Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jewish Emancipation and Self-Emancipation by Jacob Katz

This volume is really a collection of essays that convey a theme and flow in modern Jewish history.  Jewish emancipation does not accomplish the serious integration of the Jewish people into the mainstream of Europe but rather changes the Jewish community by fracturing it internally.  Instead of integrating in Christian Europe, Professor Katz sees Zionism and the State of Israel as a natural historical outgrowth of the failure to integrate.  Creating a Jewish state is really self emancipation.

Moses Mendelssohn and his students that follow had grand hopes of Jewish equality. Even his students recommended changes to blend into the landscape.  Christian Europe, however, expected nothing less than conversion and not integration.  When the Jewish people were steadfast in their religion, acceptance waned, and anti-semitism rose to severe levels.  

Precursors to Zionism present the case of leaving Christian Europe, and settling the ancient homeland with messianic visions.  Rabbis Kalisher and Alkalay at one end of the ideological spectrum and socialistic Moses Hess at the other end share similar visions. In a fractured Jewish community with different ideologies, however, the messianic idea of return resonates with a significant minority.  This idea seems to unify a wide range of people. 

Professor Katz is convinced that the natural result of the failure of Christian Europe amalgamating the  Jewish people is the nurturing and growing Jewish independence into a third commonwealth that now manifests itself as the modern State of Israel. Although the Diaspora remains intact, and Jews around to world continue to accept host culture prejudice, the professor believes that the State of Israel contributes to the self esteem of world Jewry and the distinction in identities between the Jew and the Israeli is not as disparate as it used to be.

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