With the Age of Enlightenment in Europe and the emancipation of Western Europe's Jewish populations, Jews at last held a place within society and could integrate within the life of a modern Western nation. Nominally a blessing, emancipation yet brought with it the seeds of a major crisis in the history of Judaism.
From the perspective of an age of reason, Jews reexamined their traditional religious beliefs and practices. For many, ancient traditions could no longer serve as suitable guides to action in the contemporary environment. To meet the crisis, the Jewish community was radically altered, as was the synagogue.
In the sphere of religion, Dr. Blau describes the adjustments that Judaism has made in the past two centuries -- adjustments that allow both change and continuity within an age-old tradition. He deals in order of their emergence with the religion's major branches (Reform, Neo-Orthodox, and Conservative) and appraises the Zionist movement. Taken all together, all of the modern varieties of Judaism reveal the influence of emancipation and of the full entry of Jews into the secular life of their communities.
About the Author
Joseph L. Blau is the author or editor of many books, including The Jews of the United States, 1790-1840: A Documentary History (3 volumes, 1964), which he edited jointly with Salo. W. Baron.
Table of Contents
1. Emancipation and the Birth of Modern Judaism
2. The Initial Response: Reform Judaism in Europe and America
3. Reformulating Jewish Orthodoxy: Samson Raphael Hirsch and His Successors
4. The Complex Phenomenon of Conservative Judaism
5. Zionism: From Religious Nationalism to National Religion
6. Was Emancipation a Mistake? Mid-Twentieth-Century Appraisals