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Embracing the Nation: Jewish Assimilationist and Anti-Zionist Responses to Modernity

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Chapter Summary

The idea of the Israelites representing a distinct "people" became a key problem of modernity. The question of modernity was an existential ultimatum: are you one of "us", a legitimate member of the "people" of a given nation-state or international collective, which is by definition non-Jewish, or are you a separate "people", an alien presence on the body of the nation? Jews have responded to this ultimatum in various ways, but two strong and conflicting answers were to emerge. The two primary orientations, the one Zionist, the other assimilationist, characterize the ongoing Jewish response to the "Modern Question". This chapter outlines the types of Jewish assimilationist strategies: the political apostasy, the personal renunciation and emphatic negation of Jewish "peoplehood"; the "modernization" of religious Judaism so as to make it represent Enlightenment values; and the strategy of positioning oneself as the "good Jew" in a "good Jew/bad Jew" dichotomy.

Keywords: anti-Zionist responses; good Jew/bad Jew dichotomy; Jewish assimilationist; political apostasy; religious Judaism



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