A Polynesian, a Jew, and a Hindu Walk into Jerusalem: On Mendelssohn’s Religious Universalism

In: The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy
Author: Jeremy Fogel1
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  • 1 Tel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
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In his Jerusalem, Moses Mendelssohn describes a Polynesian visitor to Dessau before traveling to India by way of ancient Jerusalem. In two pages, Mendelssohn has crossed the world, doing so to argue that in spite of their cultural differences, most human beings ultimately share basic salvific religious truths. This paper explores the religious universalism reflected in this striking passage, analyzes Mendelssohn’s cultural sensitivity and pluralism, and offers a characterization of the particularities of Mendelssohn’s Jewish universalism as well as concluding thoughts on the varieties of universalism more generally.

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