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Chapter Summary

Sects and sectarianism are popular themes in Jewish history, but they are also tremendously problematic. The precise, sociological and cultural meaning of these terms, or of how these terms are chosen to be used, is rarely given much attention. Sects and sectarianism pervade Jewish history in a wider sense, as in their Diaspora existence, the Jews have appeared to some as a sect in relation to dominantly Christian and Muslim societies. The 'Jews for Jesus' movement may be regarded as one of the most recent examples of Jewish sectarianism, but Elliot Cohen criticizes in this context the use of pejorative labels such as 'sect' and 'cult'. The sociological category 'sect' is consequently not value-neutral but value-saturated; its uncritical re-deployment by historians assumes a universal lexicon of scholarly categories that simply does not exist.

Keywords: Jewish history; sectarianism; sects



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