Publications by Alan Mittleman
R. Shimon Federbush, a Mizrachi leader, proposed a blueprint for reconciling Jewish law with the law of modern, democratic Israel. He developed a traditional category, mishpat hamelukhah, as a highly flexible mechanism for accomodating the decisions of a Jewish legislature to the pre-state Jewish legal tradition. Federbush represents a comprehensive attempt to reconcile inherited Judaism and modern republicanism. His contribution shows both the promise and the limits of that still urgent project.
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German Orthodoxy in the Wilhelmine and Weimar periods presents an interesting case study in Jewish attitudes toward Israel and the diaspora. The German Orthodox minority, no more than ten to twenty percent of German Jewry after World War I, participated with the majority of German Jews in a whole-hearted affirmation of German culture (in German Zionist parlance: Galutbejahung). As with all German Jews, German culture had become definitive of their very identity as Jews. Despite their commitment to Jewish observance, the German Orthodox had more in common with their less observant or non-observant brethren than with the historic Jewish traditional culture of Eastern Europe.
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Max Weber provided an important methodological tool for the modern study of the Jewish political tradition: a predominantly socio political analysis of Israelite covenants. Yet in emphasizing a functional analysis of covenanting, Weber problematized covenant as a theological concept. Arriving at an appropriate balance of political and theological elements in the analysis and interpretation of covenant is crucial to any adequate account of the Jewish political tradition. This essay offers an explication of Weber’s views, a contemporary critique of them by Julius Guttmann, who was sensitive to the methodological problem, and a challenge to future writing on the Jewish tradition. Read More »
Contemporary communitarian thought critiques liberalism for the latter’s anemic conception of community. Liberalism requires a doctrine of community and common good in order to ground its predilection for distributive justice. For communitarians, liberalism here tries to square a circle. Mishnah, Talmud, and Maimonides anticipate this contemporary debate by conceiving of community and common good in a way thick enough to allow for distributive justice, yet limited enough to preserve individual rights.
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Modern theories of rights assume the existence of autonomous individual persons who possess rights by the mere force of their personhood alone. Orthodox Jewish thinkers Sol Roth and Isaac Breuer contest the primitive original character of personhood in this sense. They assert that neither rights nor persons precede a social reality constituted by duties and obligations seeking to ground personhood in moral relationality rather than autonomy. Both thereby negate the modern project of ascribing rights. Read More »