Philosophy of Religion

Chapter  2.  Religions of the World

Section 8 .  Judaism


You should read enough of the materials presented in this section concerning the tradition of Judaism  in order to understand how this tradition displays the characteristics or elements that make a tradition one that would be termed a “religion.   The tradition presented in the materials below is one of the world’s living religions.  You reading should indicate why this is so.

·         THE ABSOLUTE: what do the believers hold as most important?  What is the ultimate source of value and significance?  For many, but not all religions, this is given some form of agency and portrayed as a deity (deities).  It might be a concept or ideal as well as a figure.

·         THE WORLD: What does the belief system say about the world? Its origin? its relation to the Absolute? Its future? 

·         HUMANS: Where do they come from? How do they fit into the general scheme of things?  What is their destiny or future?

·         THE PROBLEM FOR HUMANS: What is the principle problem for humans that they must learn to deal with and solve?

·         THE SOLUTION FOR HUMANS: How are humans to solve or overcome the fundamental problems ?

·         COMMUNITY AND ETHICS: What is the moral code as promulgated by the religion?  What is the idea of community and how humans are to live with one another?

·         AN INTERPRETATION OF HISTORY: Does the religion offer an explanation for events occurring in time?  Is there a single linear history with time coming to an end or does time recycle?  Is there a plan working itself out in time and detectable in the events of history?

·         RITUALS AND SYMBOLS: What are the major rituals, holy days, garments, ceremonies and symbols?

·         LIFE AFTER DEATH: What is the explanation given for what occurs after death?  Does he religion support a belief in souls or spirits which survive the death of the body?  What is the belief in what occurs afterwards?  Is there a resurrection of the body? Reincarnation? Dissolution? Extinction?

·         RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER RELIGIONS: What is the prescribed manner in which believers are to regard other religions and the followers of other religions?


For those who wish to listen to information on the world's religions here is a listing of PODCASTS on RELIGIONS by Cynthia Eller.

If you have iTunes on your computer just click and you will be led to the listings.

Here is a link to the site for the textbook REVEALING WORLD RELIGIONS related to which these podcasts were made.  


I. Introduction

Judaism, religious culture of the Jews (also known as the people of Israel); one of the world's oldest continuing religious traditions.
The terms Judaism and religion do not exist in premodern Hebrew. The Jews spoke of Torah, God's revealed instruction to Israel, which mandated both a worldview and a way of life—see Halakah. Halakah, meaning the “way” by which to walk, encompasses Jewish law, custom, and practice. Premodern Judaism, in all its historical forms, thus constituted (and traditional Judaism today constitutes) an integrated cultural system encompassing the totality of individual and communal existence. It is a system of sanctification in which all is to be subsumed under God's rule—that is, under divinely revealed models of cosmic order and lawfulness. Christianity originated as one among several competing Jewish ideologies in 1st-century Palestine, and Islam drew in part on Jewish sources at the outset. Because most Jews, from the 7th century on, have lived within the cultural sphere of either Christianity or Islam, these religions have had an impact on the subsequent history of Judaism.

Judaism originated in the land of Israel (also known as Palestine) in the Middle East. Subsequently, Jewish communities have existed at one time or another in almost all parts of the world, a result of both voluntary migrations of Jews and forced exile or expulsions (see Diaspora). In the early 1990s the total world Jewish population was about 12.8 million, of whom about 5.5 million lived in the United States, more than 3.9 million in Israel, and nearly 1.2 million in the Soviet Union, the three largest centers of Jewish settlement. About 1.2 million Jews lived in the rest of Europe, most of them in France and Great Britain. About 356,700 lived in the rest of North America, and 32,700 in Asia other than Israel. About 433,400 Jews lived in Central and South America, and about 148,700 lived in Africa.

II. Basic Doctrines and Sources

As a rich and complex religious tradition, Judaism has never been monolithic. Its various historical forms nonetheless have shared certain characteristic features. The most essential of these is a radical monotheism, that is, the belief that a single, transcendent God created the universe and continues providentially to govern it. Undergirding this monotheism is the teleological conviction that the world is both intelligible and purposive, because a single divine intelligence stands behind it. Nothing that humanity experiences is capricious; everything ultimately has meaning. The mind of God is manifest to the traditional Jew in both the natural order, through creation, and the social-historical order, through revelation. The same God who created the world revealed himself to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. The content of that revelation is the Torah (“revealed instruction”), God's will for humankind expressed in commandments (mizvoth) by which individuals are to regulate their lives in interacting with one another and with God. By living in accordance with God's laws and submitting to the divine will, humanity can become a harmonious part of the cosmos.

A. Covenant

A second major concept in Judaism is that of the covenant (berith), or contractual agreement, between God and the Jewish people. According to tradition, the God of creation entered into a special relationship with the Jewish people at Sinai. They would acknowledge God as their sole ultimate king and legislator, agreeing to obey his laws; God, in turn, would acknowledge Israel as his particular people and be especially mindful of them. Both biblical authors and later Jewish tradition view this covenant in a universal context. Only after successive failures to establish a covenant with rebellious humanity did God turn to a particular segment of it. Israel is to be a “kingdom of priests,” and the ideal social order that it establishes in accordance with the divine laws is to be a model for the human race. Israel thus stands between God and humanity, representing each to the other.

The idea of the covenant also determines the way in which both nature and history traditionally have been viewed in Judaism. Israel's well-being is seen to depend on obedience to God's commandments. Both natural and historical events that befall Israel are interpreted as emanating from God and as influenced by Israel's religious behavior. A direct causal connection is thus made between human behavior and human destiny. This perspective intensifies the problem of theodicy (God's justice) in Judaism, because the historical experience of both individuals and the Jewish people has frequently been one of suffering. Much Jewish religious thought, from the biblical Book of Job onward, has been preoccupied with the problem of affirming justice and meaning in the face of apparent injustice. In time, the problem was mitigated by the belief that virtue and obedience ultimately would be rewarded and sin punished by divine judgment after death, thereby redressing inequities in this world. The indignities of foreign domination and forced exile from the land of Israel suffered by the Jewish people also would be redressed at the end of time, when God would send his Messiah (mashiah, “one anointed” with oil as a king), a scion of the royal house of David, to redeem the Jews and restore them to sovereignty in their land. Messianism, from early on, has been a significant strand of Jewish thought. Yearning for the Messiah's coming was particularly intense in periods of calamity. Ultimately, a connection was drawn between the messianic idea and the concept of Torah: The individual Jew, through proper study and observance of God's commandments, could hasten the Messiah's arrival. Each individual's action thus assumed a cosmic importance.

B. The Rabbinic Tradition

Although all forms of Judaism have been rooted in the Hebrew Bible (referred to by Jews as the Tanach, an acronym for its three sections: Torah, the Pentateuch; Nebiim, the prophetic literature; and Ketubim, the other writings), it would be an error to think of Judaism as simply the “religion of the Old Testament.” Contemporary Judaism is ultimately derived from the rabbinic movement of the first centuries of the Christian era in Palestine and Babylonia and is therefore called rabbinic Judaism. Rabbi, in Aramaic and Hebrew, means “my teacher.” The rabbis, Jewish sages adept in studying the Scriptures and their own traditions, maintained that God had revealed to Moses on Sinai a twofold Torah. In addition to the written Torah (Scripture), God revealed an oral Torah, faithfully transmitted by word of mouth in an unbroken chain from master to disciple, and preserved now among the rabbis themselves. For the rabbis, the oral Torah was encapsulated in the Mishnah (“that which is learned or memorized”), the earliest document of rabbinic literature, edited in Palestine at the turn of the 3rd century. Subsequent rabbinic study of the Mishnah in Palestine and Babylonia generated two Talmuds (“that which is studied”; also called Gemera, an Aramaic term with the same meaning; see Talmud), wide-ranging commentaries on the Mishnah. The Babylonian Talmud, edited about the 6th century, became the foundation document of rabbinic Judaism.

Early rabbinic writings also include exegetical and homiletical commentaries on Scripture (the Midrashim; see Midrash) and several Aramaic translations of the Pentateuch and other scriptural books (the see Targums). Medieval rabbinic writings include codifications of talmudic law, the most authoritative of which is the 16th-century Shulhan Arukh (Set Table) by Joseph ben Ephraim Caro. In Judaism, the study of Torah refers to the study of all this literature, not simply of the Pentateuch (“the Torah,” in the narrow sense).

III. Worship and Practices

For the religious Jew, the entirety of life is a continuous act of divine worship. “I keep the Lord always before me” (Psalms 16:8), a verse inscribed on the front wall of many see synagogues, aptly characterizes Judaic piety.

A. Prayers and Services

Traditionally, Jews pray three times a day: in the morning (shaharith), afternoon (minhah), and evening (maarib). The times of prayer are deemed to correspond to the times when sacrifices were offered in the Jerusalem Temple. In this and other ways, rabbinic Judaism metaphorically carries forward the structure of the destroyed Temple cult. A company of ten men forms a congregation, or quorum (minyan), for prayer.

The single required component of all Jewish worship services is a series of benedictions called the Tefillah (“prayer”); it is also known as the Amidah, or “standing” prayer, because it is recited standing, and the Shemoneh Esreh, because it originally contained 18 benedictions. On weekdays it is now composed of 19 benedictions, including 13 petitions for welfare and messianic restoration. On see Sabbaths and festivals, these petitions are replaced by occasional prayers. A second major rubric is the recitation of the Shema in the morning and evening. All services conclude with two messianic prayers, the first called Alenu, the second an Aramaic doxology called the Kaddish. As a sign of devotion to God, the observant adult male Jew during weekday morning prayers wears both a fringed prayer shawl (tallith; the fringes are called zizith) and phylacteries (prayer boxes, called tefillin). Both customs are derived from the scriptural passages that are recited as the Shema, as is a third, the placing of a mezuzah (prayer box) on the doorpost of one's house, a further reminder that God is everywhere. As a gesture of respect to God, the head is covered during prayer, either with a hat or a skullcap (kippah; Yiddish yarmulke). Pious Jews wear a head covering at all times, recognizing God's constant presence.

B. Torah

The study of Torah, the revealed will of God, also is considered an act of worship in rabbinic Judaism. Passages from Scripture, Mishnah, and Talmud are recited during daily morning services. On Monday and Thursday mornings, a handwritten parchment scroll of the Torah (that is, the Pentateuch) is removed from the ark at the front of the synagogue and read, with cantillation, before the congregation. The major liturgical Torah readings take place on Sabbath and festival mornings. In the course of a year, the entire Torah will be read on Sabbaths. The annual cycle begins again every autumn at a celebration called Simhath Torah (“rejoicing in the Torah”), which falls at the end of the Sukkot festival. Torah readings for the festivals deal with the themes and observances of the day. Thematically appropriate readings from the Prophets (Haftarah, meaning “conclusion”) accompany the Torah readings on Sabbaths and festivals. The public reading of Scripture thus constitutes a significant part of synagogue worship. In fact, this appears originally to have been the primary function of the synagogue as an institution.

C. Benedictions

In addition to the daily prayers, Jews recite numerous benedictions throughout the day before performing commandments and before enjoying the bounties of nature. For the Jew, the earth belongs to God. Humans are simply tenant farmers or gardeners. The owner, therefore, must be acknowledged before the tenant may partake of the fruits.

D. Dietary Laws

Jewish dietary laws relate to the Temple cult. One's table at home is deemed analogous to the table of the Lord. Certain animals, considered unclean, are not to be eaten (see Deuteronomy 14:3-21). Into this category fall pigs as well as fish without fins or scales. Edible animals—those that have split hooves and chew their cuds—must be properly slaughtered (kasher, or “fit”) and the blood fully drained before the meat can be eaten. Meat and milk products are not to be eaten together. See Kosher.

E. The Sabbath

The Jewish liturgical calendar carries forward the divisions of time prescribed in the Torah and observed in the Temple cult. Every seventh day is the Sabbath, when no work is performed. By this abstention, the Jew returns the world to its owner, that is, God, acknowledging that humans extract its produce only on sufferance. The Sabbath is spent in prayer, study, rest, and family feasting (see Kiddush). An additional (musaf) service is recited in the synagogue on Sabbaths and festivals, corresponding to the additional sacrifice that is offered in the Temple on these days.

 F. Festivals

The Jewish year includes five major festivals and two minor ones. Three of the major festivals originally were agricultural and are tied to the seasons in the land of Israel. Pesach (Passover), the spring festival, marks the beginning of the barley harvest, and Shabuoth (Weeks or Pentecost) marks its conclusion 50 days later. Sukkot (Tabernacles) celebrates the autumn harvest and is preceded by a 10-day period of communal purification. From an early date, these festivals came to be associated with formative events in Israel's historical memory. Passover celebrates the Exodus from Egypt. Shabuoth is identified as the time of the giving of the Torah on Sinai. It is marked by the solemn reading of the Ten Commandments in the synagogue. Sukkot is still observed primarily as a harvest festival, but the harvest booths in which Jews eat during the festival's seven days also are identified with the booths in which the Israelites dwelt on their journey to the Promised Land. The ten-day penitential period before Sukkot is inaugurated by Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, and concludes with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. According to tradition, the world is judged each New Year and the decree sealed on the Day of Atonement. A ram's horn (shofar) is blown on the New Year to call the people to repentance. The Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish year, is spent in fasting, prayer, and confession. Its liturgy begins with the plaintive chanting of the Kol Nidre formula and includes a remembrance of the day's rites (avodah) in the Temple.

The two minor festivals, Hanukkah and Purim, are later in origin than the five Pentateuchally prescribed festivals. Hanukkah (Dedication) commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian king Antiochus IV in 165 BC and the ensuing rededication of the Second Temple. Purim (Lots) celebrates the tale of Persian Jewry's deliverance by see Esther and Mordecai. It occurs a month before Passover and is marked by the festive reading in the synagogue of the Scroll of Esther (megillah). Four fast days, commemorating events in the siege and destruction of the two Temples in 586 BC and AD 70, complete the liturgical year. The most important of these is Tishah b'Ab, or the Ninth of Ab, observed as the day on which both Temples were destroyed.

G. Special Occasions

Significant events in the life cycle of the Jew also are observed in the community. At the age of eight days, a male child is publicly initiated into the covenant of Abraham through circumcision (berith milah). Boys reach legal maturity at the age of 13, when they assume responsibility for observing all the commandments (bar mitzvah) and are called for the first time to read from the Torah in synagogue. Girls reach maturity at 12 years of age and, in modern Liberal synagogues, also read from the Torah (bat mitzvah). In the 19th century, the modernizing Reform movement instituted the practice of confirmation for both young men and women of secondary school age. The ceremony is held on Shabuoth and signifies acceptance of the faith revealed at Sinai. The next turning point in a Jew's life is marriage (kiddushin, “sanctification”). Even at the hour of greatest personal joy, Jews recall the sorrows of their people. The seven wedding benedictions include petitionary prayers for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the return of the Jewish people to Zion. Also, at the Jewish funeral the hope for resurrection of the deceased is included in a prayer for the redemption of the Jewish people as a whole. The pious Jewish male is buried in his tallith.

IV. History

The biblical literature and cognate archaeological materials provide the earliest information about the history of Judaism (see Bible; Jews). Earliest Israel was not monotheistic, but henotheistic: Worshiping only one God themselves, the Israelites did not deny the existence of other gods for other nations.

Preexilic Israel, first as a confederation of tribes and then as a kingdom, celebrated as its formative experiences the redemption from Egyptian bondage and, particularly, the conquest and settlement of the land of Canaan (the land of Israel). Its deity was Yahweh (see Jehovah), the god of the patriarchs. Yahweh had redeemed the Israelites from Egypt and brought them into the promised land. Israelite religion was intimately bound to the land, its climate, and the agricultural cycle of the year. Yahweh was believed to bring the rainfall that guaranteed a bountiful harvest or famine, drought, and pestilence if the community proved unfaithful and recalcitrant. Israel thus saw itself as dependent on God for its livelihood and obligated to respond with sacrificial offerings of gratitude and propitiation. The sacrificial cult ultimately was centralized in the royal sanctuary in Jerusalem, which later was rivaled by the northern sanctuaries at Bethel and Dan. Opposition to syncretistic cultic practices at both the northern (Israelite) and southern (Judean) sanctuaries and to social injustices under the monarchies was voiced during this period by the prophets, charismatic “men of God.” They did not reject the sacrificial cult per se, but merely what they saw as an exclusive, smug reliance on it that ignored the moral dimension of Israelite society. Their warnings were perceived to have been vindicated when first the northern, then the southern, kingdoms were destroyed by foreign conquerors.

A. Babylonian Exile

The exile of the Judeans to Babylonia in 586 BC was a major turning point in Israelite religion. The prior history of Israel now was reinterpreted in light of the events of 586, laying the foundation for the traditional biblical Pentateuch, prophetic canon, and historical books. The prophets Ezekiel and Deutero-Isaiah believed that Yahweh had used the Babylonian Empire to punish the Israelites for their sins, and he therefore had the power to redeem them from captivity if they repented. A truly monotheistic religion developed, the God of Israel now being seen as the God ruling universal history and the destiny of all nations. The Babylonian exiles' messianic hope for a restored Judean kingdom under the leadership of a scion of the royal house of David seemed to have been vindicated when Cyrus the Great, after conquering Babylon in 539 BC, permitted a repatriation of subject populations and a restoration of local temples. The restored Judean commonwealth did not fully realize this hope, however, because the Persians did not allow the reestablishment of a Judean monarchy, but only a temple-state with the high priest as its chief administrator.

B. Maccabean and Roman Periods

The introduction into the Middle East of Greek culture, beginning with the conquests of Alexander the Great in 331 BC, put the indigenous cultures of the region on the defensive (see Hellenistic Age). The Maccabean revolt of 165 to 142 BC began as a civil war between Jewish Hellenizers and offended nativists; it ended as a successful war for Judean political independence from Syria. This political and cultural turmoil had a major impact on religion. The earliest apocalyptic writings were composed during this period. This genre of cryptic revelations interpreted the wars of the time as part of a cosmic conflict between the forces of good and evil that would end with the ultimate victory of God's legions. Bodily resurrection at the time of God's Last Judgment was promised for the first time to those righteous Jews who had been slain in the conflict. (In earlier Judaism, immortality consisted solely in the survival of the individual's children and people and in a shadowy afterlife in the netherworld, Sheol.)

The Maccabean victories inaugurated an 80-year period of Judean political independence, but religious turmoil persisted. Members of the Hasmonaean priestly family that led the revolt proclaimed themselves hereditary kings and high priests, although they were not of the ancient high priestly lineage. This, together with their Hellenistic monarchical trappings, prompted fierce opposition from groups such as the Qumran community, known to modern scholars from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Led by dissident priests, this sect believed that the Jerusalem Temple had been profaned by the Hasmonaeans and saw itself as a purified Temple exiled in the wilderness.

The Qumran group can probably be identified with the Essenes described by Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and other ancient writers. Josephus also described two other groups, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, for whom no identifiable firsthand sources have been found. The Pharisees (perushim, “separatists”), like the Qumran group, put forth their own traditions of biblical law, which were disputed by the Sadducees, an aristocratic priestly group. The Pharisees were the lineal forerunners of the rabbinic movement after AD 70. All the religious factions of this period, particularly those opposed to the Temple administration, appealed to the authority of Scripture, to which each gave its own distinctive interpretation.

Messianic-apocalyptic fervor increased when Judean political independence was brought to an end by Roman legions in the middle of the 1st century BC and climaxed in the outbreak of an unsuccessful revolt against Rome in AD 66 to 70. (Christianity began as one of these messianic-apocalyptic movements.)

C. Development of Rabbinic Judaism

The Romans' destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70 and their suppression of a second messianic revolt in 132 to 135 led by Simon Bar Kokhba were catastrophes for Judaism of no less magnitude than the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BC. The priestly leadership was decisively discredited. In this context the rabbinic movement emerged. Because the Jewish people had lost control of their political destiny, the rabbis emphasized their communal and spiritual life. They taught that by conformity in daily life to the Torah as elaborated in the rabbinic traditions—through study, prayer, and observance—the individual Jew could achieve salvation while waiting for God to bring about the messianic redemption of all Israel. Some rabbis held that if all Jews conformed to the Torah, the Messiah would be compelled to come. Institutionally, the synagogue (which had existed before AD 70) and the rabbinic study house replaced the Temple that had been destroyed.

D. Medieval Judaism

The rabbinization of all Jewry, including the growing Mediterranean and European Diasporas, was a gradual process that had to overcome sharp challenges from the Karaites and other antirabbinic movements. The Arab conquest of the Middle East in the 7th century by Islamic Arab armies facilitated the spread of a uniform rabbinic Judaism. Near the seat of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad, the heads of the Babylonian rabbinical academies (geonim; plural of gaon, meaning “excellence”) attempted to standardize Jewish law, custom, and liturgy in accordance with their own practices, which they set forth in their replies (responsa) to inquiries from Diaspora communities. Thus, the hegemony over Jewry passed from Palestine to Babylonia, and the Babylonian Talmud came to be the most authoritative rabbinic document.

In the cultural ambit of Islam, rabbinic Judaism encountered Greek philosophy as recovered and interpreted by Islamic commentators. Rabbinic intellectuals began to cultivate philosophy to defend Judaism against the polemics of Islamic theologians and to demonstrate to other Jews the rationality of their revealed faith and law. Medieval Jewish philosophy typically concerns the attributes of God, miracles, prophecy (revelation), and the rationality of the commandments. The most notable philosophical interpretations of Judaism were put forth by Babylonian gaon Saadia ben Joseph in the 9th century, Judah Ha-Levi in the 12th century, and, preeminently, Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides) in the 12th century (Guide for the Perplexed, 1190?; translated 1881-1885). The exposure to systematic logic also affected rabbinic legal studies in the Islamic world and is evident in numerous posttalmudic codifications of Jewish law, the most famous being Maimonides' elegant Mishneh Torah.

Medieval Judaism developed two distinctive cultures, Sephardic (centered in Moorish Spain) and Ashkenazic (in the lands of the Holy Roman Empire; see Ashkenazim). Philosophy and systematic legal codification were distinctly Sephardic activities and were opposed by the Ashkenazim, who preferred intensive study of the Babylonian Talmud. The great Rhineland school of Talmud commentary began with 11th-century scholar Solomon ben Isaac (Rashi) of Troyes and continued with his grandsons and students, known as the tosaphists, who produced the literature of tosaphoth (“additions” to Rashi's Talmud commentary).

Throughout the medieval period, Judaism was continually revitalized by mystical and ethical-pietistic movements. The most significant of these were the 12th-century German Hasidic, or “pietist,” movement and the 13th-century Spanish Cabala, of which the most influential work was Sefer ha-zohar (The Book of Splendor) by Moses de León.

The Cabala is an esoteric theosophy, containing elements of Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, that describes the dynamic nature of the godhead and offers a powerful symbolic interpretation of the Torah and the commandments. It began in small, elite scholarly circles but became a major popular movement after the calamitous expulsion of the Jews from Catholic Spain in 1492. The spread of the Cabala was facilitated by the mythical, messianic reinterpretation of it made by Isaac Luria of Safed. Lurianic Cabala explained to the exiles the cosmic meaning of their suffering and gave them a crucial role in the cosmic drama of redemption. Luria's ideas paved the way for a major messianic upheaval, centered around the figure of Sabbatai Zevi, which affected all Jewry in the 17th century. They also influenced the popular 18th-century Polish revival movement called Hasidism.

Begun by Israel Baal Shem Tov, Hasidism proclaimed that, through fervent, rapturous devotion, the poor, unlearned Jew could serve God better than the Talmudist. Rabbinic opposition to Hasidism was eventually mitigated in the face of a more serious threat to both groups: the western European see Age of Enlightenment and the various modernizing movements that it generated within Judaism.

E. Modern Tendencies

The civil emancipation of European Jewry, a process complicated by lingering anti-Jewish sentiment, evoked different reformulations of Judaism in western and eastern Europe. In the west (particularly in Germany) Judaism was reformulated as a religious confession like modern Protestantism. The German Reform movement abandoned the hope of a return to Zion (the Jewish homeland), shortened and aestheticized the worship service, emphasized sermons in the vernacular, and rejected as archaic much Jewish law and custom. The Reform rabbi took on many of the roles of the Protestant minister. Early Reform theologians such as Abraham Geiger and Samuel Holdheim, influenced by German philosophers Immanuel Kant and G. W. F. Hegel, emphasized ethics and a belief in human progress. Right-wing Reformers, led by Zacharias Frankel, favored the retention of Hebrew and more traditional customs. Modern Orthodoxy, championed by Samson R. Hirsch in opposition to the Reformers, sought a blend of traditional Judaism and modern learning.

In eastern Europe, where Jews formed a large and distinctive social group, modernization of Judaism took the form of cultural and ethnic nationalism. Like the other resurgent national movements in the east, the Jewish movement emphasized the revitalization of the national language (Hebrew; later also Yiddish) and the creation of a modern, secular literature and culture. Zionism, the movement to create a modern Jewish society in the ancient homeland, took firm hold in eastern Europe after its initial formulations by Leo Pinsker in Russia and Theodor Herzl in Austria. Zionism was a secular ideology but it powerfully evoked and was rooted in traditional Judaic messianism, and it ultimately led to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

V. Judaism in America

The contemporary American Jewish community is descended largely from central European Jews who immigrated in the mid-19th century and, particularly, from eastern European Jews who arrived between 1881 and 1924, as well as more recent refugees from, and survivors of, the Holocaust. The multiple forms of Judaism in America—Reform, Conservative, Orthodox—have resulted from the adaptation of these Jewish immigrant groups to American life and their accommodation to one another. Institutionally, Judaism in America has adopted the strongly congregationalist structure of American Christianity. Although affiliated with national movements, most congregations retain considerable autonomy.

A. Reform Judaism

Reform Judaism, the first movement to define itself, was largely German at the outset. In America, it was influenced by liberal Protestantism and particularly by the Social Gospel movement. Its national institutions, all founded in the 1870s and 1880s by Isaac M. Wise, are the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), and the Hebrew Union College, the oldest surviving rabbinical school in the world (which merged in 1950 with the more Zionist-oriented Jewish Institute of Religion). Once the bastion of religious rationalism, the Reform movement since the 1940s has put more emphasis on Jewish peoplehood and traditional religious culture. Its orientation remains liberal and nonauthoritarian. The Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio, ordained its first woman rabbi in 1972, and the Reform movement has worked to increase the participation of women in religious ritual. In the year 2000 Reform rabbis voted to affirm gay and lesbian unions. While supporting same-sex unions, the CCAR, which passed the resolution, left it to individual rabbis to decide whether to perform such ceremonies and what kind of ritual to use.

B. Conservative Judaism

The Conservative movement embodies the sense of community and folk piety of modernizing eastern European Jews. It respects traditional Jewish law and practice while advocating a flexible approach to Halakah. Its major institutions, founded at the turn of the century, are the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTSA), the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), and the Rabbinical Assembly (RA). An offshoot of the Conservative movement is the Reconstructionist movement founded by Mordecai M. Kaplan in the 1930s. Reconstructionism advocates religious naturalism while emphasizing Jewish peoplehood and culture. Reconstructionists began to ordain women rabbis in the 1970s, and in 1983 the JTSA voted to admit women to its rabbinical program and ordain them as Conservative rabbis. Outside of the US Conservative Judaism and its official association is called Masorti.

C. Orthodoxy

American Orthodoxy is not so much a movement as a spectrum of traditionalist groups, ranging from the modern Orthodox, who try to integrate traditional observance with modern life, to some Hasidic sects that attempt to shut out the modern world. The immigration to America of many traditionalist and Hasidic survivors of the Holocaust has strengthened American Orthodoxy. No single national institution represents all Orthodox groups. Among the synagogue organizations are the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations and Young Israel (“modern” Orthodox) and Agudas Israel; among the rabbinical groups, the Rabbinical Council of America (“modern”) and the Rabbinical Alliance of America; and among the rabbinical schools, Isaac Elchanan Seminary at Yeshiva University and the Hebrew Theological College (“modern”) in Skokie, Illinois, and numerous small European-type yeshivas (talmudic academies). The Synagogue Council of America is a forum for discussion and joint action among these movements.

D. Significance of Israel

American Judaism has been profoundly affected by the Nazi destruction of European Jewry and the founding of the modern state of Israel. The Holocaust and Israel are closely linked in the perceptions of most contemporary Jews as symbols of collective death and rebirth—profoundly religious themes. Israel has a religious dimension, embodying Jewish self-respect and the promise of messianic fulfillment. All movements in American Judaism (excepting the ultra-Orthodox sectarians) have become more Israel-oriented in the past decades. Both the Reform and Conservative movements have been striving to achieve legal recognition and equal status with Orthodoxy in the state of Israel, where marriage, divorce, and conversion are controlled by the Orthodox rabbinate, which is backed in the government by the important National Religious Party.

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"Comprehensive list of links to academic associations, research institutes, study programs, libraries, archives, e-mail discussion groups and other WWW resources in the field of academic Jewish Studies worldwide. Offers direct access to online library catalogs and to 'RAMBI - Index of Articles in Jewish Studies'.  Part of the WWW-Virtual Library."
Provided by the Jewish Studies Dept., University of Duisburg, Germany

The Jewish History Resource Center
A well organized and extensive collection of academic resources.  A selection of the units include Databases; Biblical History; Syllabi; Libraries - Archives; American Jewish History; Grants & Fellowships; Basic Readings; and much more.
The Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Ultimate Jewish/Israel Link Launcher
Sections include: Politics ; Judaism ; Culture ; Local ; People ; History ; Antisemitism ; Information ; Travel ; Business ; Academic ; Organizations.
By Steve Ruttenberg, University of Colorado

Academic Jewish Studies on the Internet
"This network is one of the oldest Internet projects in the humanities, initially operating under the name Judaica/He'Asif, starting in February 1989, operating out of Tel Aviv University. In 1991, the network moved to the University of Minnesota, and in 1993 it became part of the H-Net Consortium in collaboration with the Shamash Project."

"We provide a neutral space to study the Torah, Mitzvot and their meaning to Reform Jews. We are searching for a common thread of knowledge, belief and practice that can be agreed upon and used to unify Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews. We support amateur Torah scholarship and provide resources to beginning students of Biblical Hebrew and Torah."

Conversion to Judaism
"The Conversion to Judaism Home Page is the web site of the Conversion to Judaism Resource Center. The Center provides information and advice to people who are considering converting to Judaism and to those who have converted."
By Lawrence J. Epstein

Dead Sea Scrolls
An exhibit at the Library of Congress. The online exhibit includes images of 12 scroll fragments and 29 other objects loaned by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The exhibit also includes introductions to the Qumran library and community and the 'World of the Scrolls'

H-Judaic Home Page
Jewish Studies Online

Israel Social Sciences Data Center
"...established by the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with a mission to collect, preserve and distribute data of interest to the academic community...The ISDC now houses approximately 1200 datasets including national sample survey data, local studies, census micro-data, government records in selected fields as well as macro-economic series...Sources of data include the Central Bureau of Statistics, central and local government agencies, research institutes as well as independent researchers from the affiliated academic institutes."

Jewish History Resource Center
" This Website from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem serves primarily as a fine gateway on Jewish History resources. Topics covered include biblical history, the Second Temple and the Talmudic Era, the Holocaust, Archaeology, Zionism and the State of Israel, American Jewish History, and Women's Studies, among others. Also available on-site are a listing of Hebrew University Dissertations; a conference calendar; annotated directories of relevant archives, libraries, and databases; numerous bibliographies indexed by historical topics, and much more. The site is frequently updated and easily navigated. [DC]"
From The Scout Report for Social Sciences [04/18/00], Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2000.
The Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Jewish Learning Index
"Project Genesis promotes further Jewish education about our Jewish roots, as represented in Jewish sources. Project Genesis believes that this is the best way to restore self-respect, self-confidence, and an interest in our own continuity, among modern Jewish collegiates and unaffiliated Jews worldwide. Project Genesis works to establish a strong Jewish identity, expand Jewish knowledge, and encourage its participants to become more involved with Judaism and the Jewish community."
Study sections include: Torah Portion ; Jewish Law ; Ethics ; Texts ; Seasons ; Features ; Jewish Basics.



Jewish National and University Library, Hebrew University

 The Library Catalogue

Jewish Ozzies' Inter.Net (J.O.I.N.)
"...the  non-profit association which helps organisations and individuals to participate in the Jewish internet and learn about matters of importance and interest to the Australian Jewish community."

Jewish Student Online Research Center (JSOURCE)
"JSOURCE is not an index or search engine for surfing the web. We purposely avoided links with other sites to make this a one-stop shop for information. Our goal is to provide the basic information you need to be informed, whether it is to satisfy your own interest or to prepare for a research paper, speech, article or debate."

Jewish Studies Resources
"The page links to academic resources in field of Jewish studies and is partially annotated. There are links to important online databases in Jewish studies, major libraries and archives, and other subjects such as history, the Holocaust, Israel, Bible, and full-text resources. The page is updated on a regular basis."
Nancy Pressman Levy, Hebrew and African Studies Selector, Princeton University Library

Jewish Women's Archive
"The mission of the Jewish Women's Archive is to uncover, chronicle, and transmit the rich legacy of Jewish women and their contributions to our families and communities, to our people and our world."
Sections include: Exhibits ; Virtual Archive ; Resources.

Jewish/Israel History
Sections on genealogy, ancient Israel, diaspora history and Israel

Judaism and Jewish Resources
Mix of both practice and academic sites.
Maintained by Andrew Tannenbaum

Judaica Collection
Both religious and political links

A meta-directory of thousands of  links

"Links for students and scholars of Early Judaism and Christianity, offering a selective, annotated guide to various web sites."
Sections include: Early Judaism & Christianity ; General Christian Links ; General Jewish Links ; Religious Studies ; Classical Studies ; Library Resources ; Publishers & Booksellers ; Software for Theology ; Greek & Hebrew Fonts ; Desk References ; Search Engines ; Directories ; World News ; Web-Servant.
By Loren T. Stuckenbruck and Jerry D. Truex

Yad Vashem on the Internet
"Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953 by an act of the Israeli Knesset...Yad Vashem's task is to perpetuate the legacy of the Holocaust to future generations so that the world never forgets the horrors and cruelty of the Holocaust. Its principal missions are commemoration and documentation of the events of the Holocaust, collection, examination and publication of testimonies to the Holocaust, the collection and memorialization of the names of Holocaust victims, research and education."

 Yad Vashem Magazine (Internet Edition)

Additional Sites of Interest

Adam and Eve Archive
The biblical story in Judaism and Christianity
Gary A. Anderson, University of Virginia & Michael E. Stone, Hebrew University - Jewish Books
Online Jewish bookstore

The Aseneth Home Page
"...the web site devoted to Joseph and Aseneth, a tale told about the Biblical Patriarch Joseph and his Egyptian wife Aseneth, usually classed as part of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. This page was created to coincide with course THM393 (Set Texts) taught the Spring Semester 1999 in the Department of Theology, University of Birmingham. You will find here an introduction, a translation, bibliography and links."
By Dr Mark Goodacre, University of Birmingham

Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace
"This is the official host of the world-wide Chabad-Lubavitch Movement, a project of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch - the educational arm of the Lubavitch movement."
Includes daily and weekly lectures and is available in eight languages
They offer custom-designed vacations for individuals and groups to Israel through their websites.

The Jews of Bukhara
"This is a brief outline of the history of the Jewish community of Bukhara (also written Bokhara or Bochara), Uzbekistan, from earliest times to the present."
Donna L. Carr

An overview by Alan Humm

Material Culture
Ancient Canaanites, Israelites and Related Peoples

Philo of Alexandria
Resources for the study of Philo of Alexandria
Includes online texts, introduction, articles, and reviews.
By Torrey Seland, Prof. Biblical Studies, Volda University College, Norway


CONTRIBUTOR: Bethany Hessenthaler (2001)

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© Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2001. All Rights reserved.

Web Surfer's Caveat: These are class notes, intended to comment on readings and amplify class discussion. They should be read as such. They are not intended for publication or general distribution.

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