Daniel J. Elazar
Publications by Daniel J. Elazar
The development of new frameworks, changing cultures, and major avenues of Jewish identification throughout the world. Read More »
Miami Beach today, and one of the largest and strongest Jewish communities in the world. Read More »
Discussing election results, the failure of the center, and the decline of both left and right. Read More »
The present controversy over non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism in Israel is a serious flashpoint in Israel-diaspora relations, particularly in relations between Israel and U.S. Jewry. For Israelis, on the other hand, it is a secondary issue even for those concerned about the power of the ultra-Orthodox in the Jewish state. This is partly because very few Israelis are affected by the conversion issue. Even those families of Russian Jewish olim that contain non-Jewish members have not shown great interest because most have not shown real interest in conversion to Judaism in any form. Read More »
An increasingly prominent characteristic of our time is the need to reexamine the issue of religion in the public square. The modern synthesis separating church and state and thereby excluding the institutions of religion from the public square, even while allowing the spirit of religion to help shape the public life of various countries, has come unraveled in the face of postmodern changes. These changes include the rise of neopaganism, which has meant that the principles of separation are applied exclusively
to the monotheistic religions while pagan religions can penetrate the public square in the guise of folklore and multiculturalism, coupled with a growing felt need to feel that religion, particularly the monotheistic religions, have something important to contribute to resolving the issues of the day and cannot fairly be excluded. Read More »
The religious factions in Jerusalem and voting centrist are discussed. Read More »
This article introduces the Jewish Political Studies Review issue examining traditional sources for building a civil state in a halakhically-acceptable manner, drawing upon
the halakhic category of mishpat hamelukhah. Jewish tradition knows two sources of legitimate legislative-judicial-governance activity. Principal among them is the halakhah which is traditionally understood as a direct development from God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai. The Bible developed the semi-separated category of mishpat hamelukhah (the law of the kingdom), explicated in Deuteronomy 17:11-20 and I Samuel 8-15, a parallel and semi-separate legal-judicial governance system within the power of the kings and other civil rulers in Israel.
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The breakdown of traditional Jewish society and belief has led to the need to find new common ground for halakhic interpretation if the Jewish people’s halakhic framework is to be in any respect preserved in any reasonable manner. One possible way in which that might be done is by applying the canons of constitutional interpretation developed for modern constitutions, allowing for the differences between the comprehensive character of the Torah as constitution and the more limited character of modern frames of government. Read More »
The generation that inherited the results of World War II ? Jews included ? was the first of the postmodern epoch, and as such it faced a new set of problems peculiar to its circumstances. These problems, to be sure, had their roots in the era just ended, but they stemmed most immediately from the needs and concerns of a generation that grew up in a society strikingly different from its predecessors.
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At present, four great organizations dominate the communal-welfare and Israel-overseas spheres countrywide ? The Council of Jewish Federations, the United Jewish Appeal, the United Israel Appeal, which serves as the conduit and overseer of UJA funds allocated to the Jewish Agency, and the Joint Distribution Committee, one of the most respected organizations in the Jewish community.1
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Although its history as a Jewish community extends back to 1654, Jewish America was to all intents and purposes a colony of European Jewry until the nineteenth century, and was a dependency even longer. The combination of events and self-organization transformed it to be the dominant Jewish community for much of the twentieth century and the dominant diaspora community still. The federation movement became the keystone to that self-organization early, before it was recognized as such. Read More »
The Federation Movement in Three Contexts: American Jewry, the Jewish Political Tradition, and Modernity
The American Jewish community, the first fully emancipated Jewish community, is entirely a product of the modern epoch. As such it is in most respects a model of what Jewish
life has become or is becoming for all but a handful of Jews in the world: based on the voluntary commitment, through a variety of paths, of those individuals who care to be Jewish, few of whom feel obligated or compelled.
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As a Jew, Spinoza had to raise a somewhat different set of questions than Hobbes and Locke. While the questions of the latter grew out of their lives safely ensconced in the relatively homogeneous majority of their own land and led to the development of the idea of civil society, Spinoza, a Jew seeking admission to the larger society from which he was excluded, provided the intellectual basis for liberal democracy. The first modern secular Jew, he championed the separation of religion and state and the development of a basically secular society in which Jews, Christians, and others could be accepted without regard to their religious or ethnic ancestry. To foster his goal he had to confront the Bible and either refute its claims or render them unimportant to civil society. The most knowledgeable of the seventeenth century philosophers when it came to Scripture because of the Jewish education of his childhood, he “invented” modern biblical criticism. Read More »
The Zionism of the Sephardic world was based more on a vision of restoring traditional Jewish life in the ancient homeland than one of revolution which sought to replace tradition with some modern ideology. Unlike their Ashkenazi brethren, Sephardim always saw themselves as actors in the political arena, not only within their communities but in the larger entities of which their communities were a part. This essay represents a first cut at what we know about the political history of Sephardic Jewry and especially the exiles from the Iberian peninsula in the years between 1492 and the demise of their communities in the twentieth century. Special attention is given to the Sephardic world’s pre-lberian antecedents, the involvement of Jews in imperial Iberian politics, the styles of Jewish community organization in Spain, and the various forms of political participation and involvement after the Expulsion. Read More »
This article describes the emergence ofliberal democracy, then compares and contrasts liberal democracy with communal democracy, showing the latter to be a prior form of
democratic self-government. It then discusses the two in the perspective of self-government and rights, the two dimensions of democracy. Having given the United States as the best example of liberal democracy and Switzerland as the best modern example of communal democracy, it then goes on to explore the Jewish political tradition and how it is also an example of communal democracy. The article then turns to the crisis of modernity and the Jewish polity and how the modern commitment to liberal democracy
won over a majority of Jews even as it posed problems for the Jewish polity, examining classical Judaism and pluralism, looking for accommodations between the two in the contemporary Jewish polity.
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Thomas Hobbes was foremost among the seventeenth century political philosophers who led the Western world across the fault line separating classical from modern
political philosophy. In doing so, he, like his other col leagues, had to confront not only classical political philosophy but the Bible. From the first of his writings to the last he
consistently confronted Scripture. Reading Hobbes reveals both the ambiguity and the ambivalence of his confrontation with the Bible. Hobbes wished to assault orthodox or conventional Christian belief but at the same time is drawn to the Hebrew Scriptures, not only because it is necessary for him to confront it for the sake of his argument or because of the Bible’s own elemental and compelling power. His struggle foreshadows and is even paradigmatic of that of modern man. This article traces his confrontation with Scripture in Leviathan. Read More »
This article has the dual purpose of indicating how contemporary political science can approach the study of an ancient constitutional text and the examination of Deuteronomy as such a constitution. Ancient constitutions are distinguished from modern ones by devoting as much or more attention to the moral and socio-economic bases of the polity as to the frame of government. Deuteronomy is a classical example of that kind of ancient constitution, designed to adapt the Torah-as-constitution presented in the first four books of the Pentateuch to the Jewish polity once the people are established in Eretz Israel. As such it is both a repetition of what has been presented before
and a modification of earlier constitutional teachings. Read More »
Is There a Practical Way to Bridge the Gap Between Traditional Jewish and Modern Expectations of Rights and Obligations?
In looking for a bridge between traditional Jewish and modern views of obligations and rights, we can turn to the tradition of federal liberty? the liberty to live in accordance with the covenant to which one has consented? as developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by Reformed Protestant theo-political revolutionaries. Taking the biblical paradigm as the starting point, it is possible to suggest reconstruction of the modern rights model in line with ideas of federal liberty as follows: All human beings are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights ? e.g., life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. Read More »
In the modern concept of rights developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, variously formulated as life, liberty and property” or “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” rights transcend civil society, which then translates them into constitutional, civil, criminal, and property rights. In contrast, the traditional Jewish view on rights is derived from the biblical sense of the obligation of all humans to God as their creator, sovereign, and covenant partner. Fundamental to the Jewish conception is the
principle that God is the creator and sovereign of the universe, all of which ultimately belongs to Him including all life within it. What emerges out of the biblical approach are a series of protections and limitations which can roughly be translated into rights and obligations. Read More »
The Jewish people represents the classic state-and-diaspora phenomenon of all time. Indeed, the term “diaspora” originated to describe the Jewish condition. In the 3500 years of the existence of the Jewish people, Jewish states have existed for roughly 1000 years, while Jewish diasporas have existed for at least 2600 years. For some 1500 years the Jewish people existed as an exclusively diaspora community. Nevertheless, the Jewish people not only preserved their integrity as an ethno-religious community, but continued to function as a polity throughout their long history through the various conditions of state and diaspora. This essay analyzes the unique characteristics of the Jewish people, particularly in the context of a world Jewish polity. Read More »
Beyond Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state, the question remains as to what extent Israel is a continuation of Jewish political history within the context of
the Jewish political tradition. This article addresses that question, first by looking at the realities of Israel as a Jewish state and at the same time one compounded of Jews of varying ideologies and persuasions, plus non-Jews; the tensions between the desire on the part of many Israeli Jews for Israel to be a state like any other and the desire on the part of others for it to manifest its Jewishness in concrete ways that will make it unique.
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The very existence of a Jewish political tradition has gone virtually unrecognized in our own time, despite the Jewish national revival of the twentieth century. To correct this situation, a widening group of scholars has initiated a systematic effort to recover the several dimensions of the Jewish political tradition, seeking to build a comprehensive and fully integrated program in the teaching of this tradition and its contemporary uses. The subject matter of Jewish political studies falls into three major divisions: Jewish political institutions and behavior, Jewish political thought, and Jewish public affairs, which in turn include numerous subdivisions. The four primary tasks that should occupy scholars in the field include investigation, interpretation, presentation, and policy application. This article focuses on the first two tasks, outlining what has been done
and what still needs to be done. Read More »
Jewish political studies is a neglected but extremely significant dimension of Jewish life that needs to be explored. An understanding of the influence of the Jewish political tradition on Jewish public affairs during the epochs of Jewish national independence and communal self-government can be useful in meeting problems of Jewish public affairs and communal organization. The present exploration of Jewish phenomena from a political science perspective began in the 1950s and has developed significantly
in recent decades. That exploration has developed a theoretical framework that looks at the phenomenon of the Jewish polity at any time and in any place. This framework rests upon the assumptions that the Jewish people is a corporate entity by definition, that exploration of the Jewish polity can be undertaken with the tools of political science, and that Jews have continued to function as a polity throughout their history.
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The argument of this paper is that the Book of Joshua is a classic of political thought, that can be and should be read as a coherent whole, in fact, as a major statement of the classic political world view of the Bible. For political science, it is the first classic exposition of federal republicanism.1 While the themes it emphasizes are derived from the Torah itself, the Torah combines them with other elements. In Joshua, the federal republican character of the Israelite edah (lit: congregation or assembly — the biblical term for the Israelite polity) under God is the central theme.2 Read More »
The founding of the Jewish Political Studies Review marks yet an other major step in the emergence of the field which can be said to have begun twenty years ago with the publication of the first bibliographic essay on the subject in the American Jewish Yearbook. In the intervening 22 years, courses in Jewish political studies have been
introduced in over twenty universities around the world, a basic literature has been published, and some half a dozen conferences have been held to address issues in the field. Regular sessions are held at the World Congress of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, the annual meeting of the Association for Jewish Studies in Boston, and at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. An annual Workshop in the Study and Teaching of the Jewish Political Tradition, that brings together scholars from throughout the world, is entering its seventh year. At least one systematic theory has been developed to frame the field and parts of it are already being challenged by younger scholars, a sure sign of having arrived. Read More »