How Judaism Became a Religion: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought

Princeton University Press
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Is Judaism a religion, a culture, a nationality--or a mixture of all of these? In How Judaism Became a Religion, Leora Batnitzky boldly argues that this question more than any other has driven modern Jewish thought since the eighteenth century. This wide-ranging and lucid introduction tells the story of how Judaism came to be defined as a religion in the modern period--and why Jewish thinkers have fought as well as championed this idea.

Ever since the Enlightenment, Jewish thinkers have debated whether and how Judaism--largely a religion of practice and public adherence to law--can fit into a modern, Protestant conception of religion as an individual and private matter of belief or faith. Batnitzky makes the novel argument that it is this clash between the modern category of religion and Judaism that is responsible for much of the creative tension in modern Jewish thought. Tracing how the idea of Jewish religion has been defended and resisted from the eighteenth century to today, the book discusses many of the major Jewish thinkers of the past three centuries, including Moses Mendelssohn, Abraham Geiger, Hermann Cohen, Martin Buber, Zvi Yehuda Kook, Theodor Herzl, and Mordecai Kaplan. At the same time, it tells the story of modern orthodoxy, the German-Jewish renaissance, Jewish religion after the Holocaust, the emergence of the Jewish individual, the birth of Jewish nationalism, and Jewish religion in America.

More than an introduction, How Judaism Became a Religion presents a compelling new perspective on the history of modern Jewish thought.

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About the author

Leora Batnitzky is the Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish studies and professor of religion at Princeton University, where she also directs the Tikvah Project on Jewish Thought. She is the author of Leo Strauss and Emmanuel Levinas: Philosophy and the Politics of Revelation and Idolatry and Representation: The Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig Reconsidered (Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 22, 2011
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Pages
208
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ISBN
9781400839711
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Judaism / General
Religion / Judaism / History
Social Science / Jewish Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Leora Batnitzky
Although Franz Rosenzweig is arguably the most important Jewish philosopher of the twentieth century, his thought remains little understood. Here, Leora Batnitzky argues that Rosenzweig's redirection of German-Jewish ethical monotheism anticipates and challenges contemporary trends in religious studies, ethics, philosophy, anthropology, theology, and biblical studies.

This text, which captures the hermeneutical movement of Rosenzweig's corpus, is the first to consider the full import of the cultural criticism articulated in his writings on the modern meanings of art, language, ethics, and national identity. In the process, the book solves significant conundrums about Rosenzweig's relation to German idealism, to other major Jewish thinkers, to Jewish political life, and to Christianity, and brings Rosenzweig into conversation with key contemporary thinkers.

Drawing on Rosenzweig's view that Judaism's ban on idolatry is the crucial intellectual and spiritual resource available to respond to the social implications of human finitude, Batnitzky interrogates idolatry as a modern possibility. Her analysis speaks not only to the question of Judaism's relationship to modernity (and vice versa), but also to the generic question of the present's relationship to the past--a subject of great importance to anyone contemplating the modern statuses of religious tradition, reason, science, and historical inquiry. By way of Rosenzweig, Batnitzky argues that contemporary philosophers and ethicists must relearn their approaches to religious traditions and texts to address today's central ethical problems.

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