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Judaism’s Promise, Meeting the Challenge of Modernity

Seymour W. Itzkoff

Judaism’s Promise, Meeting The Challenge Of Modernity follows Seymour W. Itzkoff’s well-received three-book series, Who Are the Jews? Judaism’s Promise, confronts the many revolutions that have reshaped Judaism over the centuries allowing it and its people a path of leadership into the modern world. It takes the writings of the Torah, Holy Scriptures, and Talmud seriously as exemplars of the human search for civilizational and moral intellectuality. The book’s basic concern is with the withering of Judaism as a force in contemporary Western civilization.
Sadly millions of Jews have left the faith. Others venture forth only hesitantly into a synagogue, now a bastion of fossilized ritual and conspicuous consumption. These millions needed more from the orthodoxy, and this book attempts to show them the way back by giving renewed life to the heritages of Judaism, and, consequently, to its meaning for the modern world. Judaism’s Promise argues for a return to the synagogue’s originating Hellenistic commitment «to come together» in intellectual and moral study. As Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan argued, Judaism must once more become in the 20–21st century the civilization that it once represented to the wider world, and not a fossilized ceremonialism.

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Chapter 9: Israel, Judaism: Our Contemporary World Malaise 131

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c h a p t e r n i n e Israel, Judaism: Our Contemporary World Malaise History Warns Us By the close of the 19th century there were many Jews in the developed nations of Europe, especially Germany and Austria, who felt the impending dangers of the gross anti-Semitic hate rhetoric that was filling the minds of these nations. A tiny minority of Jews lived in Germany, a larger minority in the Austrian Empire, mostly the impoverished of the Slavic domains. The Zionists predicted what was to come. A few made their way to Palestine, then under Turkish rule. Most of the poor and still persecuted Jews in Eastern Europe saw the torch of the Statue of Liberty in their minds and attempted to head for the Atlantic ports. There was not much that the Zionist few could do or persuade to do for their Germanic cultured brethren. Franz Joseph was benign. The German elite saw the Jews as a provider of strength and wealth with their high educational yearnings. The masses below, the petit bourgeoisie, would be exploited by the Nazis and the European fascists for their hatred of the Jew, who was “getting ahead.” But first the growth in wealth and modernization which in part buffered the Jews in their assimilationist endeavors, had to end. And of course, it did. The defeat of the Central Powers, the two German nations, the humiliating Versailles terms of trade and restitution opened the doors to over a decade of political...

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