The Other Synagogues

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
Richard Last Department of Humanities 231 Vanier College, York University, 4700 Keele St. Toronto, on M3J 1P3

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This article scrutinizes the synagogue category and explores what value might be gained if it were to become inclusive of polytheistic occupational guilds comprising of Judeans and members from other ethnicities. It is argued that the traditional, narrow, understanding of ancient synagogues as ethnic-based groups functions to preserve the notion of a fixed and bounded practice of Judaism in antiquity, housed in synagogues. If this synagogue concept is allowed to persist, the insights gained from critical theory for understanding the fluidity and heterogeneity of Judean identity, ethnicity, and cult practice will be counteracted. The thirty other synagogues analyzed in this study are craft guilds that are often neglected in scholarship or classified as something other than synagogues. The act of excluding these guilds from the synagogue category falls outside of ancient linguistic practices and is at odds with the increasing insistence that synagogues from antiquity should be classified under the association genus.

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