Jewish Political Studies Review Abstracts - Volume 11, Numbers 3-4 (Fall 5760/1999)
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Jewish Political Studies Review Abstracts

Volume 11, Numbers 3-4 (Fall 5760/1999)

"Religion in the Public Square: Jews among the Nations"

Daniel J. Elazar

The question of dealing with religion in the public square may not be Jewish in the same way that it is a modern or contemporary question because of the differences between Judaism, certainly in its classical form, and Christianity. Dealing with the issue in Israel requires an understanding of this and of the fact that Israelis and others have been misled for years in thinking that there are only two categories of Jews in the country, a secular majority and a religious minority, when in fact, in terms of actual belief and practice, the majority of the Israeli population is traditional and only minorities on either end of the spectrum are Orthodox or secular. This makes the question of religion in the public square a pragmatic one that needs to be answered in light of Israeli reality as well as the different expectations of the various population groupings. With regard to the diaspora, the struggle today is between Israel and American Jewry, almost entirely excluding the rest of the diaspora in Europe and elsewhere whose position on the issue is more like that of Israeli Jews but who are slowly acquiring the problems of American Jews. Those pragmatic solutions will have to involve both Jewish law and contemporary Jewish experience which will need to be reconciled so as to enable Jews with differing intensely held positions to live together as parts of one people.

Manfred Gerstenfeld

In today's fragmented society a large number of religious and secular neo-pagan expressions have emerged and are gathering strength. An increased interest in nature is a central element in many of its manifestations. Expressions of this attitude are found among neo-pagan believers, neo-Nazis and some extreme environmentalist currents.

The ancient revulsion with regard to paganism felt by adherents of Judaism links up with the need to take stock of these contemporary phenomena. The return of paganism forces Judaism to focus on Jewish law and tradition, which proclaim that God is central in the world. Nature is not sacred and its laws represent barbarity; the Noahide laws represent civil society. There are many reasons for Jewish observers to watch attentively which direction the powerful, renewed interest in nature will take, and what consequences this may have for world Jewry.

Robert A. Licht

This is not an age of moral relativism or nihilism. Rather, a different morality has emerged. It is not the morality of "authenticity" as described by Charles Taylor, but something awaiting its appropriate description. The decisive event in the emergence of this morality has been the legitimization of homosexuality. This became possible because of a general displacement of shame away from its locus in sexuality. This displacement depends on arguments about nature and convention. Each argument is examined. The genealogy of the emergent morality out of the marriage of science and freedom, and its relation to the biblical origins of our received morality, is examined.

Irwin Cotler

This article is an inquiry into the contrasting principles and perspectives that underlie the differing character of human rights advocacy of Jewish NGOs in the U.S. and Canada. The author's underlying thesis is that their differing public advocacy (of religious human rights) is reflective not only of the different legal cultures in which the Jewish NGOs reside, but of the different principles which the NGOs espouse.

Following an introduction into the typology of Jewish NGOs, and the nature of religious human rights, the article is organized around four themes: first, the historical contribution to the development of international human rights law in the matter of religious human rights and how this legacy has shaped contemporary public advocacy; second, the different contributions - inspired by a differing ideology and litigation strategy - by American and Canadian Jewish NGOs to the development of constitutional law in their respective countries in the matter of religious human rights; third, the different legal cultures - and different Jewish sensibilities - which anchor the work of these NGOs as reflected in two dramatically different case studies of public advocacy - in religion and state and hate speech issues; and finally, the "salience" of religious human rights in the panoply of human rights, and their importance - however different their advocacy - to the agenda of Jewish NGOs.

Michael Brown

In the post-World War II years, strict separation of church and state, especially with regard to education, has been viewed as an essential ingredient of social comity in the United States. In Canada, however, that has not been so. In fact, there, religion and education have been intimately connected since colonial times, and the role of religion in the schools has constitutional sanction. In the years before World War II, the outsider status of Jews and Judaism in schools and universities was demeaning to them. Ultimately it served to reinforce group loyalty, but Jewish educational institutions did not emerge. The much less parochial and eventually multicultural environment that developed beginning in the 1950s allowed Jews to become part of the mainstream. Ethnic legitimacy, however, fostered the development of a very successful system of all-day Jewish schools and of programs of Jewish Studies at universities across the country. This essay discusses these developments and suggests explanations for the seeming paradox.

Stuart Schoenfeld

The search for public funding for Ontario Jewish day schools is examined in the context of the increasing role of transnational networks as aspects of religious life. Various scholars have interpreted the recent revival of transnational religious movements as indications of a shift towards a communal identification which challenges identification with the nation-state. In some versions, religious communalism is seen as a movement towards a non-Western (or anti-Western) form of modernization. In others, the emphasis is on the fragmented experience of capitalist culture at the end of the twentieth century and the use of religious communalism as a strategy to re-impose coherence onto the subjectively perceived world.

A local dimension of the revival of transnational religion may be seen in the politics of education in Ontario. Ontario, like other Canadian provinces, has never had a philosophic commitment to the separation of religion from public education. The province maintains two publicly supported schools systems - "public" schools and "separate" (Catholic) schools. The efforts of Jewish schools, in association with other private schools, to have the courts impose public funding as a matter of legal equity have been rejected. However, a "multi-faith coalition" now proposes to extend public support to non-Catholic, religiously-based schools, either by funding "independent" schools as is done in other provinces or through the introduction of "charter schools" - public schools in which parents influence hiring, curricula and budget. The proposal of the multi-faith coalition is more closely identified with self-consciously transnational religious networks than previous proposals to bring private schools into some funding relationship with the provincial government. The extent to which Jewish organizations have associated themselves with this proposal indicates dilemmas over the long-term future of Jewish education in a multi-faith society.

Raphael Israeli

Muslim fundamentalists throughout the Islamic world have seized upon the question of legitimacy of the regimes under which they live, absolute monarchies and all other forms of authoritarian rule, in order to come to the public square and pose themselves as popular alternatives to the existing unpopular regimes. This links up with the basic suspicion of the West which prevails among these movements, due to the corrupting nature of Western values which contradict Islam, and the alliance that the Islamists find between their corrupt regimes and that same West. To attain their goal, the Islamists have developed a vocabulary and a plethora of symbols to replace the secular institutions and the political jargon that was borrowed from the West. This essay includes a case study of the struggle between the PLO and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. Not only does Hamas challenge the PLO ideologically, but it has constructed an anti-state, with solid economic and social bases, in order to take over the public square.

George E. Gruen

More than seven decades have passed since Mustafa Kemal abolished the Caliphate, disestablished Islam, banned the fez, strongly discouraged the veil, advocated European attire, introduced Western legal codes, changed the Turkish script from Arabic to a modified Latin alphabet, and proclaimed "laicism" (secularism) as one of the cardinal principles of the modern Turkish Republic. But today the issue of the proper relationship of religion and state has once again become an issue of intense debate. One manifestation of this struggle is the clash between Islamist female university students and the authorities over the strict enforcement of a dress code that bans headscarves and other symbols of Islamic attire. But as this essay points out, more is involved here than simply a clash between traditional religious fundamentalism and modern Western, secular culture. It also represents a radically new phenomenon in the struggle of young Turkish women to redefine Islam for themselves and liberate themselves from patriarchal domination.

Moreover, in the increasingly sharp debate within Turkey between secularists and Islamists, the question of the nature and extent of Turkey's relationship with Israel has become a sign of the future direction of Turkey's foreign policy orientation. In a more basic sense, the future of Ankara's relations with the Jewish state has been interpreted as a litmus test as to whether the guiding principles of the modern, pro-Western, secular Turkish Republic established by Kemal Ataturk in 1923 will endure and Turkey's ties with the West will be strengthened, or whether they will be eroded by growing ties with non-Western and Islamic states, and a growth of Islamist traditionalism at home, leading eventually to an Islamic state. The important role of the military in preserving the country's secularist orientation is also examined. For the military, the political leaders, and the country's educators, the ongoing dilemma is how to educate the younger generation with a respect for their Islamic heritage, while imbuing them with a firm commitment to the Kemalist principles of a progressive society in a secular Republic.