Judaism Is a Religion Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2164 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion


Christianity was the state religion in the Western world from the time of Constantine in the 4th Century AD until the 18th and 19th Centuries. For the Jews, this meant nearly 2,000 years of being ghettoized, persecuted, expelled and exterminated by Christians, with the worst event being the genocide of 1941-45 at the hands of the Nazis. Although the latter claimed to be 'scientific racists' and Social Darwinists rather than Christians, they could draw on a vast and ancient tradition of anti-Semitism that originated in the early Christian era. Moreover, they found many willing perpetrators and accomplices from all over Europe among those who claimed to be Christians, and a Christian majority often very willing to turn its back on the Jews and passively acquiesce in these crimes without protest. This would not have been possible had the ground not been thoroughly prepared by centuries of Christian antagonism toward Judaism, such as the Crusaders who massacred Jewish communities on their way to the wars in the Holy Land, or the medieval monarchs of England, France and Spain who expelled them and stole their property, and the Inquisition that used spies, informers, and torture to discover Jews in hiding, practicing their faith in secret. During those centuries, "the world was mostly Christian, and when it was not, it was the realm of the devil and the Jews," while the official theology of most Christian churches up to the 20th Century held the Jews collectively responsible for deicide -- the murder of Christ (Neusner, p. 263).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Judaism Is a Religion of Assignment

Liberal and secular Jews in the 18th and 19th Centuries had supported the French and American Revolutions in hopes that the new governments would liberate them from the ghettos and grant them equal citizenship. Given that Christian states and established churches had always persecuted them, it was "only upon a secular foundation that emancipation was possible" (Neusner, p. 261). In Germany, Moses Mendelssohn advocated assimilation and a new type of Liberal or Reform Judaism for the middle classes in the cities that would shed 'oriental' customs and traditions and become one religion among many in a secular society (Fisher, p. 249). Only with incidents like the Dreyfus case in France, renewed pogroms in Poland and Russia, and the rise of fascism and racial or 'biological' anti-Semitism did Zionists like Theodore Herzl begin to sense that the assimilationist project was going to fail very badly in Europe and the only hope for Jewish survival was a return to Israel. Only the world wars and the Holocaust of 1941-45 made this new Jewish state a reality, however.


Jewish history could best be summed up as repeated cycles of exile, persecution, enslavement and genocide, but also astonishing endurance. They have suffered at the hands of some of the worst tyrants in history, including Hitler and Stalin, yet they have always survived. Jews were expelled from France, Spain, Germany and most recently the Arab countries, but managed to survive all of it, just as they did the Inquisition and death camps. Even though Israel is often treated like a pariah state, and has been attacked repeatedly many times since 1948, it has also endured. In the United States and other Western nations, the liberal-secularist version of Judaism has also been successful, far more so than in Germany, France or Russia as it turned out, so much so that it has raised the question of whether Jewish identity can last in a relatively tolerant, pluralist society where persecution and anti-Semitism have diminished considerably over the last fifty years. If history is any guide at all, though, Judaism is almost certainly going to last as long as the world continues, for the Jews have survived the absolute worst that has ever been thrown against any group.


Fisher, M.P. (2005). Living Religions, 6th Edition.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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