In the text, “Judaism and Modernity,” by authors; Esposito, Lewis and Fasching gave a thorough insight into the history of Judaism and its emergence into its modern religious denominations, as well as the many obstacles that Jews have faced throughout history. According to the text, the Jewish people as a religious community were rejected by European society until the late 1700s when the French Revolution took place and Europe was ruled by the Holy Roman Empire, and even after, the Jewish people were known to be continuously ridiculed and discriminated against for their faith.
For centuries, the Jewish people have struggled to keep their Jewish identity while living in the Christian dominant states. The Jews were trying to find a way to be in the non-Jewish society without having to lose their religious identity. Through time, Judaism has been reformed various times and has evolved, with the same overall beliefs, however with differing outlooks on the way of practice, and openness to the larger non-Jewish society and its culture. As so, there came many forms of Jewish movements. The first-ever modern form of Judaism in society was the Jewish Haskalah movement that was developed in the 1700s that put forth the idea for integration into the non-Jewish society as a means to be a part of both worlds; the general non-Jewish public society and to be a follower of Judaism.
They had to figure out what part of their faith was set in stone and what could be changed. As Reform Judaism was spread, the Jewish people were able to integrate into the Christian dominant society without compromising their religious views as a whole. In the late 1900s, the Reform Jewish community renounced the strict food laws they had as well as their tie to Palestine. This is because they felt that they shouldn’t be associated with a certain place as they were a “religious community.” Throughout the years, Judaism was more open for the non-Jewish people to learn about, for instance, the Jewish Holy Book was available in different languages such as French, English, and German to name a few. This made it easy for the non-Jewish community to have access to learn about Judaism as well as those Jews who could not read in Hebrew. Furthermore, they believed that their religion was to be changed through time and this new modern form of Judaism was for the modern world, however, others disagreed and believed they were going towards the wrong path. Due to the differing beliefs, came forth another form of modern Judaism, the Orthodox Judaism that renounced and opposed the beliefs of the Reform Jews and reclaimed the ancient traditions. This, of course, was seen as a big obstacle as it made the Jewish community indecisive, whether to embrace the modern changes of Judaism or to go back to practicing their ancient traditions and beliefs. The Jew community had to make the most important decision regarding their faith; which form of Judaism to follow, except for those who were Premodern Rabbinic Jews as they only focused on God Himself, their Holy Land and Holy Book. In addition to the two modern forms of Judaism; Reform and Orthodox emerged the third, Conservative Judaism which was in between the two. Conservative Judaism had the outlook of the Reform Jews and their need to fit into the secular society and still follow the ancient traditions as the Orthodox Jews. This new form of Judaism gave the Jewish community the freedom and right to their own respective beliefs without being wrong and helped them integrate into the modern secular society and it became the most prominent form of modern Judaism in Western society. The next movement of Judaism, Reconstructionism, was developed before the mid-1900s, however, it was not as prominent as the others.
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As many times as the Jews modernized Judaism, the non-Jewish society still rejected them as a religious community but accepted them individually. The reformed Jews that were given citizenship became involved in politics and became successful and important members of society. During the 1900s, the more successful the Jews became, the more fearful the non-Jewish communities became of them as they believed Jews were plotting to take over Europe. As time passed, the Jews became recognized as a race rather than followers of Judaism, and they were perceived as the “inferior” race by European society. With this sudden fear of Jews, the Nazi party in Germany spread false propaganda against the Jewish people to instill more fear into the general public and started the anti-Semitism campaign to systematically discriminate against and be prejudice towards the Jewish population as a means to wipe them all out. The Nazi party committed genocide against the Jewish community and millions were murdered in horrific ways and this event is known as the Holocaust. Those who have escaped and survived the genocide, immigrated to the United States and Canada to rebuild their lives. Fortunately for them, these countries were welcoming towards them and it gave them a chance to settle down and live a better life where they were accepted and were seen as equals rather than inferior.
After the Holocaust, new secularized forms of Judaism emerged into the society notably; Jewish socialism, Yiddish Judaism, and finally Zionism. These new forms of Judaism were used to resolve issues between their identity and modernity, as so many saw Jewish Socialism as the answer, however, they did not consider themselves as “religious.” On the other hand, Yiddish Judaism gave Jews the chance to be closer to their roots and traditions. Lastly, Zionism became the most prominent movement amongst them all, especially after enduring many hardships during the Holocaust, they wanted to have a state of their own to call home and rebuild their community. However, this new movement had more to do with politics rather than the religion itself, and took over Palestine and pushed out those who were already living there for thousands of years, the Palestinians.
In conclusion, the Jewish community has gone through many hardships in life however they overcame them through time and are known to the world as one of the resilient groups of people to rebuild their lives after the Holocaust. Judaism throughout history has evolved into modern society and different denominations with differing beliefs and outlooks. Evolving and becoming open to modern society and its culture is not necessarily wrong, however, nationalism has proven to be a bad thing, throughout history, in this case, Zionism. Modernity is proven to be good in the cases of gender equality and gender roles, however, Zionism is all about politics, power, and nationalism and nothing to do with religion itself therefore this ideology must be rejected.