Monday, July 11, 2011

Israel Jacobson - History 182G (UCLA)

I have finished the UCLA course History 182G - Secular Jewish Culture by David Myers and I want to recommend anybody who is interested in the subjects of Secularism and Judaism (whether in conjunction or not) to follow and pay close attention. Even considering how many faced both subjects are (also in conjunction) and the course touching about as many as one can imagine, there is a phenomenal coherent question studied with remarkable clarity and occasional findings. (feed)

As I wrote in my previous review, I was expecting Myers was to kick off with Spinoza, but surprised with preliminary treatment of Philo and Maimonides. When finally coming around to the place and time of Spinoza the central consideration comes up: He was the first to drop out of Judaism, without conversion. This made him a first secular as it were, but then we see that Jewish identity somehow remains. Noteworthy is also the story of Spinoza's fellow in place and time Uriel da Costa - go listen. What comes next are the 19th century struggles with the 'Jewish question'. With . Eventually Myers makes his rounds to Marx, Freud and Kafka, but I'd like to highlight Israel Jacobson.

Jacobson was a German Jew who founded reformed Judaism and one has to appreciate his inventiveness in world pulling towards conversion, citizenship, aliyah, haskala and Zionism. He allowed his followers to be Jewish and modern and German and citizens at the same time - such successful integration in German society. It triggers, however, also a very skeptic reaction. One is uttered also by Myers: some argued Jacobson made a Judaism that smacked of protestant Christian churches (a feeling I can relate to recalling my visit to several reformed services in Israel). Another was the ex post facto realization that this wonderful integration was incapable to shield its communities during the holocaust. Which brings us back to one central essence we find as off Spinoza: dropped out of Judaism, but somehow the (cultural) tie remains.

More History 182G:
UCLA History 182G - History of Secular Judaism.

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