Special Issue "Religion and Modern Jewish Thought"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 November 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Paul Mendes-Flohr

Dorothy Grant Maclear Professor of Modern Jewish History and Thought; Associate Faculty in the Department of History, Divinity School, University of Chicago, Swift Hall, 1025 E 58th St, Chicago, IL 60637, USA. Professor Emeritus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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Interests: modern Jewish intellectual history; modern Jewish philosophy and religious thought; philosophy of religion; German intellectual history; the history and sociology of intellectuals. He has recently completed a biography of Martin Buber, to be published by Yale University Press

Special Issue Information

With Jewry’s entry into the modern world, Judaism, as Leora Batnitzky noted, became a religion. This process can be various understood: From a comprehensive way of life, Judaism was constricted to a religous confession affirming distinctive articles of faith; their incremental integration into an open society and the cultural and intellectual encounter with other faith traditions, Jews were increasingly challenged to explain to themselves and others the “theological” presuppostions of Judaism. This task was often pursued with conceptual and hermeneutic perspectives unique to the modern world, such as, historical and textual criticism, and with reference to philosophical discourse initiated by the likes of Kant, Hegel, Schelling, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Faucault and Derrida.

Dear Colleagues,

The volume is conceived as a symposium in which the issues delineated in the above summary will be addressed. The articles may consider the thought of representatives of all tendencies in modern Jewish thought: Reform, Orthodox, Hasidic, Ultra-Orthodox and those without a denominational affiliation; the issues considered may also appertain to adjustments of Judaism to questions of gender and sexual orientation. The genres of the reflections on Judaism under the conditions of modernity may also include belles lettes, poetry, and cinema. Nor is the purview of the symposium restricted to European Jewish thought.  

It is hoped that the thematic parameters symposium will provide a broad and nuanced discussion of the varied expressions of modern Jewish religious thought.

Prof. Dr. Paul Mendes-Flohr
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

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Keywords

  • Modern Jewish philosophy and theology
  • Post-traditional genres of Jewish religious thought

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Open AccessArticle Hasidic Myth-Activism: Martin Buber’s Theopolitical Revision of Volkish Nationalism
Religions 2019, 10(2), 96; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020096
Received: 4 December 2018 / Revised: 20 January 2019 / Accepted: 29 January 2019 / Published: 3 February 2019
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Abstract
Since the 1970s, Buber has often been suspected of being a Volkish thinker. This essay reconsiders the affinity of Buber’s late writings with Volkish ideology. It examines the allegations against Buber’s Volkish thought in light of his later biblical and Hasidic writings. By [...] Read more.
Since the 1970s, Buber has often been suspected of being a Volkish thinker. This essay reconsiders the affinity of Buber’s late writings with Volkish ideology. It examines the allegations against Buber’s Volkish thought in light of his later biblical and Hasidic writings. By illuminating the ideological affinity between these two modes of thought, the essay explains how Buber aims to depart from the dangers of myth without rejecting myth as such. I argue that Buber’s relationship to myth can help us to explain his critique of nationalism. My basic argument is that in his struggle with hyper-nationalism, Buber follows the Baal Shem Tov and his struggle against Sabbateanism. Like the Besht, Buber does not reject myth, but seeks instead to repair it from within. Whereas hyper-nationalism uses myth to advance its political goals, Buber seeks to reposition ethics within a mythic framework. I view Buber’s exegesis and commentaries on biblical and Hasidic myths as myth-activism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Modern Jewish Thought)
Open AccessArticle Political Economy as a Test of Modern Judaism
Religions 2019, 10(2), 78; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020078
Received: 14 December 2018 / Revised: 17 January 2019 / Accepted: 18 January 2019 / Published: 24 January 2019
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Abstract
According to a common narrative, Jews entered the modern world at a steep price. From an autonomous corporation, ruling themselves internally according to their own standards and law, Judaism became a “religion,” divested of political power and responsible only for the internal sphere [...] Read more.
According to a common narrative, Jews entered the modern world at a steep price. From an autonomous corporation, ruling themselves internally according to their own standards and law, Judaism became a “religion,” divested of political power and responsible only for the internal sphere of “faith” or belief. The failure of this project, in turn, gave rise to the sharp split between Jewish nationalism and religion-based conceptions of Judaism. Many modern Jewish thinkers sought to resolve this antinomy by imagining ways for Judaism to once again form the basis of a “complete life”. This essay seeks to challenge this narrative by examining the extent to which economics, another one of the “spheres” emerging together with modernity and often considered under the same broadly Weberian process of rationalization, ever truly formed part of the holistic, self-contained Jewish autonomous life for which modern thinkers expressed so much nostalgia. It will argue that rather than forming part of the internal world of Judaism and then being fragmented outward into a separate sphere under the pressure of modernity, the “economic sphere” was imagined and defined for the first time in modernity, and projected backwards into earlier eras. This projection was then taken as proof of Judaism’s ability to “be about everything,” whether in a religious or nationalist idiom. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Modern Jewish Thought)
Open AccessArticle Religion without God? Approaches to Theological Reference in Modern and Contemporary Jewish Thought
Religions 2019, 10(1), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010062
Received: 1 December 2018 / Revised: 8 January 2019 / Accepted: 11 January 2019 / Published: 18 January 2019
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Abstract
Recent scholarship on both ancient and modern Judaism has criticized the identification of Judaism as a religion. From the perspective of the modern period, what has remained unaddressed is the very peculiar religion that Jewish philosophers and theologians have formed. Numerous scholars with [...] Read more.
Recent scholarship on both ancient and modern Judaism has criticized the identification of Judaism as a religion. From the perspective of the modern period, what has remained unaddressed is the very peculiar religion that Jewish philosophers and theologians have formed. Numerous scholars with varying philosophical and religious commitments depict Judaism as a religion in which belief plays a negligible role and reference to God is tenuous if not impossible. This article charts three trends in modern and contemporary Jewish thought on the subject of theological reference: restricted referentialism, ostensive referentialism, and theological referentialism. The article concludes by discussing new developments in the theory of reference that can further the work of the theological referentialists and help revitalize Jewish theology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Modern Jewish Thought)
Open AccessArticle The Hyphen in the Theological-Political: Spinoza to Mendelssohn, Heine, and Derrida
Religions 2019, 10(1), 21; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010021
Received: 3 December 2018 / Revised: 27 December 2018 / Accepted: 28 December 2018 / Published: 29 December 2018
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Abstract
Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise introduced the unique catchphrase of the theological-political. While commanding popular currency, the full implications of the phrase is rarely considered in terms of modern Jewish thought. This paper examines how paying close attention to the hyphen helps us better understand [...] Read more.
Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise introduced the unique catchphrase of the theological-political. While commanding popular currency, the full implications of the phrase is rarely considered in terms of modern Jewish thought. This paper examines how paying close attention to the hyphen helps us better understand the critical role of the hyphen in Spinoza and its significance for Mendelssohn, Heine, and Derrida’s critical agenda of rethinking the theological-political. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Modern Jewish Thought)
Open AccessArticle The Woman’s Voice in Zionism: Disentangling Paula Winkler from Martin Buber
Religions 2018, 9(12), 401; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9120401
Received: 15 November 2018 / Revised: 4 December 2018 / Accepted: 4 December 2018 / Published: 6 December 2018
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Abstract
This article calls for a reassessment of the thought of Paula Winkler (1877–1958), paying renewed attention to her contributions to the cultural Zionist movement in her work on the domestic space as a site of Jewish cultural renewal. Criticizing the trend in modern [...] Read more.
This article calls for a reassessment of the thought of Paula Winkler (1877–1958), paying renewed attention to her contributions to the cultural Zionist movement in her work on the domestic space as a site of Jewish cultural renewal. Criticizing the trend in modern Jewish scholarship of focusing on Winkler’s biography and her relationship with her husband Martin Buber at the expense of appreciating her innovations as a Zionist thinker, it proposes and demonstrates a close reading of her work as a corrective. Focusing on Winkler’s 1901 essays on Zionism and the Jewish woman, this article illustrates the important challenges Winkler leveled to Buber and the young Zionist intellectual community by awarding the Jewish woman and the private sphere an active and positive role in the Zionist transformation of Jewish life. It concludes that questions of Winkler’s identity are best approached through her own careful navigation of her liminal status in the Jewish and Zionist communities, and the way that she engages the perspective awarded to her as a woman and a non-Jew to formulate her arguments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Modern Jewish Thought)
Open AccessArticle Metanomianism and Religious Praxis in Martin Buber’s Hasidic Tales
Religions 2018, 9(12), 399; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9120399
Received: 11 November 2018 / Revised: 27 November 2018 / Accepted: 28 November 2018 / Published: 4 December 2018
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Abstract
It is well known that Martin Buber abandoned Jewish law as a binding code. Scholars have identified him accurately as a religious anarchist, and his perspective is best characterized as metanomian—that is, one that locates the essence of religiosity outside of any fixed [...] Read more.
It is well known that Martin Buber abandoned Jewish law as a binding code. Scholars have identified him accurately as a religious anarchist, and his perspective is best characterized as metanomian—that is, one that locates the essence of religiosity outside of any fixed system, without necessarily opposing that system as a matter of principle. And yet, such general characterizations offer only a very vague picture of Buber’s stance. This paper demonstrates that it is especially illustrative for us to turn to Buber’s Hasidic tales. First of all, precisely because Buber’s concept of practice was irreducible to any static system or code, the genre of narrative conveys far more than any abstract formulation can. Moreover, inasmuch as Buber’s Hasidic tales were his own hermeneutical refractions of earlier sources, which were in themselves teeming with images of practice, our intertextual investigations reveal at once narrative representations of religious life and Buber’s personal interpretations of those narratives. What emerges from this study, then, is a textured and vivid vision of religious practice, which was not merely a peripheral concern but a life-encompassing core of Buber’s thought. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Modern Jewish Thought)
Open AccessArticle We Spring from that History: Bernard Lazare, between Universalism and Particularism
Religions 2018, 9(10), 322; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9100322
Received: 15 September 2018 / Revised: 12 October 2018 / Accepted: 19 October 2018 / Published: 21 October 2018
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Abstract
This paper examines the evolution of Jewish identity in the works of writer and critic Bernard Lazare. It suggests that Lazare’s oeuvre elucidates one of the central tensions in modern Jewish thought: the division between those thinkers who use the reputedly universalist Greek [...] Read more.
This paper examines the evolution of Jewish identity in the works of writer and critic Bernard Lazare. It suggests that Lazare’s oeuvre elucidates one of the central tensions in modern Jewish thought: the division between those thinkers who use the reputedly universalist Greek philosophical tradition as a lens to analyze and critique Judaism, and those who use the Jewish textual tradition to challenge and reconceive non-Jewish philosophy. Lazare situated himself on both sides of this divide during his life. In his early work, he used the universalist, laical ideology of French republicanism to attack what he perceived as the inflexible, regressive, anti-modernist character of Talmudic Judaism. Lazare’s thought later shifted in the wake of his involvement in the Dreyfus Affair, and he sought to reclaim an ethnic, nationalist conception of Jewish identity as the source for a communal Jewish political response to rising anti-Semitism. Yet through a close reading of Lazare’s writings, the paper suggests that Lazare’s intellectual evolution was never as complete or totalizing as he perhaps wished. His earlier work occasionally used Jewish sources to critique philosophical universalism, while hints of philosophical critiques of the particularism of Jewish texts such as the Talmud remained in his later revalorization of Jewish identity. Lazare thereby reveals how universalism and particularism remain mutually implicated within modern Jewish thought. The paper thus suggests avenues for Lazare to be productively read within the broader canon of modern Jewish thinkers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Modern Jewish Thought)
Open AccessArticle The “Jewish Blackness” Thesis Revisited
Religions 2018, 9(7), 222; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070222
Received: 20 June 2018 / Revised: 19 July 2018 / Accepted: 20 July 2018 / Published: 22 July 2018
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Abstract
The notion that in previous centuries Jews were considered to be black, or seen as blacks, has gained broad acceptance in scholarly discourse on the Jewish body since the early 1990s. The present article considers the notion analytically and then examines some of [...] Read more.
The notion that in previous centuries Jews were considered to be black, or seen as blacks, has gained broad acceptance in scholarly discourse on the Jewish body since the early 1990s. The present article considers the notion analytically and then examines some of the evidence provided to support it. Much of this evidence does not stand critical examination. Therefore, arguably, the notion of Jewish blackness should be reconsidered. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Modern Jewish Thought)

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Open AccessEssay Historiography and Remembrance: On Walter Benjamin’s Concept of Eingedenken
Religions 2019, 10(1), 40; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010040
Received: 15 November 2018 / Revised: 28 December 2018 / Accepted: 5 January 2019 / Published: 10 January 2019
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Abstract
Engaging with Walter Benjamin’s concept of Eingedenken (remembrance), this article explores the pivotal role that remembrance plays in his attempt to develop a radically new vision of history, temporality, and human agency. Building on his essay “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” and on [...] Read more.
Engaging with Walter Benjamin’s concept of Eingedenken (remembrance), this article explores the pivotal role that remembrance plays in his attempt to develop a radically new vision of history, temporality, and human agency. Building on his essay “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” and on his last written text, “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, it will trace how memory and historiography are brought together in a curious fusion of materialist and messianic thinking. Emerging from a critique of modernity and its ideology of progress that is cast as crisis—the practice of remembrance promises a ‘way out’. Many of Benjamin’s secular Marxist critics such as Max Horkheimer and Rolf Tiedemann, however, denied the political significance of Eingedenken—dismissing it as theological or banishing it to the realm of aesthetics. Rejecting this critique, I suggest that the radical ethical aspects of Eingedenken can be grasped only once the theological dimension is embraced in its own right and that it is in precisely this blend of materialist and messianic thought that revolutionary hope may be found. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Modern Jewish Thought)
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