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Exclusion and Hierarchy: Orthodoxy, Nonobservance, and the Emergence of Modern Jewish Identity

Overview

Following the Jewish Enlightenment, many eighteenth-century Jews chose not to observe the religious laws and customs that had earlier marked them as culturally different from their Christian peers. As the Jewish population became increasingly assimilated, an ultraorthodox movement also emerged, creating a discrete identity for a group within the Jewish community that opted not to move toward the mainstream but instead to embrace the traditional laws.

By tracing the evolution of ...

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Overview

Following the Jewish Enlightenment, many eighteenth-century Jews chose not to observe the religious laws and customs that had earlier marked them as culturally different from their Christian peers. As the Jewish population became increasingly assimilated, an ultraorthodox movement also emerged, creating a discrete identity for a group within the Jewish community that opted not to move toward the mainstream but instead to embrace the traditional laws.

By tracing the evolution of the approach of the Orthodox to their nonpracticing brethren, Adam S. Ferziger sheds new light on the emergence of Orthodoxy as a specific movement within modern Jewish society. In the course of this process, German Orthodoxy in particular articulated a new hierarchical vision of Jewish identity and the structure of modern Jewish society. Viewing Orthodox Judaism as no less a nineteenth-century phenomenon than Reform Judaism or Zionism, Ferziger looks at the ways it defined itself by its relationship to the nonobservant Jewish population. Ferziger argues that as the Orthodox movement emerged, it rejected the stance that the assimilated and nonobservers were deviant outcasts. Instead, they were accepted as legitimate members of a Jewish community, in which Orthodox Jews occupied the pinnacle, as the guardians of its tradition.

This book's contribution, however, moves beyond a historical study of Orthodox Judaism. The sociological methodology that Ferziger employs enables the reader to appreciate how other religious groups have sought to carve out their places within the mosaic of modern society.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A very readable and intelligent study of Orthodoxy in modern times."—Journal of the Association for Jewish studies

"This book enhances our understanding of an essential feature in modern Orthodoxy that has heretofore been underemphasized. Ferziger's sociological approach to rabbinic responsa is rare in the English-language literature, and his theoretical framework is well thought out, clearly presented, and very useful."—Samuel Heilman

"This very nuanced and informed study charts Orthodox responses to concrete cases of nonobservance and deviant behavior in nineteenth-centruy central Europe and thereby traces the emergence of modern Orthodoxy."—American Historical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812238655
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Series: Jewish Culture and Contexts
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,097,892
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam S. Ferziger is Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Fellow in Jewish Studies and lecturer in the Graduate Program in Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University.
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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction. The Emergence of Parallel Phenomena: Orthodox Judaism and the Modern Nonobservant Jew

PART I. TRADITION, EXCLUSION, INCLUSION, AND HIERARCHY
Introduction
1. A "Community of the Faithful": Hakham Zevi Hirsch Ashkenazi (1660-1718) and the Religious Pluralism of the Spanish-Portuguese Diaspora
2. The Forerunners of Orthodoxy
3. The Age of the Hatam Sofer: Early Nineteenth-Century Orthodoxy and the Emergence of Internal Boundaries
4. The Formulation of Hierarchical Judaism: Rabbi Jacob Ettlinger and the Nature of modern Jewish Identity

PART II. VARIATIONS OF HIERARCHICAL JUDAISM: GERMAN ORTHODOXY IN THE LATE NINETEENTH CENTURY
Introduction
5. The Hirschian Hierarchy: Communal Separation and the Nonobservant Jews
6. Bambergerian Unity and the Hierarchical Principle
7. The Conscious Hierarchy of Berlin Separatist Orthodoxy

Conclusion: The Hierarchical Model and Orthodox Centers Outside of Germany
Afterword
Appendix: Pre-Modern Rabbinic Sources Regarding Non-Observance
List of Abbreviations
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Acknowledgments

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2005

    Superb analysis of managing rifts in Jewish community

    Jewish unity faces constant challenges, most recently in the anguished debate over Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which was split largely across religious lines. Dr. Ferziger performs an important service in this book by tracing the roots of conflict between observant and non-observant Jews in 18th- and 19th-Century Europe and focusing on how communities managed to work together. From Budapest to Berlin, Ferziger describes the pain and puzzlement of Orthodox Jews as they watched family and friends violate the Sabbath and flout other halakhic observances while seeking to connect with the outside world. Although the notions of hierarchy that evolved may seem patronizing, they served as important tools for those among the Orthodox who sought to create a big tent that would not exclude their wayward brethren. Ferziger writes with sensitivity and style, offering a superb analysis of how Jews worked hard to bridge significant rifts and find common ground.

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