Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Toleration within Judaism

Martin Goodman, Joseph David, Corinna R. Kaiser, and Simon Levis Sullam

Although Jews sometimes attempt to impose constraints on those with whom they disagree on religious matters or relate to them as if they were not Jews at all, at other times they have recognized differences of practice and belief and developed ways of handling them. The evidence presented in this book of such toleration over the centuries has important implications for writing both the history of Judaism and the history of religions more generally.

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The Bible itself calls the Jewish people 'a company of nations', suggesting that difference within Judaism is not a new phenomenon. It has continued throughout Jewish history, and this volume investigates how and why such difference has been tolerated. Drawing on examples from different geographical areas and from ancient times to the present, the contributors consider why Jews sometimes attempt to impose constraints on other Jews or relate to them as if they were not Jews at all, but at other times recognize differences of practice and belief and develop ways of handling them. In doing so, they provide an insight into a history of Judaism as a complex web of interactions between groups of Jews despite grounds for mutual antagonism.

Substantial introductory chapters lay out the issues and provide an extensive survey of cases of toleration throughout the past two thousand years, outlining possible structural reasons for it. The eight chapters that follow each take a specific case of toleration within Judaism, attempting to explain it in light of the models outlined in the Introduction. Presented in chronological order, the cases have been selected to reflect a spectrum of responses, from grudging forbearance to enthusiastic welcome of difference. Covering both practice and theology, each case is presented in depth, with full documentation. The Conclusion provides an overview of the patterns of tolerance that have emerged and discusses the implications for writing the history of Judaism as a narrative more complex than either the tracing of a linear progression from the Bible to the present, with variations presented as deviations, or as a model of overlapping 'Judaisms'.

This innovative volume sheds light on an important and overlooked aspect of the history of Judaism and should have broad appeal, not only for students and scholars of Judaism but for students of religious studies more generally.

 

About the authors

Martin Goodman is Professor of Jewish Studies in the University of Oxford, a Fellow of Wolfson College, and a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Among his books on Jewish history are Rome and Jerusalem (2007) and Judaism in the Roman World: Collected Essays (2007).

Joseph David is Senior Lecturer in Law and Religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Sapir Academic College. He is the author of The Family and the Political: on Belonging and Responsibility in a Liberal Society (2012) and Between Logos and Nomos: Law and Theology in Medieval Jewish Thought (forthcoming).

Corinna R. Kaiser has taught at the universities of Düsseldorf and Giessen, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rutgers University, and the University of Oxford. She recently returned to Düsseldorf as a lecturer. She specializes in the cultural, ritual, and media history of the Jews in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Simon Levis Sullam is Assistant Professor of Modern History at Ca' Foscari, University of Venice. He has held visiting positions at Berkeley, at the European University Institute, and at the University of Oxford. His publications on Jewish history include a modern history of the Jews of Venice (Una Comunità Immaginata, 2001) and (as co-editor) the multi-volume Storia della Shoah (2006-10).

 

Contents

Preface
Note on Transliteration

1 Introduction: The Study of Toleration

2 Toleration within Judaism from the Second Temple to the Present

3 Sadduccees and Pharisees in the Temple
MARTIN GOODMAN

4 The Houses of Hillel and Shammai in the Mishnah
MARTIN GOODMAN

5 The Notion of Tolerable Error from the Mishnah to Maimonides
JOSEPH E. DAVID

6 Talmudic Controversies in Post-Talmudic Eyes
JOSEPH E. DAVID

7 Toleration in the Ghetto of Venice: Evidence from Leon Modena's Historia de Riti Hebraici
SIMON LEVIS SULLAM

8 Prescribing Toleration in the Paris Sanhedrin (1806–1807)
SIMON LEVIS SULLAM

9 Islets of Toleration among the Jews of Curaçao
CORINNA R. KAISER

10 Sitting on Fences: The Toleration of Compromise and Mixed Seating in Orthodox Synagogues in the USA
CORINNA R. KAISER

11 Conclusion: Causes of Toleration

Bibliography
Index

 

Reviews

'This well written and excellent book is recommended.'
David B. Levy, Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews