The biblical idea of a distinct 'Jewish contribution to civilization' continues to engage Jews and non-Jews alike. This book seeks neither to document nor to discredit the notion, but rather to investigate the idea itself as it has been understood from the seventeenth century to the present. It explores the role that the concept has played in Jewish self-definition, how it has influenced the political, social, and cultural history of the Jews and of others, and whether discussion of the notion still has relevance in the world today. The book offers a broad spectrum of academic opinion: from tempered advocacy to reasoned disavowal, with many variations on the theme in between. It attempts to illustrate the centrality of the question in modern Jewish culture in general, and its importance for modern Jewish studies in particular. Part I addresses the idea itself and considers its ramifications. Richard I. Cohen focuses on the nexus between notions of 'Jewish contribution' and those of 'Jewish superiority" David N.
Myers shifts the focus from 'contribution' to 'civilization', arguing that the latter term often served the interests of Jewish intellectuals far better, and Moshe Rosman shows how the current emphasis on multiculturalism has given the idea of a 'Jewish contribution' new life. Part II turns to the relationship between Judaism and other monotheistic cultures. Elliott Horowitz's essay on the sabbath serves as an instructive test-case for the dynamic and complexity of the 'contribution' debate and a pointer to more general, theoretical issues. David Berger expands on these in his account of how discussion of Christianity's Jewish legacy developed in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and Susannah Heschel shows how the Jewish-Christian encounter has influenced the study of other non-Western 'others'. Daniel Schroeter raises revealing questions about the altogether Eurocentric character of the 'contribution' discourse, which also bore heavily on perceptions of Jews and Judaism in the world of Islam. Part III introduces us to various applications and consequences of the debate.
Yaacov Shavit probes the delicate balance forged by nineteenth-century German Jewish intellectuals in defining their identity. Mark Gelber moves the focus to the present and considers the post-war renewal of German Jewish culture and the birth of German-Jewish studies in the context of the 'contribution' discourse. Bringing the volume to its conclusion, David Biale compares three overviews of Jewish culture and civilization published in America in the twentieth and twenty-first-centuries. CONTRIBUTORS David Berger, David Biale, Jeremy Cohen, Richard I. Cohen, Mark Gelber, Susannah Heschel, Elliott Horowitz, David N. Myers, Moshe Rosman, Daniel Schroeter, Yaacov Shavit
Richard I. Cohen, Professor, Department of the History of the Jewish People, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Jeremy Cohen: Introduction Part I Formulating the Question 1 Richard I. Cohen: 'Jewish Contribution to Civilization' and its Implications for Notions of 'Jewish Superiority' in the Modern Period 2 David N. Myers: Discourses of Civilization: The Shifting Course of Modern Jewish Motif 3 Moshe Rosman: From Counterculture to Subculture to Multiculture: The 'Jewish Contribution Then and Now Part II Judaism and Other Cultures 4 Elliott Horowitz: Day of Gladness or Day of Madness? Modern Discussion of the Ancient Sabbath 5 David Berger: 'The Jewish Contribution' to Christianity 6 Susannah Heschel: Judaism, Islam, and Hellenism: The Conflict in Germany over the Origins of Kultur 7 Daniel Schroeter: From Sephardi to Oriental: The 'Decline' Theory of Jewish Civilization in the Middle East and North Africa Part III Jews, Germans, Americans 8 Yaacov Shavit: From Admission Ticket to Contribution: Remarks on the History of an Apologetic Argument 9 Mark H. Gelber: German - Jewish Literature and the Field of German - Jewish Studies 10 David Biale: Louis Finkelstein, Mordecai Kaplan, and American 'Jewish Contributions to Civilization Bibliography Index
234 x 156 x 13 mm
August 31, 2012
The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization