 8 Sifre to Numbers: An American Translation and Explanation, 

Volume One: Sifre to Numbers 1-58 Jacob Neusner 

1401 19 Sifre to Numbers: An American Translation and Explanation, 

Volume Two: Sifre to Numbers 59-115 Jacob Neusner 

140120 Cohen and Troeltsch: Ethical Monotheistic Religion and 

Theory of Culture Wendell S. Dietrich 

140121 Goodenough on the History of Religion and on Judaism Jacob Neusner/ 

Ernest Frerichs 

1401 22 Pesiqta deRab Kahana I: Pisqaot One through Fourteen Jacob Neusner 

140123 Pesiqta deRab Kahana II: Pisqaot Fifteen through Twenty-Eight 

and Introduction to Pesiqta deRab Kahana Jacob Neusner 

140124 Sifre to Deuteronomy: Introduction Jacob Neusner 

140126 A Conceptual Commentary on Midrash Leviticus Rabbah: 
Value Concepts in Jewish Thought 

140127 The Other Judaisms of Late Antiquity 

1 40 1 28 Josephus as a Historical Source in Patristic Literature 
through Eusebius 

140129 Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah 

140 1 3 1 Philo , John and Paul: New Perspectives on Judaism 
and Early Christianity 

1401 32 Babylonian Witchcrcft Literature 

140133 The Making of the Mind of Judaism: The Formative Age 

1401 35 Why No Gospels in Talmudic Judaism? 

140136 Torah: From Scroll to Symbol Part III: Doctrine 

140137 The Systemic Analysis of Judaism 

140138 Sifra: An Analytical Translation Vol. 1 

140139 Sifra: An Analytical Translation Vol. 2 

140140 Sifra: An Analytical Translation Vol. 3 

140141 Midrash in Context: Exegesis in Formative Judaism 

140143 Oxen, Women or Citizens? Slaves in the System of 

140144 The Book of the Pomegranate 

140145 Wrong Ways and Right Ways in the Study of Formative 

140146 Sifra in Perspective: The Documentary Conyyarison of the 
Midrashim of Ancient Judaism 

140148 Mekhilta According to Rabbi Ishmael: An Analytical 
Translation Volume I 

140149 The Doctrine of the Divine Name: An Introduction to 
Classical Kabbalistic Theology 

1401 50 Water into Wine and the Beheading of John the Baptist 

1401 5 1 The Formation of the Jewish Intellect 

140152 Mekhilta According to Rabbi Ishmael: An Introduction to Judaism's 

First Scriptural Encyclopaedia Jacob Neusner 

140153 Understanding Seeking Faith. Volume Three Jacob Neusner 

140154 Mekhilta According to Rabbi Ishmael: An Analytical Translation 

Volume Two Jacob Neusner 

140155 Goyim: Gentiles and Israelites in Mishnah-Tosefta Gary P. Porton 

1401 56 A Religion of Pots and Pans? Jacob Neusner 

1401 57 Claude Montefiore and Christianity Maurice Gerald Bowler 

140158 The Philosopical Mishnah Volume III Jacob Neusner 

1401 59 From Ancient Israel to Modern Judaism Volume I : Intellect in Quest of 

140160 The Social Study of Judaism Volume I 

140161 Philo's Jewish Identity 

140162 The Social Study of Judaism Volume II 

140163 The Philosophical Mishnah Volume I : The Initial Probe Jacob Neusner 

140164 The Philosophical Mishnah Volume II : The Tractates Agenda: From Abodah 
Zarah Through Moed Qatan Jacob Neusner 

140166 Women's Earliest Records Barbara S. Lesko 

Max Kadushin 
Alan F. Segal 

Michael Hardwick 
Jacob Neusner 

Peder Boigen 
Tzvi Abusch 
Jacob Neusner 
Jacob Neusner 
Jacob Neusner 
Jacob Neusner 
Jacob Neusner 
Jacob Neusner 
Jacob Neusner 
Jacob Neusner 

Paul V. Flesher 
Elliot R. Wolfson 

Jacob Neusner 

Jacob Neusner 

Jacob Neusner 

Stephen G. Wald 

Roger Aus 

Jacob Neusner 


Jacob Neusner 

Alan Mendelson 

Jacob Neusner 

140167 The Legacy of Hermann Cohen William Kluback 

140168 Method and Meaning in Ancient Judaism Jacob Neusner 

1 40 1 69 The Role of the Messenger and Message in the Ancient Near East 

John T. Greene 

1401 7 1 Abraham Heschel's Idea of Revelation LawCTence Perlman 

140172 The Philosophical Mishnah Volume IV: The Repertoire Jacob Neusner 

140173 From Ancient Israel to Modern Judaism Volume 2: Intellect in Quest of 
Understanding Neusner/Frerichs/Sama 

140174 From Ancient Israel to Modern Judaism Volume 3: Intellect in Quest of 
Understanding Neusner/Frerichs/Sama 

140175 From Ancient Israel to Modern Judaism Volume 4: Intellect in Quest of 
Understanding Neusner/Frerichs/Sama 

140176 Translating the Classics of Judaism: In Theory and In Practice Jacob Neusner 

140177 Profiles of a Rabbi: Synoptic Opportunities in Reading About Jesus 

Bruce Chilton 

1401 78 Studies in Islamic and Judaic Traditions II William Brinner/Stephen Ricks 

140179 MediumandMessagein Judaism: First Series Jacob Neusner 

140180 Making the Classics of Judaism: The Three Stages of Literary 
Formation Jacob Neusner 

1401 8 1 The Law of Jealousy: Anthropology of Sotah Adriana Destro 

1401 82 Esther Rabbah I: An Analytical Translation Jacob Neusner 

Brown Studies on Jews and Their Societies 

145001 American Jewish Fertility Calvin Goldscheider 

145003 The American Jewish Community Calvin Goldscheider 

145004 The Naturalized Jews of the Grand Duchy ofPosen 

in 1834 and 1835 Edward David Luft 

145005 Suburban Communities: The Jewishness of American 

Reform Jews Gerald L. Showstack 

145007 Ethnic Survival in America David Schoem 

Brown Studies in Religion 

147001 Religious Writings and Religious Systems Volume I Jacob Neusner, et al 

147002 Religious Writings and Religious Systems Volume 2 Jacob Neusner, et al 

147003 Religion and the Social Sciences Robert Segal