Trialogue 70-91 (Judaism 2 Text).doc

Trialogue 70-91 (Judaism 2 Text).doc - Jews and Modernity 1...

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Jews and Modernity 1 7 0 CHAPTER SEVEN Jews and Modernity Throughout most of the Middle Ages, the Jewish population of the world tended to congregate in Islamic lands. But by the late 1700s, the majority of the world’s Jewish population lived in Christian Europe. This was a period that had been very powerfully affected by the ideas of the Renaissance and the Christian Reformation. Both contributed greatly to the modern concept of Enlightenment and the resulting emancipation of Christian minorities. 1 - ■ Enlightenment ideas had very important results for the Jews of Europe. The first insisted that every man (women were not generally considered equal in this regard) should be judged according to his own individual merits and not, as was previously the case, according to his family, class, or religious status. This allowed the possibility for Jews to integrate more fully into European society. The second idea insisted that every individual is capable of applying reason and personal judgment to decision-making and need not rely blindly on tradition. This allowed Jews, like their Christian neighbors, to reevaluate the meaning of their religious tradition for the modern age. The Jews were not integrated into European society evenly. In many places Jews were not granted equal status until the twentieth century. In some, they were never accepted as equals; and in others, their emancipation was entirely '* reversed and worse when millions were murdered during the Holocaust. Despite this unevenness, however, the Emancipation forever altered the status of Jews in the West because it established the principle that all peoples who engaged positively on behalf of the nation-state should be entitled to the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Without the creation of the modern nation-state, the Jews of Europe might never have been freed from- their long history as second-class inhabitants. Modern national identity helped to blur the distinction of religion that ha< nearly crippled Europe for centuries with bloody military wars and debilit ;ii ing political and economic battles. The modern, secular nation-state that emerged toward the end of the eighteenth century was far less concerned with tiie religious beliefs or practices of its various groups of citizens than with the success of the state as whole. The state depended on the willingness of its citizens to contribute to the national cause through military and civic service, paying taxes, and generally contributing to the good of the whole. Jewish Emancipation and integration into the new national identities of European society had a major effect on Jewish religious practice as well. Jews inevitably applied the ideas of modern Europe to Jewish law, ritual, philosophy, ethics, and daily practice. The result was both a reduction in the power of religion to influence the behavior of Jews and an increase in factionalism and divisions among the Jews as they responded to the challenges of modernity.
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