For millennia, Jews have defied odds by overcoming the travails of exile, persecution, and recurring plans for their annihilation. This short reading points to two unlikely factors to explain the survival of the Jews: antisemitism and assimilation. Usually regarded as grave dangers, these two factors have continually interacted with one other to enable the persistence of the Jews. At every turn in their history, Jews have adapted to new environments, cultures, languages, and social norms through a process of assimilation, but full assimilation has been checked by the nearly constant presence of hatred toward the Jew. Antisemitism has affirmed the Jews’ sense of difference from the host society.
Who are the Jews? What does the term ‘Jewish’ mean? How has Judaism developed? How will Judaism change in the future? This short reading outlines the basics of practical Judaism—its festivals, prayers, customs, and various sects—and considers how Judaism has responded to, and dealt with, key issues and debates such as the impact of the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. The relationship between Judaism and the Muslim faith is considered along with how Judaism is perceived and understood in the twenty-first century. What impact has Zohar and Kabbala had on contemporary culture? How does Judaism deal with issues such as homosexuality and gay marriage?
This short reading explores the history of Zionism from the origins of modern Jewish nationalism in the 1870s to the present. While situating the history of Zionism within the wider context of Middle Eastern politics, British colonialism, and the policies of the State of Israel since its founding in 1948, this reading focuses on its internal intellectual history and ideological developments and divides. It illuminates the development of the Zionist ideology from the appearance of Herzl to the Weizmann Era, from the creation of the state of Israel and the Six Day War of 1967 to the rise of the Peace Now movement.