The idea of the Jewish contribution to civilization is generally understood as a Western counter-discourse that, often expressed in response to anti-Semitism, aims to change attitudes towards Jews. My examination of the appropriation of this idea by the Egyptian-Jewish writer Alfred Yallouz in the early 1940s proposes that he embedded it in his national and regional politics of Jewish cultural reform. Here, it served the aim of promoting Jewish belonging to Arab society by addressing historical Jewish contributions to Arab culture, and connecting these to Arab-Jewish relations in the present.
Scholarly discussion concerning rabbinic conceptions of the nature of halakhah—realist vs. nominalist—has for the most part focused on halakhic content and discourse. However, as Schremer has shown, non-halakhic passages may present conceptions that differ from those found in halakhic sources. Following Schremer’s suggested distinction, in this study I examine non-halakhic texts which use various metaphors or linguistic styles to characterize the miṣwot. In the cases I examine, I will demonstrate that the authors could have formulated their content in more than one way, and thus their choice of a particular linguistic style reflects their particular conception of the nature of the miṣwot. My suggestion is that non-halakhic sources that display both modes of thought, realist and nominalist views of Jewish law, offer more accurate reflections of the multifaceted conceptual world of the rabbis than do halakhic texts.
The article examines Max Wiener’s thoughts on the relation of Judaism and religion via his critique of his former teacher, Hermann Cohen. This focusses on the notion of religion developed by Cohen in the context of Jewish Scientific Research [Wissenschaft des Judentums]. It discusses Wiener’s thoughts on religion in order to exemplify the specific kind of struggle a non-Christian religious tradition might get into concerning the application of the notion of religion upon itself.
Ninety years ago, the Federation of Polish Jews in America hosted their national convention and world congress in the New York City area. In this article, we will discuss some of what transpired at these events. Set at a tumultuous crossroads in world history, the Federation rallied Jewish groups throughout the United States and the world in humanitarian support for a war-torn Polish nation. The national convention and world congress were also set to have their own respective satellite sessions at the New York World’s Fair of 1939 and 1940. These satellite sessions are noteworthy in that they mark a Jewish presence at the Fair which extended beyond the Jewish Palestine Pavilion. They also mark a uniquely Polish presence, extending beyond Poland’s own Pavilion at the Fair.
The article’s point of departure is a debate that took place in about 1290 between Zeraḥyah b. Isaac Ḥen and Hillel b. Samuel, two Jewish-Italian thinkers, that presents us with a surprisingly great variety of Arab, Jewish, and Latin-Christian exegetical and cosmological approaches regarding angelic nature. Zeraḥyah, following the dominant attitude among Arab, Muslim, and Jewish philosophers, strives to interpret the biblical angel-figure either naturalistically or allegorically. Conversely, Hillel cleaves more closely to Christian scholastic conceptions, adhering to the biblical narrative in the literal sense. The struggle between Jacob and the angel (Gen 32) posed one of the most challenging cases, presenting the interpreter with a situation in which an angel did not only appear but was also engaged in bodily contact. In the case of Hillel, his dual commitment as a Jewish Maimonidean heavily influenced by Latin Scholasticism led to the development of a highly unique solution.
This article presents an analysis of the controversy between two 18th-century leading figures: Rabbi Zalman Hanau and Rabbi Jacob Emden. The stances expressed in this controversy, which was held over changes in the traditional prayer versions suggested by Hanau, reveal opposing fundamental attitudes of the two rivals towards basic questions concerning the origin of Hebrew and its linguistic essence. It is being suggested that this controversy resembles the ancient linguistic dispute between the analogist school and anomalist school in Greek and Latin linguistics, even though these two 18th-century figures were not familiar with it.
This article presents the results of a preliminary inquiry into the theatrical activity of Sephardic Jews in Italy from 1492 to the 18th century. Through archival investigation conducted on catalogues of manuscripts and published books from Italian libraries, as well as on documents produced by Sephardic communities, the study focuses on three case studies: the communities in Venice, Naples, and Tuscany. Concerning the Venetian community, literary witnesses to the dramatic activity in the Ghetto are collected and analyzed, including Ester by Salomon Usque and Leon Modena. Concerning the Neapolitan community, the reasons for the absence of Sephardic cultural traces are clarified. The only extant Judeo-Spanish plays produced in Italy come from Pisa and Livorno, testifying to the prolific activity of Iberian Jews in Tuscany. Finally, a list of Hebrew dramatic works written by Italian authors of Sephardic origin is provided in order to reflect on the very categories of ‘Sephardic’ and ‘Italian.’
The Fifth Passover Cup is mentioned in a textual variant of a baraita in Tractate Pesaḥim of the Babylonian Talmud (118a), attributed to Rabbi Ṭarfon and another anonymous Palestinian tanna. Scholars have demonstrated that the variant is primary in talmudic manuscripts and among the Babylonian Geonim. Following a nineteenth-century proposition of Isaac Baer Levinsohn, it is argued that the fifth cup was instituted in Babylonia due to concern for magical evil spirits aroused by even-numbered events [zugot]. Objections to Levinsohn’s theory can be allayed by critical source analysis: the Talmud’s attribution of the fifth cup to the Palestinian tanna Rabbi Ṭarfon in a baraita is pseudoepigraphic, based upon Rabbi Ṭarfon’s teaching regarding the recitation of Hallel ha-Gadol in Mishnah Ta‘anit 3:9. A special appendix is devoted to Levinsohn’s separate study on zugot in the ancient and medieval world.