One People?

BookOne People?

One People?

Tradition, Modernity, and Jewish Unity

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


March 1st, 1993

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One People? is the first book-length study of the major problem confronting the Jewish future: the availability or otherwise of a way of mending the schisms between Reform and Orthodox Judaism, between religious and secular Jews in Israel, and between Israel itself and the diaspora—all of which have been deepened by the fierce and continuing controversy over the question of ‘who is a Jew?’ One People? is a study of the background to this and related controversies. It traces the fragmentation of Jewry in the wake of the Enlightenment, the variety of Orthodox responses to these challenges, and the resources of Jewish tradition for handling diversity. Having set out the background to the intractability of the problems, it ends by examining the possibilities within Jewish thought that might make for convergence and reconciliation. The Chief Rabbi employs a variety of disciplines—history, sociology, theology, and halakhic jurisprudence—to clarify a subject in which these dimensions are inextricably interwoven. He also explores key issues such as the underlying philosophy of Jewish law, and the nature of the collision between tradition and modern consciousness. Written for the general reader as much as the academic one, this is a lucid and thought-provoking presentation of the dilemmas of Jewish Orthodoxy in modernity.

‘His analysis of contemporary orthodoxy, which constitutes the bulk of the book, is recommended, especially for non-traditional or secular Jews who wish better to understand an observant Jew's perspective on the diverse Judaisms of modernity.’
- A. J. Avery-Peck, Choice

‘We are indebted to Rabbi Sacks for presenting us with a closely reasoned argument helping the modern Orthodox Jew resolve the dilemma of wanting to live with his non-observant neighbours with mutual respect, and at the same time retaining his unqualified commitment to his faith in Tora min Hashamayim and all that that implies.’
- Mendell Lewittes, Jerusalem Post Magazine

‘It is admirable that an Orthodox Chief Rabbi should be searching—with halachic backing—for ways of uniting all Jewish factions.’
- Stefan Reif, Jewish Chronicle

‘A tour de force. Brilliantly documented and skilfully presented, it looks honestly at the Jewish experience of the past in order to find a resolution to the problems that today threaten the Jewish people with dissolution. Rabbi Sacks asserts in the preface that, “in writing about Liberal, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaisms, I have tried to come to terms with positions that are fundamentally not my own.” He is, I believe, the first Orthodox rabbi in a position of authority ever to do so, and for this he deserves our praise . . . One People? is essential reading for all who wish to establish the basis for a constructive dialogue between the various religious sections in Jewry . . . for those who truly love Klal Yisrael, his is the only reasonable way forward.’
- Sidney Brichto, Jewish Chronicle

His approach marks a refreshing change from those engaged in theological backbiting, and it bears out his desire to seek reconciliation between the different creeds of Judaism . . . Chief Rabbi Sacks is to be praised for opening up the process of reconciliation within Anglo-Jewry in a reasoned and dignified manner.'
- Jonathan Romain, Jewish Chronicle

‘Sober, realistic, even optimistic. It is also splendidly written, closely reasoned and meticulously documented . . . All of us can—and should—accept that the Chief Rabbi’s motives are good.’
- John Rayner, Jewish Chronicle

‘Any sense of déjà vu is soon eclipsed by the increased tightness and depth of the argument, apparent not least in the uncanny way in which any counter-argument is either anticipated or raised and dealt with later in the text . . . There is thus scope for much future discussion. This book makes its case against a deftly woven background of the history, sociology, theology and Halakha of the past two centuries. Its argument is brilliantly sustained through its compelling paradoxes which at times illuminate and at times provoke . . . Sacks has confronted the questions which most profoundly trouble contemporary Jewish existence. His book redraws the conceptual field in which the arguments will continue even if it is unlikely to end them. This is no small contribution.’
- Michael Gillis, Jewish Quarterly

‘An intellectual and philosophical feast of scholastic diplomacy. Diplomat par excellence, Sacks seeks to forge bridges over the seemingly unbridgeable chasms separating Orthodoxy, Progressive Judaism and Jewish secularism, as well as within Orthodoxy itself . . . a masterly exercise which, it is hoped, will not fall on the deaf ears of a Jewry too divided to love itself . . . a valiant attempt to occupy the pivotal middle ground of Jewry—a stance which demands courage in an age such as ours which favours extremism. Let us hope that all sections of Jewry will accept the hand of friendship and understanding stretched out to them by Sacks so that maybe one day we just might become One People.’
- Jewish Telegraph

‘Jonathan Sacks has had the courage to elaborate a major constituent of his personal credo before the public gaze . . . it is not dispassionately reasoned but is an expression of a devout commitment to the cause of unity . . . Even if Jonathan Sacks has raised more questions than he has answered, if we are prepared to address these questions to ourselves, he has thereby rendered a service to each of us, and so let us hope, to all of us, what he calls the “covenantal community”, keneset Yisrael.’
- Ephraim Borowski, Le'Ela

Author Information

Jonathan Sacks was Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Educated at the University of Cambridge, he was formerly Principal of Jews College, London, and 1990 BBC Reith Lecturer.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Half Title2
Title Page4
Note on Transliteration and Place Names16
1: The Crisis of Contemporary Jewish Thought20
Babel Inverted22
Interpreting the Holocaust25
The Significance of Israel26
Understanding Peoplehood28
Strategies of Jewish Thought32
Beyond Pessimism and Optimism35
2: The Birth of the Adjectival Jew37
Secularization and the Persistence of Religion41
Accommodation or Resistance?43
The Jewish Experience of Modernity44
The Adjectival Jew46
Judaism and Denomination49
Denomination and Mutual Misunderstanding50
The Secularization of Unity54
Orthodoxy and Jewish Unity58
A Religious Idea in a Secular Age60
3: Orthodoxy, History, and Culture63
Conserving the Covenant64
Interpreting Change65
Developments and Variations68
Torah as Code or Culture71
Dual Sensibilities73
Dereleh Eretz: Jewish or Secular?76
Principle and Policy80
4: Orthodoxy and Jewish Peoplehood84
English and French Models of Emancipation84
Eastern Europe88
East European Echoes93
The Hungarian and German Experience97
Consequences of Secession101
Contrary Forces105
5: Tradition and Diversity107
Aggadic Pluralism111
Alternative Interpretations117
The Search for Authority119
Halakhic Universalism125
The Search for Stringency128
Moderation as a Religious Norm130
Beyond Sectarianism133
6: Inclusivism135
Halakhic Inclusivism137
Inclusivism: The Rationale of Covenant140
The Cognitive Impact of Social Change144
Inclusivity and the Desire to be Included147
Inclusivism and Post-Holocaust Theologies152
7: A Collision of Consciousness160
Pluralism and Tradition162
The Social Context of Pluralism164
Halakhic Argument, Halakhic Decision167
Pluralism or Inclusivism?170
The Modem Self173
The Traditional Jewish Self175
The Autonomous Self and Judaism176
Integrity and Function179
Integrity and Tradition180
The Paradox of Integrity184
8: Schism?188
Rosenzweig and Fackenheim189
Hirschensohn and Kook195
Two Jewries?202
A Divided Unity214
9: The Future of a People215
The Rejection of Rejection218
An Idea in Crisis222
Against Covenantal Dualism225
The Third Crisis229
Pluralism, Exclusivism, Inclusivism233
Inclusivist Imperatives236