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Do We Need God to Explain Jewish Survival?
By Ephraim Rubin
Posted July 19, 2002
Survival of the Jews as a distinct people for most of mankind's written history is a remarkable phenomenon which cannot fail to draw attention of an inquiring person, Gentile or, especially, Jew. For Jewish outreach spokesmen, laboring to persuade Jewish skeptics to join the fold of the faithful usually by way of Orthodox Judaism the fact of Jewish survival is one of the most cherished arguments. Jewish survival, they claim, cannot be explained without assuming that there is God and that He cares specifically for His chosen people. As a popular outreach book puts it,
We feebly struggle to explain Jewish survival in secular terms: Maybe it is because they were poor? Maybe it is because they were rich? Maybe it is because they were pacifists? Maybe it is because they fought back? Maybe it is because they were concentrated? Maybe it is because they were scattered? But we know that other peoples shared these characteristics and are gone. The question stands: Why did only the Jews survive?
The theological solution is attractive.
It is worth noting that the Jews are not the only people who succeeded at surviving for more than two millennia. The Basques were already known as a distinct tribe to the ancient Roman authors, their language is the only remnant of the languages spoken in southwestern Europe before the region's Romanization, and their ethnic cohesiveness withstood the imperial policies of Rome, the invasions of German tribes which marked the dusk of the anqituity, the turmoil of the Middle Ages, and the political and cultural pressure of modern nation-states in both France and Spain. The Armenians were already known as a distinct people to Herodotus and the ancient Persians, and their language seems to have existed as a distinct one since about 1000 BCE. Not unlike the Jews, they also experienced a large dispersion and were subject to persecutions, culminating in the Armenian massacres of 1915. China, with "more than 4000 years of recorded history... is unique among nations in its longevity and resilience as a discrete politico-cultural unit." But still, the survival of the Jews as a distinct ethnic group for most of mankind's written history is a most remarkable phenomenon which clearly merits investigation on its own.
For those, however, who contemplate a "theological solution" for the question of Jewish survival or for any other question it would be useful to consult the words of Moses Maimonides, one of the most revered thinkers and religious authorities of Judaism. Addressing the perennial question of man's free will versus divine foreknowledge, Maimonides wrote:
Know that the answer to this question is lengthier than the earth and wider than the sea, and many principles, colossal like high mountains, depend on it. And you should know and understand the things that I say...God's knowledge does not exist separately from Him, as it is with humans who are entities different from their knowledge but His essence, glorified be He, is inseparable from His knowledge. Human intellect cannot comprehend this; but as humans are incapable of comprehending and figuring out God's true essence as it is written, "One cannot see Me and stay alive" so are they incapable of comprehending and figuring out God's knowledge, as the prophet has said: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways." Therefore, we cannot comprehend how God knows of every being and deed, but we know without any doubt that that a person may freely choose his deeds, and God neither urges him to do anything nor determines that thus he will do.
Whatever can be said of free will, if we humans are principally incapable of comprehending God's true essence, then the "theological solution" to any question Jewish survival included boils down to explaining the unclear by the incomprehensible. This alone must be sufficient to tear the veil of rationality from the "argument from Jewish survival." Still, the question of Jewish ethnic perseverance through the most of mankind's written history deserves consideration on its own merit.
To understand Jewish survival like any other phenomenon one must analyze the natural framework in which this phenomenon occurred. Of course, the framework in which Jewish history proceeded from its beginning to the present day is far from uniform; were it not, comprehensive books on Jewish history would not be so voluminous (A Social and Religious History of the Jews by Salo Baron perhaps the most comprehensive history of the Jewish people ever written extends over 18 volumes, and it ends at 1650; how many volumes would Baron need to present an account of the last 350 years of Jewish history, had he lived to complete his project, can only be guessed). But some general lines along which Jewish history proceeded are clearly discernible.
To be sure, the traditional notion of the origins of Jewish people is wrong: modern historical and archaeological research leads to the conclusion that there was neither an Abraham nor an Exodus as described by the Bible. However, a stele dated to the days of the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah (reigned 1213-1204 BCE) describes a people called Israel residing in Canaan (this people, the stele claims, was "laid waste" by the pharaoh's army, but this particular statement, of course, need not be taken at face value). And, whatever the connection between the Israel of Merneptah's Stele and the later kingdoms of Israel and Judah, ethnic continuity between the inhabitants of the latter and the present-day Jews cannot be seriously doubted. The kingdom of Judah reached full-fledged statehood not later than the 8th century BCE. So, Jewish ethnic perseverance for at least 2800 years is a fact, and adding 500 years more for those who would insist on ethnic continuity with Merneptah's Israel, too would not make Jewish survival much more remarkable.
In any event, whether starting in the 13th or in the 8th century, Jewish ethnic perseverance prior to the period of the Babylonian exile is little surprising: the Jews lived on their own land, were organized in an independent state or tribal entity (or entities), spoke their own language and professed their own religion. It is from the exile on that Jewish survival ceases to be trivial at least from the perspective of one who is not much acquainted with the realities of the ancient world:
A remarkable history should have ended with the Babylonian exile: the Jews, like so many peoples who have been driven from their homelands, should have been swallowed up by their host culture and assimilated out of existence.
But the reality was quite different:
The Jewish diaspora was by no means unique; it met a Greek dispersion everywhere, from Sardis to Elephantine. There were similarly an Aramaic and a Phoenician diaspora in Egypt and surely elsewhere; and long before Alexander the Great emigrants from Egypt and Sidonian merchants had settled at Athens. Nor were the Jews the only people transferred to new places by Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian despots. The Eretrians, too, were carried off from Greece by Darius I in 490 BCE and settled in the region of Susa. One hundred and fifty years later their descendants in Persia still spoke Greek and still remembered their ancestral home. Nor were the Jews alone in weeping for their native city: every people, or fragment of a people, thrown into a foreign land continued to worship its ancestral gods. Bel and Nabu, gods of Babylon, were brought by emigrants to Elephantine on the southern frontier of Egypt. A Phoenician woman living at Tahpanhes, in the Nile delta, asked on behalf of another woman not only the blessing of all the gods of her current place of sojourn, but also the blessing of Baal Zaphon, the god of her native land. Aramean immigrants living at Memphis in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE had their own cemetery, where they depicted themselves on their gravestones in Syrian dress.
It could hardly be otherwise: the tribal organization of oriental peoples blocked the road to assimilation. Royal permission was required to reckon the children of a deported Greek nobleman and his Persian wife as Persians. True, as time went by, individual immigrants or their descendants were absorbed into the people among whom they lived, but legally immigrants remained "sojourners," and the various communities of immigrants never lost their original identities. Of the Paeonians, deported from Macedonia to Phrygia, Herodotus says that they lived in a village "by themselves." The descendants of the settlers transferred to Samaria by Assyrian kings remained "Urukians" and "Susians who are Elamites"; in the official language of the Persian government they only "resided" in Samaria.
The Jews in Babylonia also possessed a kind of communal organization. Cuneiform tablets from Babylonian archives testify that King Jehoiachin of Judah, exiled to Babylon in 597 BCE, continued to count at the Babylonian court as a vassal king and was supported from the royal treasury even under Nebuchadnezzar, let alone Amel Marduk (Evil Merodach), who "lifted up the head of Jehoiachin" and "set his throne above the throne of the kings who were with him in Babylon." It would be only natural if Jehoiachin served as officially recognized head of Jewry under Babylonian rule, in a role analogous to that of the exilarch (reish galuta) under the Sasanian empire and the Caliphate. The Jews were apparently given the legal status of qatinu aliens deprived of certain privileges (enjoyed by only upper classes among the native population) but possessing full personal freedom, including the right to own real estate and slaves. Mentions by Jeremiah and Ezekiel of "the elders of the exile" and "the register of the house of Israel," omission from which was a sign of excommunication, bear further testimony to the communal organization of the exiles.
This pattern of an organized Jewish community officially recognized or at least tolerated by a Gentile power was to become one of the key characteristics of Jewish history. Even the Jewish center in Palestine, reestablished under Persian auspices, is better characterized as an autonomous community than as a state-like formation: the province of Judea was ruled by a Persian-appointed governor (pehah), but internal Jewish affairs were administered by Jewish communal leaders. Artaxerxes could recognize Ezra as the head of Persian Jewry (at least in the "Province Beyond-the-River"), but Jerusalem's fortifications could be rebuilt only by order of Nehemiah, appointed by Artaxerxes the governor of Judea. Likewise, Ezra could order the Jews to dismiss their Gentile wives, confiscate the property of those Jews who did not come on his order to the people's assembly in Jerusalem and excommunicate them but to close Jerusalem's gates before Gentile traders on Sabbath the governor's authority was needed.
The case of the soldiers in the Jewish garrison in Elephantine, Egypt who wanted to rebuild their temple (where they, ignorant or oblivious of Deuteronomic precepts, sacrificed to the God of Israel) after it had been destroyed by Egyptian mob in 410 BCE, is merely an exception that proves the rule: they turned for authorization to the governor of Judea, but only after their earlier appeal to both Jewish communal authorities (the High Priest, regular priests and "Jewish elites" horey yehudaya) and the governor was left without response for obvious reasons. Interestingly, the Elephantine Jews' second petition was directed to imperial officials in both Judea and Samaria and the Samarian addressees were none other than sons of the local governor Sanballat, Nehemiah's arch-foe. Apparently, despairing due to the communal leaders' silence, the Jews of Elephantine decided to secure authorization from whatever Palestinian authorities available so that they would be able to turn for building permission to their local administration. Be that as it may, in the framework of Persian administration the soldiers of Elephantine garrison were considered members of Jewish community: in 419 BCE they were even ordered, in the name of King Darius II himself, to observe Passover in accordance with the Jewish law.
In Persian Babylonia, too, autonomy of the Jewish community was maintained, at least in the matters of personal status: a cuneiform tablet dating to 531 BCE records a decision by a Jewish court to dissolve a marriage concluded without permission of the bridegroom's father, and the court threatened the bride with enslavement if she were to see her ex-husband again; another tablet dating to the same year records that the daughter of one Joshua was warned, in her mother's presence, that she would be enslaved if she continued to meet her boyfriend.
Another product of the Babylonian and Persian periods which was to characterize Jewish history from that time on was the full-fledged diaspora. Isaiah 11:11, dating apparently to the Babylonian Exile or the first postexilic century, speaks of "the remnant... of His people from Assyria, from Egypt, from Patros [Upper Egypt], from Kush [Nubia], from Elam [on northeastern shores of the Persian Gulf], from Shin'ar [Babylonia], from Hamat [in central Syria] and from the islands of the sea," and Obadiah 1:20 mentions "the exiles of this host of the sons of Israel, who are among the Canaanites [Phoenicians] as far as Sarefat [the modern As-Sarafand, between Tyre and Sidon], and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sefarad [Sardis, in Asia Minor]." In 350 BCE, Artaxerxes III forcibly deported many Jews to the inhospitable region of Hyrcania (Varkana) on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. The next centuries were to witness a yet greater spread of the Jewish diaspora:
Jewish settlements of the first century, established by more or less reliable records, extended from Italy and Carthage in the west to Mesopotamia and Babylonia in the east, from Upper Egypt in the south to Crimea and the Sea of Azov in the north. Furthermore, it is more than likely that some Jews had at an early age settled in Armenia, lying between such important Jewish aggregations as those of Babylonia, Syria, and Asia Minor. Local tradition, recorded by Faustus of Byzantium [4th century CE], had it that King Tigranes [reigned 95-55 BCE] had brought back from Syria a large number of Jewish settlers.
The existence of a wide diaspora proved to be of immense significance for Jewish survival: after the breakup of Alexander the Great's empire there was not a single power on earth whose rule extended to all the regions inhabited by the Jews, and when Jewish life was threatened in a certain area by a particular regime, it could continue unhampered under the auspices of another sovereign or even of the same one but in other locales. The gravest physical blows the Jewish people suffered before the Holocaust the Roman suppression of the Great Judean Revolt of 66-70 CE, of several Jewish uprisings in eastern Mediterranean provinces in the following decades, and of the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132-135 CE resulted in hundreds of thousands (probably over million) Jewish casualties aside from those who had been driven into slavery, but far from spelled the end of Jewish survival. Outside the rebellious areas, Jews were not only granted security of life and limb, but also retained their rights of citizenship as long as they conformed to Roman law. Galilee, surmounted by the Romans with relatively little resistance during both Palestinian revolts, was largely spared the victors' vengeance, remained quite prosperous economically, and quickly became the hub of Jewish life to the point that the largely Gentile cities of Tiberias and Sepphoris were soon turned into major Jewish centers. The calamities could not affect Jewish populations in western and northern provinces of the Roman empire or, more important, the Jewish community of Mesopotamia, then under Parthian rule, which carried on without any significant disturbance and which was to become the hub of world Jewry from the 5th to the 10th centuries CE. The Holocaust itself the only campaign in history intended at total extermination of the Jews, resulting in the almost complete destruction of European Jewry was nevertheless doomed to failure from the outset: even were the Germans successful at Moscow, Stalingrad and El-Alamein, realistically, the Nazis could not have overpowered the American continent, which harbored at the outbreak of World War II some 5.4 million Jews.
But all this was to occur in centuries to come. In Achaemenid Persia, Jews lived peacefully, save minor disturbances like the deportation by Artaxerxes III or the obscure persecutions described by Flavius Josephus. To be sure, the biblical book of Esther narrates how a Persian courtier, Haman, endeavored "to destroy, to slay, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day"  only to have, on the purported day of wrath, the Jews kill 75,000 of their enemies on authority of a royal decree  but this is a historical novel, not history: the Persians would not tolerate civil strife resulting in 800 casualties  in their royal capital of Susa, and the notion of irrevocability of Persian laws, crucial to the book's plot, is inconsistent with all our knowledge of the Persian legal system. Furthermore, the only Persian king who can be reasonably identified with the Ahashwerosh of Esther Khshayarsha, known to Greek historians and to modern readers as Xerxes  (reigned 486-465 BCE) had no wife named Esther; his wife's name was Amestris, and she was the daughter of a Persian military commander Otanes. In fact, no Persian king could have married a woman of unknown pedigree (as Esther was presented to him): queens could be picked only from the seven noble Persian families. And though some details in the book of Esther reflect quite precisely the realities of Susa (which lends much credence to the idea that the book's author was a resident of the city),
As a matter of fact, the author's knowledge of the Persian court is not precise enough. The king set Haman's seat "above all the lords who were with him" ([Esther] 3:1). Thus, Haman appears as a great vizir, the foremost man of a collegiate government similar to or identical with the council of seven in Esther 1:14. As a matter of fact, the man "next to the king" was the commander of the bodyguard and for this reason functioned as his representative and his chief officer. This "chilliarch," as the Greeks translated the Persian title, held "the second rank in power," as a Latin author says. The chilliarch was "the most trusted man," as Herodotus tells us... But the author of Esther's Scroll... lived in the Hellenistic age and his Seleucid king had a sort of Secretary of State for all departments.
It is also hardly plausible that a one-day massacre by the Jews of 75,000 people would be spared any mention in contemporary historical sources yet, none of these mentions any such occurrence, and none of contemporary Greek authors, whose accounts of the Persian empire are fairly extensive, made any mention of Jews whatsoever.
In the Hellenistic period, the Jewish polity around Jerusalem developed more state-like features: in Ptolemaic Judea, the High Priest seems to have managed all spheres of public life, including collection of taxes (with the right to use the royal troops against reluctant taxpayers). Of course, the High Priest himself was appointed by the Ptolemies, but shared his power with the council of Jewish elders (gerousia), and these were apparently independent of the Ptolemaic court. In the last two decades of the 3rd century the taxation authority was taken over by a certain Joseph, an offspring of the Ammonite Tobiad clan, but with the Seleucid conquest things returned to their former status: the High Priest, now appointed by the court in Antioch, ruled again, accompanied by the gerousia; his authority was enough to carry out the strengthening of Jerusalem's fortifications; there was neither permanent royal agent nor royal garrison in Jerusalem; and when a certain Philip, a Phrygian, was installed there as the Seleucid governor during the years of Antiochus IV's persecutions against the Jews, the author of the second book of Maccabees  lamented the very fact of that appointment.
Under the Hasmoneans, Judea turned into a full-fledged state but it all ended in 63 BCE, Jewish life and self-government returning to communal rather than state-like pattern. Installed by Pompey as the High Priest and the ethnarch of the Jews, Hyrcanus II exercised only communal authority, while those spheres of Judea's life which were not specifically Jewish were administered by the Roman governor. Herod the Great, in spite of his royal title, was a Roman appointee and characteristically, he also left specifically Jewish affairs to the Jewish religious leadership while determinedly keeping the latter out of the general state affairs. When Herodian puppet kings were finally replaced by Roman procurators, Jewish communal autonomy was retained.
On the other hand, Hyrcanus II was officially recognized by Julius Caesar the ethnarch of all the Jews of the Roman empire. Augustus, conservative-minded and respectful of "ancestral laws" of the peoples under his rule, ordered the Roman courts not to call Jewish parties or witnesses to appear on Sabbath; those needy Roman Jews who received free grain and oil from the government were given a double portion on Friday to avoid complications on Sabbath; and since some Jewish authorities prohibited consumption of Gentiles' oil, the needy Jews could demand money instead eventually, later rabbis were more lenient on this matter of Halakhah (as they termed the Jewish law in the form they perceived and actually shaped it) than the pagan Roman emperor. Defilement of a synagogue was considered a sacrilege under Roman law, as was embezzlement of sacred money collected in the diaspora for the Jerusalem Temple. Jewish self-government was respected: wherever they lived, the Jewish subjects of Rome were governed by their own law, and their communal affairs were administered by their own judges. Jewish communities could not only own property as "artificial persons," but even levy compulsory taxes that were collected, if necessary, with the help of the Roman authorities. As Salo Baron has put it,
Rarely in the history of the Diaspora have Jews enjoyed such a high degree of both equality of rights and self-government, under the protection of public law, as in the early Roman empire.
Even during the era of Jewish revolts of 66-135 CE, the Jews retained, as a rule, their rights, including such an extraordinary privilege as exemption from emperor-worship. The gravest infringement on Jewish autonomy were the bans enacted by Emperor Hadrian (reigned 117-138) on circumcision, on public gatherings for instruction in Jewish law, on proper observance of the Sabbath and Jewish holidays and on several other important rituals. However, there is no evidence that Hadrian outlawed all synagogue worship or that his bans except the ban on circumcision, applied to all imperial subjects were directed against the Jews outside Palestine. Nevertheless, these measures, accompanied by Hadrian's plan to erect a sanctuary to Zeus on the Temple Mount, were such a radical departure from traditional status of Roman Jewry that they provoked frantic resistance in the form of the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE). The revolt was, of course, doomed to failure from the outset for much the same reasons as the Warsaw Ghetto revolt was in 1943 but unlike the Nazis, the Romans had no plans for the "final solution of the Jewish question," and severe casualties suffered by the Roman army during the revolt, loss of hundreds of thousands of Jewish taxpayers and Judea's economic degradation were sufficient for the next emperor, Antoninus Pius, to revoke the anti-Jewish decrees shortly after his accession to the throne in 138. The ban on circumcision a ritual that seemed to the Romans hardly better than burning of widows in India seemed to the British was characteristically revoked only in regard to imperial subjects of Jewish parentage. This measure made Jewish proselytism extremely difficult, but its final effect was only to strengthen the ethnic bonds of Jewry, whose own leaders looked at proselytes with ever growing suspicion, probably due to the proselytes' and their descendants' greater propensity to adopt Christianity.
On the other hand, the years following the suppression of the Bar Kokhba Revolt witnessed a new zenith of Jewish autonomy in the Roman empire under the presidency of the Palestinian patriarch (nasi). The patriarch, usually a scion of the great Jewish sage Hillel, was recognized both by the Jews' common consent and by the Roman authorities as the legitimate leader of Roman Jewry. Such recognition had apparently already been obtained by Rabban Gamaliel II after the Temple's destruction  and was resumed by Antoninus Pius after the period of Hadrian's persecutions  but the patriarchate reached its heyday under the emperorship of the Severi (193-235 CE), with Rabbi Judah I (ha-Nasi) in office. It was at this time that Origen, an intellectual giant among the Church fathers, wrote with barely concealed envy:
...it is no uncommon thing, when great nations become subject, that the king should allow the captives to use their own laws and courts of justice. Now, for instance, that the Romans rule, and the Jews pay the half-shekel to them, how great power by the concession of Caesar the ethnarch [patriarch] has, so that we, who have had experience of it, know that he differs in little from a true king! Private trials are held according to the [Jewish] law, and some are condemned to death. And though there is not full license for this, still it is not done without the knowledge of the ruler, as we learned and were convinced of when we spent much time in the country of that people.
That is, although the patriarch had no explicit authority to sentence culprits to death, the Roman administration tacitly consented to such penalties. And Jewish sources testify that R' Judah I had a kind of police force under his command, appointed judges of the Sanhedrin and lesser rabbinic courts and city rabbis, managed Jewish educational affairs, tenanted large portions of cultivable land from the imperial crown, administered the collection of taxes imposed on the Jews by the Roman authorities and budgeted the funds thus collected which was, doubtless, one of the sources of his legendary wealth (the others being voluntary donations collected from Jewish communities throughout the empire and revenues from his own extensive possessions in real estate). It is little wonder, therefore, that R' Judah wanted to abolish the fasts of the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av, established in memory of the Temple's destruction.
R' Judah's term in office also witnessed the compilation of the first written compendium of Halakhah the Mishnah, with its six parts and 63 tractates embracing every field of human life. Later Halakhic compendia the Tosefta, Halakhic midrashim, the Palestinian and the Babylonian Talmuds explicated the older laws and added new ones, thus creating, by the 6th century CE, the vast body of codified Halakhah, on which all the later decisions of Jewish religious arbiters had to be based. These later decisions, recorded in numerous commentaries, codices and responsa, expanded Halakhah in volume and enriched it in detail but even in its first formative stages this body of law was sufficiently extensive and profound to enable Jewish communities to manage their affairs almost independently of the laws and customs of societies around them and to ensure a large measure of behavioral uniformity amongst the Jews themselves. Most Jewish communities, indeed, accepted the law of the Mishnah and the Talmud quite quickly, and dissident movements, like the Karaites, never won sympathy of the majority of the Jewish people, but that began to change once the bonds of traditional Judaism began to loosen in the 18th-century Europe. But until that time and still, a century later Halakhah was the great unifying force of Jewish existence.
Yet, Jewish leaders of Roman Palestine were less concerned with forecasting the distant future than with strengthening the community they were leading. During the reign of Diocletian (284-305) they considered Palestinian Jewry strong enough to embark on a campaign of sharp separation from the Samaritans, with whom the Jews' relations had been previously quite amicable but who it was now decreed should be treated as idolaters. This decree, however, was promulgated not by the patriarch but by Rabbi Abahu, head of the yeshivah of Caesarea, whose personal acquaintance with the Roman governor of Palestine and wide popularity among the Jews made him recognized as the leader of Palestinian Jewry. Thus began the decline of the patriarchate, which was now headed by less and less able scions of the Hillelite dynasty. It was mainly the patriarchate's role as fiscal agency on behalf of Rome that sustained this institution until its abolishment by the Byzantine emperor Theodosius II about 425 CE.
Theodosius II's abolishment of the patriarchate was but one of the anti-Jewish steps taken by Roman and then Byzantine rulers after the empire embraced Christianity but even Christian emperors respected Jewish self-government, although laboring to narrow its scope more and more with time. Theodosius II's grandfather, Theodosius I (reigned 379-395), the last emperor to rule over both western and eastern parts of the empire, and the founding father of the Christian state's religious intolerance (he forced all his Christian subjects to accept the Nicene creed in 380 and prohibited all pagan worship in 392), nevertheless ordered, in 393, punishment of those Christians who would attempt to destroy and despoil synagogues in spite of the fact that by punishing synagogue-arsonists five years before he had already enraged Bishop Ambrose of Milan, whom he otherwise greatly revered. Theodosius I's sons, Arcadius and Honorius emperors of the East and of the West, respectively clearly expressed the principle that no outsider may pass judgment on Jewish inner affairs, be it matters of religious observance or even such secular issues as price control on Jewish markets. Theodosius II incorporated this provision in the famous Theodosian Code (promulgated 438), which was to influence all of medieval law, especially in Western Christendom. Both Theodosius II and Honorius upheld the prohibition against summoning Jews to court or forcing them to perform corvée labor on Sabbaths and Jewish holidays.
Even Justinian I (reigned 527-565) (whose endeavors to unite the diverse peoples, sects and factions of his empire into something resembling a single nation through the introduction of a cohesive ideology and stable political and legal system led him to infringe most seriously on Jewish autonomy) did not outlaw Judaism and the Jewish community altogether. Although refraining from replicating Theodosius I's provision that "the Jews' sect has not been prohibited by any law" in his code and openly intervening in Jewish internal life (forbidding the celebration of Passover until after the Christian Easter, outlawing the Oral Torah and rendering Jewish religious affairs subject to jurisdiction of state courts, among other measures), Justinian still recognized the Jewish community as a distinct entity, upholding its authority over individual Jews at least in such matters as regulation of market prices. Other minorities suffered much worse from Justinian's policies: the Samaritans, for example, were by a stroke of imperial pen rendered a Christian sect (although they did not know much about Jesus) which resulted in their holy place on Mt. Gerizim being turned into church, their synagogues destroyed, and their faith becoming merely a Christian heresy, and therefore illegitimate from the imperial administration's viewpoint. Yet, the Samaritans, defying both Byzantine persecutions and those to which they were subject in the age of Islam, succeeded in surviving as a distinct ethnic group to the present day a remarkable success, given that in the course of history they fared far worse than the Jews.
Only Emperor Heraclius (reigned 610-641) dared outlaw Judaism completely in all Byzantine lands as part and parcel of his efforts to establish religious uniformity throughout the empire and, not unlikely, as a somewhat delayed attempt to avenge the Jewish aid to the Persians in their conquest of Syria-Palestine in 613-614 (having recovered all the conquered territories in 630, Heraclius proclaimed amnesty for the Jews, although very soon Christian clergy succeeded in initiating numerous trials against real or alleged "traitors," frequently accompanied by mob assaults). Be it as it may, Heraclius' decree was never effectively enforced:
Enough Jews remained in the very capital of Constantinople to participate significantly in the street riots which followed Heraclius' death in 641, and again in the attack on Patriarch Pyrrhos and the cathedral of Hagia Sofia in 661.
Nor were later emperors' attempts to outlaw Judaism in Byzantium ever effectively implemented; in fact, "the very emperors who tried drastically to suppress Judaism often restated the existing law, regulating Jewish life under its special status." One of such suppressors, Basil I (reigned 867-886), actually restated in his code of laws (Basilika) the provisions that "Jews may not be required by law officers to desecrate their Sabbaths and holidays," that "no non-Jew may be an overseer over Jews" (which left all Jewish communal affairs to Jewish administration), and that a sentence issued by Jewish court in a civil litigation is "to be upheld by the [imperial] civil official." Jewish life and Jewish autonomy continued in Byzantium until the empire's final destruction in 1453 by the Ottoman Turks.
Jewish support of the Persian invaders in 613-614 was, to be sure, primarily a result of the Jews' hostility towards Byzantium and Christianity as such, but it may also testify that under Sasanian kings the Jews' status was better than under the Byzantine emperors, including, of course, more extensive and less impeded self-government. Autonomous Jewish community headed by the exilarch (reish galuta) must have existed in Persian Mesopotamia from at least the last century of the Parthian rule. Whatever the Jewish tradition claims about the unbroken continuity of the exilarchate since the exiled King Jehoiachin, the first available evidence of this institution dates to about 200 CE, when the patriarch R' Judah I was active in Palestine.
When the Sasanians took the place of the Parthian Arsacids as rulers of Persia, the imperial subjects' affiliation to religious communities was officially fixed. Zoroastrianism became the state religion, but Jewish and Christian communities were tolerated, and their members were to pay allegiance to the communities' leaders. It was now that the exilarchate reached its greatest eminence. To borrow from Origen, the exilarch differed from a true king still less than the Palestinian patriarch. He numbered forth or the fifth in the royal court's hierarchy after the king, the army's commander-in-chief, the head of the military class (the Sasanian parallel of medieval Christian nobility), and apparently the head of the Zoroastrian clergy, whom the rabbinic sources, for obvious reasons, failed to mention in this regard. At his own court, which occupied a whole district in Nehardea and then in Mahoza (Jewish suburb of the imperial capital Ctesiphon), the exilarch lived literally like a king, imitating quite closely his Sasanian sovereign. So great was the exilarch's power, backed in full by the imperial authorities, that he could choose, at his personal whim, whether to judge cases brought before him in accordance with Halakhah or the Sasanian law. The exilarchic regime was so much more autocratic than even the Palestinian patriarchate that from a rabbinic homily's viewpoint, the patriarchs were merely "teaching the Torah in public" compared to the exilarchs "administering Jewry with a ferule."
The exilarch was, however, usually clever enough not to abuse his power and to retain popularity among Jewish scholars and masses as well, the honor of his pedigree compensating for his despotism. The exilarch also had to be well-versed in the Torah his most important appearances before his own public were sermons he gave in the presence of most prominent scholars of the country or of a certain locality. Jewish courts, whose judges were initially appointed exclusively by the exilarch, grew more and more dependent with time on particular rabbinic academies, but in either case, their authority was officially recognized, and they apparently enjoyed even capital jurisdiction.
Under the exilarch's aegis, local Jewish communities were also rigidly organized, and communal institutions managed all local Jewish affairs, from purely religious matters to social welfare and education. Jews were allowed to bear arms and to fortify their settlements. And of course, communities could tax their members characteristically, rabbinic scholars and orphans were generally exempt from taxation.
To be sure, Persian Jewry suffered severe persecutions (including bans on observance of important rituals, abolishment of juridical autonomy, suppression of the educational system and execution of exilarchs) during the reigns of Yazdagird II (439-457) and Peroz (459-484), but under Kavad I (reigned 488-498 and 501-531) their former status seems to have been restored; at least, the Jews of Tella (near modern Aleppo, Syria) conspired to let Kavad's army into the city during the siege of 502-503 which hardly would be likely had Kavad continued Peroz's anti-Jewish policies. During the war with Byzantium in 531, Kavad even asked the Byzantines for a truce so that Jews and Christians in his army would be able to properly celebrate Passover and Easter. Kavad's son Khusro I (reigned 531-579) also appears to have been friendly to the Jews: in 529, in the wake of the Samaritan revolt in Palestine and during Khusro's conflict with Byzantium, an embassy of Samaritans and Jews was sent to Khusro, asking him not to make peace with his foes and promising armed support if he was to continue the war. Surely the Jews, not involved to any significant extent in the Samaritan uprising, would have no reason to appeal to the Persian king for intervention were that king to treat his Jewish subjects worse than his Byzantine counterpart.
Khusro's son Hormizd IV (reigned 579-590) initiated new persecutions of the Jews, which intensified during the reign of his son Khusro II (590-628). The exilarchate's continuity was broken again but, as said above, Persian policies towards the Jews were better than those of Byzantium, enough to make the Jews of Syria-Palestine assist the Persian invaders in 613-614. It is very likely that this support was triggered by Persian promises to restore the self-governing Jewish principality around Jerusalem the comparison with Cyrus and Artaxerxes was self-evident. Such a principality appears to have been established after the Persian conquest of Jerusalem and massacre of her Christian inhabitants by both Persians and Jews in May 614; but only two or three years afterwards the Persians revoked their former policies, abolished the Jewish principality and banished the Jews from Jerusalem. All these developments, however, did little to affect the following course of Jewish history: in 634 Caliph Umar I embarked on a campaign of world conquest, and within 100 years Arab armies had overrun Spain, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Persia, establishing the Great Caliphate which was, in turn, to fall apart in the 9th-10th centuries. The same period witnessed the growth of Jewish communities in Western and Central Europe. The Jewish diaspora was now spreading further and thinner, and henceforth no events in any particular country were to endanger Jewish ethnic perseverance. The Islamic world and Western Christendom became the background against which Jewish history was to unfold for the next 1200 years.
Strange though it may seem in the age of Moslem anti-Semitism triggered by the Jewish-Arab conflict in Palestine, Islam's attitude towards the Jews for most of its history was relatively tolerant. During his wars in the Arabian Peninsula in the 620s, Mohammed encountered the Jewish community of Khaibar, some 3,000 people strong. The Khaibar Jews managed to resist the initial onslaught by Mohammed's troops but, understanding that their resistance would not last long, they secured a peace treaty whereby they would voluntarily deliver a part of their crops to the Moslems in exchange for the latter's protection. Similar treaties were signed with Mohammed by the Christian communities of Aila and Najran, establishing a precedent which was to determine, to a large extent, the status of all religious minorities under Islam.
Having conquered all the Persian and much of Byzantine lands within less than three decades after Mohammed's death (632), the Caliphate had under its rule millions of non-Moslem subjects. To wipe them out by sword would be difficult and undesirable: the conquerors were in dire need of learned and able subjects to run the Caliphate's administration and to maintain the continuity of public life, and the newly conquered subjects were much more experienced in large-scale economic and administrative activities than were the conquering Bedouins. To convert these subjects forcibly to Islam was unnecessary: the Quran  had already permitted the "followers of the Book" Jews, Christians and Sabians (apparently, the Gnostic Mandaeans) to live by their mores, "the Torah and the Gospel," considered by Islam's holy book as divinely revealed. Another Quranic verse  was taken to equate the status of all non-Moslem monotheists: Jews, Christians, Sabians, and the Zoroastrians ("Magians"). People of other creeds initially fared much worse: the Berbers were forcibly converted en masse to Islam, and the moon-worshippers of Haran had to pass themselves off as Sabians in order to escape the same fate but demands of real life had eventually overrun legal theories, and with Moslem advance into India after 1000 CE even outright "heathens" were allowed to continue practicing their rites undisturbed. The Jews, in any event, enjoyed, since the treaty between Mohammed and the Khaibar community, the status of dhimmis a non-Moslem minority protected by Islam in exchange for the payment of a capitation tax (jizyah) and general acceptance of "a state of subjection" to the Moslems.
What this "state of subjection" meant was never decisively specified, and much was left to arbitrary decisions of local governors even when the Caliphate was at the peak of its power and prosperity. The "Covenant of Umar," considered by Moslem tradition as drafted by Caliph Umar I after his conquest of Jerusalem (638) although its provisions reflect an accumulation of practices which evolved during the whole first century of Islam demands that dhimmis pay the tax, do not hinder any Moslem from stopping in their sanctuaries, do not conduct their religious services loudly, do not build or maintain a sanctuary in a Moslem quarter, do not learn the Quran, do not prevent any in their midst from converting to Islam, do not copy Moslems in dress and appearance, do not use seals engraved in Arabic or the Arabic "Ibn" and "Abu" designations, do not build houses or sanctuaries higher than those of Moslems, do not keep or bear arms, do not sell wine publicly, do not keep slaves who had been property of Moslems, show respect to Moslems and guide them on their ways, do not assist their enemies, and do not harm them. Other often-reiterated provisions of the Islamic law specified that the Jews may not build new synagogues (but may keep old ones in the state of repair), and that they may not hold positions implying authority over Moslems.
In fact, however, many of these provisions were honored in their breach. Scores of new synagogues were constructed in newly founded Moslem cities: often they were furnished with inscriptions dating their foundation to the days of yore, but Moslem authorities were, as a rule, perfectly aware of actual dates of their building and simply closed their eyes. Strict control over distribution of wine were absent, and any Moslem desirous of this drink could purchase as much of it as he wished, from a Jew or from any other person. The slave trade was a major branch of international Jewish commerce, at least during the early centuries of Islam. "Abu" and "Ibn" designations, combined with purely Arabic names, became the rule among the Jews. Wealthy Jews often appeared in public wearing costly garments and jewelry on a par with rich Moslems, and the provision that the Jews wear distinctive garments was not invoked by most Moslem rulers. Many Jews were employed at Moslem courts as financiers, military commanders, and diplomats the Baghdadi family of the sons of Netira and the Spaniards Hisdai ibn Shaprut and Samuel ibn Nagrela are the most famous examples.
On the other hand, Moslem rule granted the Jews extensive protection. As long as a Jew or any other dhimmi remained adherent to the creed in which he was born, he was granted security of person and property and freedom of religious observance (as long as it did not infringe on the laws of Islam, of course). Spokesmen of dhimmi religions were not prevented from publicly defending their faiths against written and oral attacks by Moslem polemists. No Jewish books were ever burnt by Moslem authorities. Conversions from one dhimmi creed to another were severely discouraged. Conversions to Islam were, of course, welcomed, but Moslem law forbade a convert inheriting from or bequeathing his property to his dhimmi relatives; some jurists even ruled that by conversion a dhimmi forfeits all his property, which is to be reverted to his community a verdict reflecting the state's interest in preserving the property of each dhimmi community because of such communities' collective responsibility for taxes. But whatever its motivation, it doubtlessly prevented a number of conversions. Another preventive factor was the dhimmis' exemption from military service.
Christianity, too, espoused a doctrine of tolerance towards Judaism and the Jews: although no longer "Israel in spirit," the Jews were still "Israel in flesh" and merited survival as a distinct community by that virtue. Paul, although consistently hostile to Judaism and its adherents, nevertheless denied that the Jews were completely rejected by God and told his Gentile disciples: "As far as the Gospel is concerned, they [the Jews] are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable." Four centuries later, Augustine  argued that Jewry be preserved as a witness for the Christian truth:
...now, that they are dispersed through almost all lands and nations, it is through the providence of that one true God; that whereas the images, altars, groves, and temples of the false gods are everywhere overthrown, and their sacrifices prohibited, it may be shown from their books how this has been foretold by their prophets so long before; lest, perhaps, when they should be read in ours, they might seem to be invented by us.
With the Catholic Church's development into an autocratic institution, Augustine's attitude became the official Christian doctrine. Pope Gregory I (in office 590-604), that architect of the medieval papacy "who combated all forms of paganism, Manichaeism, and Christian heresies to the death, and preached the use of force in converting heretics, vigorously denied the application of the same method to the Jews." Furthermore, Gregory stressed that "since they are permitted to live in accordance with Roman law, it is but just that they should manage their own affairs as they think best, and let no man hinder them." To be sure, the canonic ban on forced conversion was honored at times in its breach and the Church's interpretation of this ban permitted "indirect" coercion of Jews into baptism thus Pope Leo VII (in office 936-39) ruled it permissible to present Jews with the choice between baptism and expulsion (as was done later in several Christian countries) but the Church never pursued the aim of eliminating Jewry altogether nor even of banishing the Jews from the realm in which its power was most felt: neither Leo VII nor any other pope had ever expelled the Jews from Rome.
The medieval Church's attitude to the Jews was twofold:
...the Church never abandoned its general insistence upon keeping Jews in a state of lowly submission and segregation. While constantly repeating the protective constitution, Sicut Judaeis, and sharply condemning the Blood Accusation, the popes also spelled out in much greater detail the anti-Jewish provisions of canon law... Whenever they felt that the Jews were excessively favored by Catholic monarchs, especially by being entrusted with high public office and dominion over Christians, they as well as the [Church] councils raised their voices in protest. But whenever popular hostilities, nurtured by such folkloristic accusations as the blood libel, poisoning of wells and desecration of the host, threatened widespread blood baths, popes and other churchmen often came to the rescue.
To be sure, Christian toleration of the Jews was skimpy compared to that of Islam. The latter, not having been born as an offspring of Judaism, dwelt little on the question of this creed and its adherents, merely acknowledging it, along with other non-pagan creeds of the Arabian milieu including even the Mandaeans, who never played any major role in their native Babylonia as a reality that had to be lived with. But even here employment of biblical themes in the Quran made it necessary for Mohammed to point out that the "people of the Book" distorted the divine message revealed to them. How much more so was Christianity, accepting the older legacy of Judaism in full, unable to dismiss the later developments of this creed with a mere shrug. Paul's remark about irrevocability of God's mission appealed to many churchmen much less than the Jews' alleged insistence that Jesus be crucified and acceptance of perennial responsibility for that deed, the mentions of "synagogue of Satan" in the book of Revelation, or Jesus's assertion to the Pharisees, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire."
Canonic legislation intended to humiliate the Jews was far more extensive and profound than its Islamic counterpart, and more effectively implemented. This legislation included a prohibition against erecting new synagogues (generally honored in its breach), bans on the employment of Christian servants by Jews or on entrusting Jews with positions of authority over Christians, obligation of wearing distinctive Jewish clothes or badges, humiliating formulas and oath swearing ceremonies that a Jew had to undergo when appearing before Christian courts or authorities, yet more humiliating ceremonies during Passion Week although the latter were products of local rather than ecumenical legislation. In Toulouse, for example, a slap had to be administered to a Jew in public during the Passion Week, and in Béziers, stoning the Jewish quarter during this week was recognized as legitimate. Church synods, probably understanding their inability to stop popular violence instigated by sermons and Passion plays, issued wholesale prohibitions against Jews showing themselves in public several days before Easter and on the feast day itself. The ghetto domicile, however, despite its being one of the most popular symbols of Jewish life in the Middle Ages for a present-day mind, became mandatory for West European Jews only from the 15th century on, and provisions explicitly requiring the Jews reside in ghettos were incorporated into canon law as late as in 1555. On the other hand, Jews preferred, of their own will, to live in predominantly Jewish quarters from time immemorial; when Bishop Rüdiger established a separate Jewish quarter in Spires in 1084, it was intended to attract the Jews to the city which the bishop thought necessary in order to enlarge Spires' importance as a trade center.
On the whole, however, popular anti-Semitism played a much greater role in Christian Jew-baiting than discriminative canonic legislation. The Church's
central organs may have stressed toleration in intolerant periods and discrimination in times of relative good will, but on local and regional levels many clerics shared the biases of their lay neighbors. Particularly parish priests and wandering monks, whose education in the principles of Catholic theology and familiarity with the basic decisions of Papacy or universal councils was quite limited, often shared with the peasants and the urban proletariat the popular views on Jews and Judaism. In time, the official doctrine itself began to embrace folkloristic elements and, through its local priestly spokesmen, reciprocally helped to color the popular preconceptions concerning the nature of ever puzzling Jewish minority.
But, besides the socially and culturally alien character of the Jewish minority, another reason for the popular hatred of the Jews was "the services they had willingly, or forcibly, rendered to the powers that were."
Indeed, the secular powers were in need of the Jews much more than Church doctrinaires for them, it was a question of economic necessity. Although the world was now rigidly divided between Christendom and Islamdom, the need for mutual trade relations was felt on the both sides of the barrier. "A class mediating between these two worlds, hostile in the economic even more than in political and cultural spheres, was bound to arise"  and these were the Jews, whose inter-communal connections made it quite easy for them to find their way into world commerce. A Catholic merchant arriving in a Moslem country, or a Moslem trader visiting a Catholic domain, would be treated (or, it is better to say, maltreated) by everybody as an alien but a Jew could always rely on the hospitality of his confreres in any locale, who would readily serve as an intermediary between him and the local Gentile majority. Few Moslems knew Latin and few Europeans knew Arabic but Jews could always communicate with each other in Hebrew, "which for that very reason came to be widely used in the West for practical purposes."
Attraction of Jews became, therefore, imperative for a ruler wishing both to personally enjoy the luxuries of the East and to advance his country's economy. The most noteworthy of such rulers were the Carolingian emperors. These not only tolerated and protected Jewish communities which had existed in their southern provinces since Roman times, but "made a special effort to attract Jewish traders to their northern French and German possessions." This effort meant extensive privileges, not only guaranteeing the beneficiaries security of life, limb, and property, but being far more liberal to them than canon law, already in the days of Louis the Pious (reigned 814-840): the Jews were allowed to employ free Christians as domestic servants, to import pagan slaves and to own them (while any attempts by Christians to convert such slaves to Christianity were severely discouraged). To administer the effective implementation of these privileges a special high official (magister judaeourm) was appointed, and wherever Jews were unsatisfied with the administration of justice by local authorities they could appeal to imperial officers or even to the emperor himself. These Carolingian charters and decrees set the precedent for the Jews' status in France, England and Germany for centuries after the empire's dissolution (de facto if not de jure) by the Treaty of Verdun in 843.
Another economic niche for the Jews was provided by the canonic ban upon Christians charging their co-religionists interest on loans: money lending gradually become the main occupation of West European Jewry. In England especially the Jews were quickly "converted into a class of 'royal usurers,' whose main function was to provide credit for both political and economic ventures. After accumulating great wealth through the high rate of interest, these moneylenders were forced to disgorge it in one form or another for the benefit of the royal treasury." It was the Jewish "usury" which most often incited the Christian masses against them, ruminations on their role as "Christ-killers" and their supposed attacks on Christianity being merely excuses. In Christian Spain at the time of the Reconquista and unification, Jews were extremely useful as tax collectors and court officials because of "their relatively high degree of literacy, their considerable fiscal and diplomatic 'know how,' and the general reliability and fidelity of Jewish advisers who had little interest in supporting the frequently rebellious lords or cities." Another field of activity popular with Jews was the medical profession: in defiance of harsh canonic legislation, many rulers and even clerics, understandably wishing to secure for themselves the best medical assistance available, employed Jewish doctors.
But above all, medieval rulers valued the Jews as an easy source of taxation. An alien and defenseless minority in any realm, the Jews were in dire need of protection by the realm's ruler to survive in the hostile Christian environment and this protection, as everyone understood, had to be paid for. The best description of medieval rulers' policies towards the Jews was coined by 16th-century Christian clerics of Hesse: the Jews, they stated, had been always "used as a sponge. No sooner will they suck up the money [from Christian population through money lending], than the overlords proceed to squeeze it out of them into their own pockets." Perhaps the most illustrative in this regard was the situation in England in the late 1180s: although at that time the whole country harbored some 2500 Jews (0.1% of the total population), during the fundraising for the Third Crusade the Jews were required to contribute the sum of £60,000, as against £70,000 for the rest of the country. Not surprisingly, the Jews recognized the role which the state's fiscal interests played in their survival. "It is necessary to go on constantly spending money in order to maintain the [governmental] privileges, as it has been manifest in every grant the Jew has ever obtained from the royal power," wrote the great 13th-century rabbi Shelomo ben Aderet. His contemporary, R' Asher ben Yehiel, concurred: "All kinds of taxes are in the category of defense, for they guard us among the nations. For what other benefits do some nations derive from defending us and allowing us to live among them, be it not their advantage to collect from the Jews taxes and imposts?" Sometimes Jews even found it useful to contribute voluntarily to the state's chamber.
The doctrine of "Jewish serfdom," developed by English kings and German emperors and quickly imitated by many other monarchs and nobles, turned all Jews living in a certain realm into legitimate "possession" of the realm's ruler, so that the latter was now fully entitled to extort from "his" Jews whatever revenues possible. This doctrine, however, by no means put the Jews on a par with Christian peasants. For the latter, to be a serf meant to be merely an accessory of the plot of land on which one was born. When this plot was sold by one landlord to another the serf was sold with it, together with the cattle and flock bound to the same plot. The landlord enjoyed absolute mastership over the serf's life: only with his permission could the serf marry (and often was married by force to whomever the lord wanted) or leave the plot to which he was bound, and whenever some conflict arose between one serf and another, the lord was the only judge. Although formally the Christian serf was not his lord's property, his status was not much different from that of an outright slave. On the other hand,
While the distinction between public and private law was not yet sharply drawn, everyone realized that a Jew belonged to the ruler qua representative of government, rather than a private owner of an estate. Certainly upon an emperor's demise it was his elected successor on the German throne, not the immediate heir of his hereditary possessions, who assumed the tutelage over the "serfs" of the imperial Chamber...
Numerous medieval documents attest this clear-cut distinction between Jewish serfdom and real slavery or villeinage. Time and again the kings of England, Castile and Aragon threatened Jews with the loss of freedom in case of disobedience. Even at the height of legal discrimination against Iberian Jewry during the quarter century of 1391-1415, the anti-Jewish decree of January 2, 1412, tried to stem Jewish emigration by warning the would-be culprits that they would lose all their property and become "My captives forever." This decree was repeated... by Ferdinand I of Aragon in the following year. Similar sanctions had been placed in 1380 upon the illicit circumcision of Moorish and Tartar slaves by Jewish masters. Obviously, not until a court found a Jew guilty of these "crimes" was he to lose that personal liberty which he had theretofore fully enjoyed. Equally revealing were the phrases used by the German king William in his privilege for the city of Goslar of 1252. Here the king promised that "the city's Jews shall suffer no undue molestation or captivity from Us, and We shall protect them amicably and benevolently as special serfs of Our Chamber; but as it is proper, they shall serve Us as their lord and Roman king."
The sovereignty exercised by a medieval ruler over his Jewish "serfs" may thus fairly be likened to that which even the most democratic states exercise over their citizens: the state has the full right to deprive a citizen of his property, freedom, or even of his very life (albeit through due process in court), to send him to fight in a war for its interests (regardless of the citizen's own attitude to the war), and to seize large parts of his property through taxation, in ways far more efficient than those available to medieval rulers. Of course citizens of modern democracies can influence their state's policies through elections or other means of public pressure (petitions or peaceful demonstrations and strikes, for example) while no such influence could be exercised by medieval Jews, except those of them who enjoyed positions as courtiers (though to even this rule there were exceptions).
One of the rights which the Jewish community enjoyed from time immemorial was the authority to tax its members as the communal leaders saw fit, provided that the Gentile overlord received the sum he imposed on the community as a whole. Only in a later period was analogous authority granted to municipalities of German cities, for example. But more importantly, such a system of taxation necessitated the more or less willing cooperation of communal leaders, to a degree that
Various regional assemblies of Jewish leaders in the so-called Spanish colectas, in Sicily and in Germany were convoked, with governmental approval if not on the kings' initiative, to negotiate about the size of the revenue due to the state and to fix the best means of raising it. Powerful [German] emperors like Sigismund [reigned 1410-1437] and Frederick III [reigned 1440-1493]... invited Jewish leaders from all over the Empire to help them increase that revenue.
And, interested in the Jews as a promising source of revenue, medieval rulers were careful to protect by law their life, limb, property, and freedom of movement. In the latter regard, the 12th-century Tosafists explicitly likened the Jews to the knights, and in 11th century English sources some Jews were termed "half a knight" or "three-parts of a knight." Freedom of worship was likewise guaranteed the Jews, the only exception being the old canonic ban on erecting new synagogues and the enlargement and luxurious embellishment of older ones. Although honored for the most part in its breach, this ban was the source of multiple clashes between Jewish communities and ecclesiastical or temporal authorities. Another subject of chicanery was Jewish cemeteries and burial processions, which rulers often sought to turn into additional sources of revenue (through rents and pass tolls) or into quasi-pledges for other revenues owed them by Jews (refusing burial to recalcitrant taxpayers, for example). By and large, however, both synagogues and Jewish cemeteries enjoyed the rulers' protection, and the Jews' right to observe the precepts of their religion was not contested. Prohibition of forced conversions to Christianity was upheld except for occasional excesses of Christian masses' frenzy, such as forcible conversions during the First Crusade. In the latter case, however, William II of England and Henry IV of Germany permitted the Jews converted during the Crusade to return officially to their former creed, in spite of protests from the Papal See. Even the Inquisition had no right to prosecute professing Jews as such, and the excessive attempts of some inquisitors to prosecute certain Jews for specific "crimes" against the Catholic faith (such as enticing or assisting Jewish converts to Christianity into return to their former creed, blasphemy against the Virgin, or engaging in sorcery) were usually staved off by monarchs unwilling to lose taxpayers.
And, whether in Christendom or in Islamdom, Jewish communities always enjoyed extensive autonomy in their inner affairs:
In all Christian, as well as Muslim, countries the Jewish community was recognized by law as a corporate body apart entitled not only to regulate its purely religious activities, but also to adjust many civil and political affairs to suit its own needs and traditions.
Jewish autonomy in the Middle Ages embraced all the inner affairs of Jewry, all the three branches of power: judiciary, legislative, and executive. Jewish community in the diaspora administered all the spheres of public and private life, presiding over religious, cultural, economic and social issues.
Rather than being explicitly and consistently defined by state law, the scope of this autonomy was, as a rule, determined by medieval sovereigns' lack of interest in any aspects of Jewish life other than the payment of taxes and architectural features of synagogues. Self-governing Jewish communities were only a few of corporate self-governing bodies common in the medieval society: dhimmi communities in Islamdom; orders of churchmen and nobility, or corporations of burghers in Christendom. In the West, in fact, "the Jewish community enjoyed even fuller self-government than most other corporations," to the extent that communal "religious, educational and charitable institutions and foundations... played a far greater role in the ordinary Jew's daily life than many high-sounding decrees enacted by emperors or popes." Civil jurisdiction in inner Jewish issues was delegated to communal organs, while over mixed Jewish-Gentile affairs, as a rule, a special appointee of the government presided but sometimes there were mixed courts and sometimes the suit had to be filed in the court of the defendant, be that what it may. Criminal jurisdiction was generally reserved for state or city authorities, but sometimes it, too, was delegated to Jewish courts as long as all parties involved in the case were Jewish.
Communal authorities, on their part, ceaselessly strived to maintain the Jewish "state within the state," enforcing compliance with their decisions through "every means of coercion available: monetary fines, corporal punishment, imprisonment, and the like but primarily through the religious sanction of excommunication." The latter, indeed, meant little less than social death, as evident from its description by an early medieval source:
This is to be done in respect to the excommunicated person: Announce publicly that his bread is the bread of Cutheans, his wine the wine of libation [of an idolater], his fruits are untithed and his books are the books of sorcerers [that is, the Jews are forbidden to use all these]. Also cut the fringes of his garments and impend his livelihood. Do not pray with him, do not circumcise his sons, and do not teach his children in synagogue. Do not bury his dead, and do not associate with him either in association for the sake of fulfillment of a commandment or in a voluntary association. Pour a cup of water after him, and treat him with contempt, like you would treat a Gentile.
In Spain, Jewish courts enjoyed even capital jurisdiction. But in religiously-minded medieval society, respected rabbinic leaders' mere threat of supernatural punishment was often sufficient. And the interest of medieval rulers in conformity within the Jewish community under their "tutelage" was so great that they went to great lengths in assisting the communal leadership, even in its fight with prospective and actual informers those Jews who informed Gentile authorities of real or alleged misdeeds by their confreres. Whatever immediate benefits could result to the rulers from such informing, they were clever enough to realize that such a practice, if not stemmed, would quickly destroy the communal organization and hierarchy, which would make fiscal control over "their" Jewry much more complicated. In some cases monarchs went so far as to force rabbis to issue death sentences on informers  but generally the rabbis themselves wanted such "criminals," actual or prospective, to be killed as soon as possible, legally or illegally.
Emperor Charles IV and King Rupert of Germany decreed in 1348 and 1406, respectively, that any Jew excommunicated for more than 30 days without having secured revocation of the ban imposed on him should be deprived of all his property. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain ordered, in 1483, the execution of a Jew condemned for assault and battery on the rabbi who proclaimed his excommunication. Peter II of Aragon, issuing in 1212 the privileges of self-government for the Jews of Huesca, threatened full-fledged slavery for any Jew severing his relations with the community. In 1490 the viceroy of Sicily ordered the local judge, appointed to administer mixed Jewish-Gentile affairs, to investigate and punish those "Jews, both male and female, of that community who do not live according to the Mosaic law and hence cause many errors and scandals in the said community." On another occasion, the Jewish communities of Aragon readily conceded the Inquisition the right to prosecute Jews denying such common dogmas of both religions as the existence of God and the revealed character of the Torah.
In fact, although Jewish communities threatened excommunication for any individual turning on his own initiative to Gentile authorities instead of communal ones, communal leaders did not refrain from employing the state's power to enforce conformity inside the community. Thus, a resolution of a 12th-century synod of communal leaders of Champagne read: "We, the undersigned, request all those who are in touch with the government to coerce, through the power of Gentiles, anyone who transgresses our commandments."
Of course, Jewish life in the Middle Ages was far from idyllic. Even in Islamdom they were not spared popular violence and persecutions on the state level. The latter were, however, remarkably rare, and the former remarkably minor by contemporary European standards. When, during the reign of the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim (December 31, 1011 and the following days), the Jews of Fustat were assaulted by local mobs, even the intolerant caliph objected to the assault and released all the Jews imprisoned by the assailants. Not one Jew, it appears, was killed or suffered permanent injury and the very fact that the event aroused great fear among the Jews of Egypt and was recorded by the local community in a permanent liturgical memorial may testify to a general atmosphere of quiescence and security felt by Egyptian Jewry, who perceived such a minor disturbance as a world-shaking event.
The only Moslem rulers who outlawed Judaism altogether in a significantly large territory were the Almohads, the Berber rulers of the Maghreb and Moslem Spain from the mid-12th to the mid-13th century. But even the Almohads, demanding all their dhimmi subjects convert to Islam under threat of death, were initially satisfied with a mere verbal affirmation of one's belief in Mohammed as God's Messenger. Rabbinic authority of no less rank than Maimonides advised the Jews in Almohad domains to pay this lip service but to refrain from performing other Moslem rites and leave their country for more hospitable shores as soon as possible. When later Almohad rulers imposed stricter controls on the converts, this only resulted in the social and legal segreof the latter as a distinct group of the population. Many neo-Moslems, having realized the inefficacy of their conversion in freeing them from the yoke of persecution, reverted to their former creeds. As the Almohads' law-enforcement capabilities were quite limited, clandestine Judaism could proceed under their rule much more easily than under the Inquisition. With time, "clandestine" Jews could even reassert their identity more or less openly: in 1232 there were professing Jews in Marrakech, and some time later they could be found in other North African cities.
Having suffered a defeat by the Christian coalition of Leon, Castile, Navarre, and Aragon in 1212, the Almohads were forced to retreat from Spain, and in the following six decades they were confronted by several local North African dynasties who tore their empire into pieces. Jewish communities were able to reemerge openly in the new principalities.
For European Jewry, however, the gravest times were just beginning. Transformation of England into an ethnically cohesive nation-state inevitably spelled the end of the socially alien Jewish minority an end that came with the 1290 expulsion of Jews from the country. France, experiencing a similar nationalist drift, was too economically dependent on Jewish capital and enterprise to allow permanent expulsion; the result was a series of expulsions of Jews from the French crown's lands, followed only a few years later by their readmission in order to restore the country's shattered economy. The first expulsion took place in 1182, to be followed by readmission in 1198 (the French economy was so in need of the Jews that the king not only allowed them to settle again on his lands but genuinely tried to attract as many of them as possible); in any event, only a small part of what was later to become France belonged then to the crown. The next time Jews were banished from the French crown's domains, which already included most of present-day France, was in 1306 and they were readmitted in 1315. The next expulsion took place in 1322 and was followed by readmission in 1359-1361. Only in 1394 were Jews expelled from France for the long run, and when the French crown's rule extended over more and more lands, Jews were expelled from them, also: by 1501 there were no professing Jews in the whole area from Flanders to Provence and from Brittany to Champagne except, characteristically, the Papal possessions of Avignon and Comtat Venaissin.
In German lands no wholesale expulsion of Jews ever did take place. But there many Jews fell prey to frequent and murderous outbreaks of popular violence. By the end of the 13th century imperial protection was of little avail to them, as scores of local rulers princes, bishops and city councils grew more and more independent of the emperors. Popular onslaughts were not unknown even earlier, but 1298 witnessed the first large-scale wave of massacres, led by the impoverished nobleman Rindfleisch. Thousands of Jews lost their lives and communities were barely able to recover before another wave of pogroms swept the Rhinelands, Alsace, Swabia, Bavaria, and Austria in 1336-1337. Some local authorities including the city council of Ratisbon and the duke of Austria, supported by the pope protected their Jews, but the majority washed their hands of the whole business. Yet a greater mass slaughter of Jews occurred during the years of the Black Death, the epidemic of bubonic and pneumonic plague which ravaged Europe in 1347-1351 and which was "explained" by many contemporaries as resulting from the Jews poisoning the wells. Duke Albert II of Austria protected his Jews again, and Palatine Rupert of Heidelberg admitted into his city Jewish refugees from Worms and Spires but elsewhere the nobles' power was too meager to protect "their" Jews effectively, and some quickly changed their mind from protection to ferocious Jew-baiting.
The era of expulsions started for German Jewry only in the 15th century. Here, however, expulsions were local, each time from a particular city or limited territory only the feudal anarchy prevailing in the German empire precluded any consistent course of action on a countrywide scale. Often individual Jews began returning to their former localities only a few years after expulsion, with the authorities' approval. At times decrees of expulsion were simply not enforced: four such decrees, issued for Vienna from 1543 to 1546, failed to spell the end of the Jewish community there, and the 1541 decree of expulsion from Bohemia was never fully implemented in Prague alone there were 1,000 Jews by 1546. Furthermore, since for the most part Jews were expelled from cities only, many of them spread over the countryside, changing their major occupation from money lending to petty trade. And there were even several large cities that did not expel their Jews most importantly, Frankfurt-am-Main and Worms. Decimated and chased, German Jewry was nonetheless still alive to play an important role in the later course of Jewish history.
Nor was the most populous and influential Jewry in Europe that of the Iberian Peninsula spared the trials and tribulations of the Late Middle Ages. In 1328 popular resentment of French domination in Navarre led to assaults on several Jewish communities. The next wave of pogroms came with the Black Death, although Iberian Jewry suffered far less than its German counterpart. The civil war between Peter I and Henry II of Castile in 1366-1368 was also accompanied by attacks on Jewish communities. But the greatest catastrophe came in 1391, when Ferrant Martinez, the archdeacon of Seville, succeeded in instigating a "holy war" of pogroms throughout Spain. Thousands of Jews were tortured, murdered, and sold into slavery, while tens of thousands accepted baptism in order to escape the fate of their loyal confreres. The following decades were marked by new outbursts of popular violence combined with restrictive legislation at Church's initiative, aimed at curtailing the Jews' rights and economic opportunities in order to coax them into undergoing baptism. These policies proved successful: during less than three decades, 200,000 to 400,000 Jews converted to Christianity by comparison, the number of professing Jews in Spain in 1492 amounted to 225,000 persons (or some 40,000 families). Mass conversion resulted, however, in the emergence of a clearly discernible group of "Jewish Christians," socially alien to the native Christian majority, perceiving themselves as a legitimate part of the Jewish people and striving to observe Jewish rituals in secret to the best of their knowledge and opportunity which brought many of them before the Inquisition's trials. The existence of this crypto-Jewish community, perpetuated through its members' general preference for marrying their own stock, was to trouble both church and state authorities for centuries more but meanwhile, there still remained a large minority of professing Jews, and the union of Castile and Aragon through the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella opened another sad chapter in the history of Spanish Jewry. The zealously Catholic royal couple, striving to enforce national and religious uniformity in their domain, could not tolerate the Jewish community. In 1492 the decree of expulsion was signed: about one-fourth of Spanish Jewry, including Chief Rabbi Abraham Seneor, accepted baptism to avoid banishment, and the rest left Spanish soil.
Two-thirds of the exiles (some 20,000 families, or 120,000 persons) moved to Portugal. This country, greatly resembling Spain climatically, socially, and even linguistically, had never before experienced official persecution of Jews, and popular anti-Jewish riots were usually suppressed there rapidly and efficiently. King John II (reigned 1481-1495) agreed to accept the refugees only for considerable pay, and most of them were accepted for eight months only, on condition that if they did not leave after that time, they would have to either convert to Christianity or become slaves. For those willing to leave, the king promised organized shipping but when the deadline approached the shipping was delayed, and the king made sure that many Jews would be indeed faced with the choice of baptism or slavery. Many others were killed by local farmers and highwaymen immediately on entrance into the country unlike native Portuguese Jews, the immigrants were deprived of any effective royal protection. Others fell prey to the pestilence which found easy targets in crowded refugee camps.
Nonetheless, there still were professing Spanish Jews in Portugal when Manuel I ascended to the throne in 1495. Understanding that slavery was not the best way of employing Jews in his country's economy, Manuel started his reign by releasing them from bondage. Soon, however, he was approached by the Spanish royal couple, bent on the total elimination of Jews from the Peninsula. They suggested that Manuel marry their daughter Isabella, and the latter, whether by her own will or following her parents' counsel, withheld her consent until Manuel promised to rid his country of all non-Christians. For him, this marriage would pave the way to reign over the entire Peninsula, both Spain and Portugal or at least, so he thought and he was too ambitious to let the Jews get in his way. Jews were ordered to leave Portugal before the end of October 1497, but the king was smart enough to understand that their expulsion would bring no good to the country. He was determined to convert them to Christianity by whatever means available. Children aged 4 to 14 were forcibly baptized and removed from their families unless the family accepted baptism also. Those Jews who had nevertheless decided to leave were all concentrated in Lisbon and, given very sparse shipping, few were able to emigrate in time the others were forcibly dragged to baptismal fonts. Even the clergy opposed these policies, and the new converts, arguing that their conversion was not canonically valid, succeeded in delaying the establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal until the 1530s. Forming another crypto-Jewish community, these converts and their descendants took all possible measures to escape the country and settled in numerous locations abroad, often fully returning to Judaism and turning the term "Portuguese" into a synonym for "Jew"  quite the opposite of what Manuel I had intended.
Ferdinand and Isabella succeeded in influencing the king of Navarre to expel Jews from his kingdom in 1498, and by 1541 Jews were also banished from the Spanish crown's possessions in southern Italy. Here the expulsion was a catastrophe for the Christians also: southern Italy's economy could not properly function without the Jews, and, abetted by other aspects of Spanish maladministration, this measure brought about obvious destruction: the population of Calabria, estimated at over 160,000 families in 1562, dropped to some 103,000 in 1648, and to about 82,000 in 1661.
In 1569, Pope Pius V expelled the Jews from all Papal possessions except Rome and Ancona. The decree of expulsion was enforced only in Italy, while Avignon and Comtat Venaissin continued to harbor Jewish communities down to the present. Yet, by the time of Pius V's death in 1572, Jews were eliminated from almost all of Western Europe.
In Eastern Europe, however, they continued to live under extensive privileges, in force since the 13th-14th centuries. Here, too, occasional expulsions took place from Hungary in 1360, from Lithuania in 1495, and from Bohemia in 1541 but the first two were soon followed by readmission with full restoration of privileges (in 1364 and 1503, respectively), and the latter was incomplete from the beginning. Poland, reaching her grandeur under the Jagiellonian kings in the 15th-16th centuries, became at the same time the main Jewish center in Eastern Europe. Immigration from the West and natural growth brought about a tremendous increase in Poland's Jewish population: from 10,000-12,000 persons in 1500 to 80,000-100,000 by the end of the 16th century to 150,000-170,000 half a century later. Even the catastrophe of 1648-1667, with massacres by the Cossacks and the Russian army, maltreatment by the Swedish invaders, and killings by Polish soldiers and partisans in reaction to rumors of Jewish help to the Swedes, reduced Polish Jewry only by about twenty five percent. It could hardly have been otherwise: no party in the wars that ravaged Poland during these two decades not even the Cossacks was bent on the total extermination of the Jews. The Cossacks perceived Polish landlords and Jewish leaseholders (who often exercised authority over whole villages and towns) as their oppressors and, unhampered (as were most of their contemporaries) by notions of the injustice of collective punishment, they killed every Jew and Pole who happened to be in their way but they did not hunt down those hiding in the woods, did not send detachments to pursue those fleeing to safer places, and sometimes could even agree to stop killings in return for a large payment, as happened, for example, in Lublin. Another way for Jews to save their lives was to convert to Greek Orthodox Christianity religion played a major part in the contemporary collective identity, and such converts were no longer perceived by the Cossacks as Jews. There were apparently large numbers of converts, and when the wars ended they were readily given permission by King John Casimir to openly revert to Judaism. All Jewish privileges were upheld with the end of the wars, and the survivors' property was restored to them without much chicanery. Polish Jewry, some 170,000 people strong before 1648, numbered over 500,000 persons a century later a threefold growth in spite of the catastrophe.
Yet the catastrophe of 1648-1667 resulted in thousands of refugees, fleeing from Poland westward to those German domains where Jews were permitted to reside and to the Netherlands. The latter country had, before the mid-17th century, become the main Jewish center in Western Europe, with the first Sephardic communities founded in the 1590s by Spanish and Portuguese crypto-Jews (whom the emergent Dutch state permitted to profess Judaism openly), and Ashkenazic communities dating to the 1630s. Another Jewish center which absorbed many exiles from Spain, Portugal, and southern Italy was established in the Ottoman Empire, which by the end of the 15th century stretched over Asia Minor and the Balkan Peninsula, and had the Crimean Khanate as its vassal. The Maghreb lands, which also became a haven of refuge for many Iberian exiles, came with the exception of Morocco under Ottoman rule during the 16th-17th centuries, as did Egypt, Syria-Palestine, and Mesopotamia, each of which harbored a significant Jewish population. Virtually all Mediterranean and Near Eastern Jewries were thus united under Ottoman rule, much more tolerant to its Jewish subjects than any Christian power.
In all the main Jewish centers of the 16th-17th centuries communal autonomy was fully upheld. In the Netherlands, the community's authority to preside over all aspects of Jewish life belonging to the spheres of religion and civil law was officially recognized; the Amsterdam municipality merely wished local Jews to record their marriages, conducted under Rabbinic authority, in the city register but even this regulation was disregarded by Jews with absolute impunity. The rabbis' right to issue decrees of excommunication was recognized, municipal elders only trying at times to mitigate such decrees through diplomatic intervention but never by legislation. The case of Baruch de Spinoza is the most famous example of this Rabbinic authority's application, but not the only one: Uriel da Costa and Daniel de Prado also fell victim to the rabbis' drive to maintain conformity of thought within the community. In Poland, the Jewish community not only "acquired wider prerogatives in the course of its historical development than in most other countries," but even "built up a supercommunity: the Vaadim, the Four-Land Council and the Lithuanian Community council, which became apparently more important than similar superior councils elsewhere." Some local communities even developed the traditional institution of herem ha-yishuv ("ban on settlement," whereby a community could refuse to admit a Jewish foreigner to settle in its locale) into a practice of denying right of residence even to native Jews whose conduct met with the disapproval of the communal leadership. In the Ottoman Empire the Jews were given the status of millet a self-governing ethno-religious community "directed by religious leaders possessing both secular and religious authority."
In the absence of municipal government as such in Ottoman cities, each kahal [a local Jewish community, usually formed according to its members' place of origin; there could be dozens in large cities] was like a separate municipality. It was responsible for registering members, imposing and collecting taxes, making expenditures for community activities, maintaining religious, social and political institutions, punishing violations of its laws and sometimes of Ottoman laws, settling internal disputes when possible, and delivering to the Ottoman treasury those taxes intended for the Sultan and his ministers. It represented members with the government and with members of other millets. It provided religious, judicial and cultural leadership. And it helped to promote economic prosperity among members by organizing those in the small artisan groups unable to maintain craft guilds of their own, limiting competition among them in price and quality and attempting to preserve for them monopolies over certain occupations.
For those who failed to comply with communal regulations, punishment varied from monetary fines to flogging to terms in communal prisons to excommunication. When the punishment to which the culprit was sentenced was more severe than one that could be traditionally inflicted by Jewish communal executives (e.g. more than 39 strokes of a whip) Ottoman officers were employed, sent for that purpose by local Moslem judges at the rabbis' request. Only those Jews who violated Ottoman laws or those who deserved a sentence more severe than could be passed by a Jewish court were turned over to Ottoman police and prisons. The millet system, under which this Jewish self-government functioned, survived all through Ottoman history until the empire's dissolution in the wake of World War I.
Of course, it would be wrong to ascribe Jewish survival solely to external factors. Communal autonomy would be meaningless without the community's own will to perpetuate its existence: those diasporas which permeated the Middle East in the Achaemenid era assimilated sooner or later into their ethnic environments while the Jews succeeded in maintaining their ethnic distinctiveness until today. Why, then, did the Jews not undergo the process of total assimilation and loss of ethnic identity, common for many other ethnic groups in their condition? Because for most of history, the Jews were the only ones for whom their ethnic perseverance was a matter of principle. Long before the dawn of modern nationalism, the Jews were the first people not merely to despise foreigners, but to make a virtue of their ethnic existence:
For you are a holy people to the Lord your G-d; the Lord your God chose you to be His treasured people of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth.
The Jews were not the pioneers of monotheism, but they were the first to look at their God and His Law in the perspective of their national history an outlook which Salo Baron termed "historical monotheism":
The Law often demands... struggle of man against both external nature and undisciplined human nature, and in this struggle morality emerges. Thus morality becomes man's chief means of realizing the aims of history. In this sense the historical monotheism of Judaism is also ethical monotheism. But only in this sense! A monotheism primarily ethical would be expected to set up definite moral aims and to appeal to the individual by placing before him his own ethical goal, and his own ethical means of achieving that goal. Judaism, however, stresses the general aims of the Jewish people and, in a way, of mankind to be realized in some unknown future by unknown miraculous means. This failure to relate the moral life of the individual to the ultimate and unknowable goal, which is therefore in a sense non-moral and attainable only through the career of the nation, is intelligible only from the point of view of an historical monotheism. Individual righteousness has so little direct bearing on the advent of the Messiah that according to one version he may come in a generation consisting exclusively of sinners. To this day orthodox Jewish ethics has remained in its essence national rather than individual, and this accounts, incidentally, for the otherwise incomprehensible legal theorem of the common responsibility of all Jews for the deeds of each.
Judaism, in any of its forms, is inconceivable without the notion of the chosen people. To be sure, ideas of unique ethnic destiny were also developed by other peoples, but the Jewish concept of chosenness is doubtlessly the most developed and the most profoundly implemented one.
When the author of Numbers 22-24 wanted to make Balaam, the sorcerer foe of Israel, to bless, upon God's word, the people he intended to curse, he put into the sorcerer's mouth the phrase: "Behold, a people who dwell alone and do not consider themselves one of the nations." The 8th-century-BCE Israelite prophet Hosea was so concerned with Israel's chosenness as to resist the all too reasonable attempts of the kingdom of Israel to seek political alliance and trade relations with the superpowers of the day:
Ephraim became like a silly dove, without sense: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.
Ephraim feeds on wind, and pursues the east wind all the day; he multiplies lies and violence; he makes a covenant with Assyria, and oil is carried to Egypt.
And when the 6th-century-BCE prophet Ezekiel wanted to condemn the Jews' idolatrous practices, he found no better way than to label these practices foreign:
"What is on your mind that which you say, 'Let us be like the nations, like clans of the countries, and worship wood and stone' will never happen. As I live," says the Sovereign Lord, "surely with a mighty hand, and an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out will I rule over you."
The coin of chosenness could not, however, fail to have another side: that of ethnic exclusiveness and zealous intolerance. The author of the 7th-century-BCE Deuteronomic Code (roughly corresponding to the first 30 chapters of the present book of Deuteronomy) took care to point out twice that it was the Israelites' duty upon their entry into Canaan to "utterly annihilate" the country's indigenous peoples: the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Emorites, the Canaanites, the Perizites, the Hivites and the Jebusites. To be sure, the Girgashites, the Perizites and the Jebusites are completely unknown outside biblical sources, and the Hittites, as a distinct ethnic group, were off the map by the 7th century BCE (and even when they did constitute a distinct nationality, they lived considerably north of Palestine); scholars suggest that "Hittites," "Amorites," "Canaanites," and "Hivites" apparently a distortion of "Horites" were but archaic Egyptian and Mesopotamian designations for the inhabitants of the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. But this mattered little to the author of the Deuteronomic Code: he had to find some ancient Gentiles, real or literary, to fulfill the role of "rhetorical others" in his book to be portrayed as the villains of the plot, providing background for practices from which the Israelites had to abstain, and to serve as an example of God's and the Israelites' military might (if you could not find a Canaanite in Palestine in the 7th century BCE, it was because the Israelites had "utterly annihilated" them or thus the author and his audience might have thought). The practice of "utterly destroying" inhabitants of this or that territory for the sake of a deity's glory was not uncommon in the West Semitic environment  but the Jews were the first to embody it as explicit divine commandmenin their sacred writings (although this commandment was never practically relevant).
Not caring much about consistency, the Deuteronomic Code's author forbade the Jews to marry any of the indigenous inhabitants of Canaan just after the directive to "utterly annihilate" them. Since this prohibition was rationalized by a fear that such marriages would lead Jewish parties to worship the deities of their Gentile spouses, it seems likely that marriages with any Gentiles, and not merely those of the legendary seven peoples of Canaan, were severely discouraged. In any event, such marriages were explicitly forbidden from at least the days of Ezra; characteristically, it was Ezra who termed the Jews "the holy seed" in the context of marriage and lineage.
Zerubbabel, one of the earliest Jewish governors of Persian Judea, rejected the plea of the inhabitants of Samaria both those deported there by Assyrian kings and inevitably also the remnant of the northern tribes of Israel, descendants of Israelites not driven into Assyrian exile to participate in the reconstruction of the Jerusalem Temple, although the Samaritans' claim that they worshipped the same deity as the Jews was not denied (and, if we recall that the Jews of Elephantine turned for authorization to reconstruct their sanctuary to both Judean and Samaritan authorities, it seems that the Samaritan creed was not very different from the Jewish one). Nonetheless, the Samaritans were rejected by the Jews characteristically, the book of Ezra terms them "the foes of Judah and Benjamin," thus emphasizing the ethnic distance between them and the two Jewish tribes who, besides the Levites, participated in the Return to Zion under Persian auspices.
Nehemiah, who was, like Ezra, irritated by the fact that some Jews continued to marry Gentile women, added another ethnic mark to his rebuke of the transgressors language. Half of such mixed marriages' offspring, he claimed, "spoke the language of Ashdod and could not speak the language of Judah."
Thus, already during the Persian period, Jewish ethnic particularism reached a highly developed form. And, although in the Hellenistic age circles influenced by universalist tendencies embarked on a drive to do away with ethnic exclusiveness, they were smitten with the Hasmonean sword. Particularism now reigned supreme in Jewish life both in Palestine and abroad, where the Jews never ceased to feel the barriers separating them from native populations. As early as in the 1st century CE, Flavius Josephus, referring to the Jewish quarter in Alexandria, wrote that it was established by Alexander the Great's decree so that the Jews "might live without being polluted" by Gentiles. And whether they really thought of Gentiles as polluters of their life or not, diaspora Jews preferred to have quarters of their own long before ghetto discipline was enforced by the medieval church and state. Already before the Common Era predominantly Jewish quarters existed, besides in Alexandria, in Sardis and Appolinopolis Magna (Edfu), and perhaps also in the Egyptian cities of Oxyrhynchus and Hermopolis, in Rome and in Halicarnassus. In the first centuries CE such quarters became common in major cities of the Roman empire, especially in its eastern part. In Babylonia, the rabbis ruled that a Jew who sold a Gentile a land plot adjacent to a plot of another Jew should be excommunicated, unless the seller agreed to compensate the Jewish neighbor for all damages the Gentile would cause him a Gentile, the rabbis taught, was as dangerous as a lion. Later Rabbinic authorities upheld this ruling.
Palestinian rabbis did not lag behind in segregative efforts. Talmudic tradition had it that the Hasmoneans forbade any sexual contact between a Jew and a Gentile woman; even if not literally true, this tradition implies that such ban was a relatively ancient one. The Mishnah  had already stated that a Jew daring to have such contact could be subject to death, if "the zealous" caught him in flagrante delicto. By the 2nd century CE, Jews and Jewesses were forbidden to leave their animals in custody of Gentiles, to stay alone with a Gentile, to help Gentile women give birth, to breast-feed Gentile children, to turn to Gentiles for medical assistance in cases of mortal danger, to turn to them for a haircut in private, to consume their wine, cheese, oil, bread, and milk (if not milked in a Jew's presence). All these bans were laid down in the Mishnah  and, with the exception of oil, unanimously upheld by later Rabbinic authorities; the sages of the Talmud added to them the ban on any dish cooked by Gentiles if it was important enough "to be served on the kings' tables"  the strict dietary laws of Judaism which already in the Hellenistic period prevented the Jews, by and large, from partaking of Gentile meals were insufficient to these champions of segregation. Another ruling forbade a Jew to take part in a Gentile's wedding banquet, even if he would eat food prepared by Jews; if a Gentile invited a Jew to a wedding, the latter was forbidden to eat anything in the former's house from the beginning of preparations for the banquet until a month or a year after the wedding date. Business partnership between a Jew and a Gentile was likewise forbidden.
And of course, extreme care was taken to prevent a Jew from any contact with Gentiles while the latter were participating in or preparing for their religious rites, termed in the language of Halakhah 'avodah zarah "alien worship." The Talmudic tractate bearing this name rendered it forbidden to conduct business negotiations or perform commercial transactions with Gentiles close to or at least on their holy days, to perform any work that could be considered as accessory to their worship, to derive any benefit from such work, to trade at any time in artifacts or materials that were likely to be used in such worship, to sell real estate in Palestine to a Gentile, to give him a gift, or even to praise him. More stringent opinions had it that a Jew was to avoid Gentile marketplaces, stadiums, and circuses altogether.
To be sure, many of these precepts were already honored in their breach in Talmudic times and went into almost total disuse during the Middle Ages they were impossible to follow in small Jewish communities scattered throughout the Gentile world but the objective of maximum possible segregation was never forgotten. The Jews' "position of a minority dependent upon the broader society of which it formed part" prompted medieval rabbis "to forgo any attempt to reintroduce the original talmudic laws of segregation" only "in so far as economic activity was concerned. But the same situation induced them to retain the precepts which were designed to prevent the Jewish community from coming into intimate contact with non-Jews in the social and religious spheres. For the Jewish community was now in far greater danger of being absorbed by its social environment than it was at the time when these precepts originated."
A fragment of correspondence between two great rabbis of the 12th century, R' Jacob Tam and his nephew R' Isaac, well illustrates this principle. The Mishnaic ban on wine produced by Gentiles was later applied even to wine touched by a Gentile unless it was kept in a vessel with a double seal when touched. This meant that a Jew could not benefit from such wine nor even sell it to a Gentile. Yet, economic conditions made the permission to trade in such wine highly desirable, and R' Tam gave such permission, deriving it through sophisticated dialectics from the Talmud itself. R' Isaac, however, noted that if R' Tam's method were valid, it would render the drinking of wine touched by a Gentile permissible also. This comment alone, without any argument attempted at disqualifying his method as such, sufficed for R' Tam to renounce his original ruling and to permit trade in wine touched by Gentiles or rather to refrain from forbidding such trade only on the shaky grounds of "since the public became accustomed to it, let the Jews to do what they will, for it is better that they sin unwittingly rather than wittingly." A century later, another prominent rabbi was even more outspoken on the necessity of social segregation: R' Menahem ha-Meiri, having developed an innovative method to rule out of validity in regard to Christians and Moslems a large part of anti-Gentile Talmudic precepts, rejecting nevertheless a lenient opinion on the matter of foods cooked by Gentiles, exclaiming: "For otherwise... we will almost turn into a single nation!"
To be sure, the need to separate the adherents of the "true" creed from those of the "false" ones was felt not only by the Jews but by the Christians and the Moslems also. Religious and secular authorities in both Christendom and Islamdom issued numerous decrees aimed at segregation of Jews from the "true believers"; prevention of intermarriage and interfaith sexual contacts was the leitmotif of these enactments, but many other spheres of social life were also affected. And, though even sexual contacts were not fully eliminated especially in the lax atmosphere of Renaissance Italy this segregative legislation could not fail to widen the gap between Jewish communities and their Gentile surroundings.
Laws were, however, not the only factor creating this gap. Matters of outlook were no less important. And here the concept of chosenness reigned supreme:
The Jewish Middle Ages conceived of the relationship between God and Israel as a most intimate mutual dependence approximating to a mystic union. The terms Keneseth Yisra'el ("the Congregation of Israel") and Ha-Qadosh Barukh Hu ("the Holy One, Blessed be He") are a dual concept and the dialogue between them is that of passionate lovers; this is demonstrated by interpretation, in this spirit, of the Song of Solomon [which has become commonplace for Jewish tradition since the time of the Midrash first collections of rabbinic homilies, dating to the early centuries CE]. This same theme of mutual dependence and union is repeatedly expressed in the religious poetry of the Middle Ages a sure sign that the conception owed its perpetuation, not merely to the strength of tradition, but also to the fact that it was a living force. By this conception... the mutual dependence of God and Israel appears as a pre-ordained fact. It leads instinctively to the conviction that the fidelity of Israel, despite his sufferings, constitutes his faithfulness to his own essential nature.
Similarly, the adherence of the individual Jew to his community was assured at least so long as no process of alienation, or experience of conversion, severed him from his social origin. Against the danger of such an occurrence, an early initiation into the conceptual framework of Jewish tenets and destiny was directed as a precaution. These concepts were embodied in and permeated all the primary sources on which Jewish education was founded. They were not only formulated in words, but also expressed in ceremonial performed both by the individual and by the congregation. Both Jewish festivals and everyday religious ceremonies fulfilled this function of focussing attention on historical events as related in Holy Writ. They also preserved hopes for the national future, and to an even greater extent served to represent the basic religious tenets concerning the relationship between God and Keneseth Yisra'el every Jewish community being itself a kind of embodiment of this almost mythical conception. To such a degree was the individual imbued with the "spirit" of Judaism, that intellectual reflection upon its tenets could have meant very little.
Distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles was viewed, in this context, not as socially conditioned but as belonging to the very essence of nature:
Midrash and philosophers like Yehuda Halevy [c. 1075-c. 1141] traced religious and historical differences to the dissimilar character of Jew and non-Jew respectively. It is irrelevant whether they traced these differences to a biological and racial source the Jews being the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the Gentiles, Esau or to divergent reactions to a particular historical and metaphysical event the former's acceptance of the Torah at Sinai and the latter's rejection. In any event, the qualitative difference was involved for which the individual was not responsible and which he could not change. Hence, the theological divergences were to be traced to a deep-seated, essential distinction of a meta-biological and meta-historical nature between the two camps. This naturalistic orientation developed during this period first of all under the impact of cabalistic literature [from Cabalah Jewish mysticism], particularly the Zohar [the essential work of the Cabalah]. According to the Zohar, Israel's singularity was to be traced to its derivation from the sphere of holiness in the hierarchy of the Divine spheres, whereas the [other] nations were correspondingly connected with the sphere of defilement.
These ideas were propagated in various forms through moralist and homiletic literature until they were more or less accepted as the basic premise of contemporary thinking. Their absorption was facilitated both by the ever-increasing cabalistic influence, and by the viewing of the distinction between Israel and the nations as an essential, metaphysical one.
In fact, already in days of yore Judaism had developed an attitude of not merely segregation from but deep contempt towards the Gentiles. The famous adage, "Love your neighbor as yourself," is only an excerpt of the Biblical verse  which, taken in full, reads: "Do not take revenge, nor bear grudge against the children of your people; love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord" in which context "your neighbor" appears to refer to a Jew only. The first book of Maccabees, originally written in Hebrew during the rule of John Hyrcanus as the official chronicle of the Hasmonean dynasty, paints the whole picture of the dynasty's history in black-and-white colors of conflict between the Jews and the Gentiles, paying little attention to internal differences between the latter. Jewish reformists and opponents of the Hasmonean regime are described by the book as "joining themselves to the Gentiles" and "ungodly persons who hated their own people." The obvious implication of this attitude was concept of the Gentiles, in general, as inborn enemies of the Jews.
The 2nd century rabbi Simeon bar Yohai stated that Gentiles are subhuman compared to Jews. The verse of Ezekiel 23:20 was understood by the rabbis as comparing the Gentiles to asses, especially in a sexual context: it was even ruled, on these grounds, that Gentiles do not have legally recognized paternal relations. Other Talmudic rulings obligated every Jew to praise God daily for not having made him a Gentile and to utter verses of disdain when passing near Gentile homes or even cemeteries.
Later Rabbinic authorities were even more outspoken in this regard. Maimonides, in his commentary on the mishnah of Bava Qama 4:3, wrote:
When there is a case between a Jew and a Gentile, it should be judged in the following way. If our [Jewish] side can win the case in accordance with their [the Gentiles'] laws, we should judge the case according to their laws and say them, "This is your own law." If it would be better for our side to judge [the case] according to our laws, we should judge it according to our laws and say, "This is our law." Now, let this matter not be difficult for you, and don't be embarrassed by it just as you are not embarrassed by slaughter of animals even though they have done no harm; for one whose human qualities are imperfect is not really a man, and his raison d'être is only to benefit the "man" [one who is man proper].
And when Maimonides ruled, in his great Halakhic codex, that an animal slaughtered by a Gentile is not kosher (even if the animal is of ritually pure stock and the slaughter was performed in accordance with all Halakhic minutiae), R' Abraham ben David of Posquières (1120-1198) grounded the ruling in the following argument:
For Gentiles are like animals: they can neither impurify other things nor become themselves ritually impure. These people are like asses. "Gentiles are but a drop from a bucket"  let the wind blow them all away and one who considers them something [of worth] will only gather wind in his fist.
R' Judah Löwe ben Besalel of Prague (c. 1512-1609), the most thorough theologian of medieval Ashkenazic Jewry, concurred, commenting on the abovementioned statement of R' Simeon bar Yohai:
As we find animals, which are like an intermediary between man and the rest of the animal world, such as the monkey... likewise there exist men who are not completely men.
The feeling of contempt also extended, understandably, to the Gentiles' religions. Jesus is mentioned by the Talmud as the offspring of an illicit sexual contact, an impudent and half-educated rabbinic disciple, a sorcerer, and a religious dissenter who incited the Jews to abandon their religion. His very Hebrew name, Yeshu'a, was abridged in Jewish writings to Yeshu, acronym of yimah shemo ve-zikhro "may his name and memory perish." The rabbis did not deny the Jews' responsibility for the execution of Jesus they wallowed in delight, telling that when the Sanhedrin sentenced him to death, not a single subterfuge could be found to allow the court to annul the sentence. The Gospels, in a pun on the Greek Euangelion, were dubbed in the Talmud awen-gilayon (evil pamphlet) or 'awon-gilayon (sinful pamphlet)  a practice upheld by Jews dozens of generations later. In the same passage it was ruled that Jews are forbidden to save "the books of heretics" from fire and, as a more radical opinion, are even obligated to burn such books themselves whenever they can the term "heretics" in this context obviously designating the Christians. The same radical opinion had it that a Jew chased by assailant willing to kill him is permitted to hide in a pagan temple but not in a house of Christians (apparently Christian houses of worship were intended). Of course, medieval Church censorship found such passages offensive, and derogatory statements on Christians and Christianity were omitted from almost all editions of the Talmud printed in Christian countries but they were preserved in manuscripts and were published in 1644 in Amsterdam in a separate collection, later reprinted under the title Hesronot ha-Shas.
The Talmudic narratives concerning Jesus were later developed into an even more disdainful picture in a folkloristic compilation Toledot Yeshu ("Life of Jesus"). To be sure, attempts had already been made in the Middle Ages to present Christianity as a truly monotheistic creed, forbidden to the Jews but not considered idolatry for the Gentiles but these attempts did not extend beyond matters of sheer economic necessity (such as permission for a Jew to enter into business partnership with a Christian) and resulted from such necessity rather than from any genuine tolerance for the Christian creed. The single exception, R' Menahem ha-Meiri's doctrine principally putting a Christian on a par with a "resident alien" (ger toshav) a "righteous" Gentile to whom the Jews were to extend favorable treatment  had no following whatsoever. For almost all intents and purposes Christianity was considered sheer idolatry, with all the disdain resulting from such attitude.
And though the Jewish view of Islam was much better such an authority as Maimonides openly stated in a responsum that the Moslem belief is purely monotheistic  a due measure of disrespect was kept for this creed also. The very responsum in question deals with a certain rabbi who claimed Islam to be idolatry, and though this rabbi was not a luminary, such an opinion must have enjoyed wide popularity Maimonides, at least, did not dismiss it out of hand but found it necessary to refute it through detailed argumentation. Yet even Maimonides unhesitatingly wrote, invoking the verse of Psalms 144:8, that the Moslems' "mouths are full of lies, and their right hands [raised in oath] are deceitful," and somewhat more cautiously referred to "their error and foolishness in other matters [besides God's oneness], which cannot be put down in writing because of the evil men and criminals of Israel" that is, of fear that some Jews would inform Moslem authorities of blasphemy against their religion. Jewish authors customarily referred to Mohammed as meshuga' ("madman," with apparent reference to Hosea 9:7) and to the Quran as qalon ("shame"), and depicted the Messenger as a morally slack and sex-addicted person.
Inculcated in the Jewish psyche from the early childhood through the all too effective Jewish educational system, buttressed by deep differences of creed and custom and met by the anti-Semitic convictions of the Christian and (to a far lesser extent) Moslem public, these attitudes resulted in a separation of Jewish communities and their Gentile surroundings into different and mutually exclusive societies, connections between whom seldom extended beyond those of purely utilitarian worth. In such conditions, assimilation of Jews into Gentile societies could be achieved only by conversion to the latter's creeds. Doubtlessly, such conversions took place and to Islam far more frequently than to Christianity  but social alienation between Jews and Gentiles was deep enough to provide that a significantly large part of each Jewish community remained out of the conversionist drive. The only exception were the forced conversions of several Jewries, the earliest such attempt undertaken by the Visigothic Spanish king Sisebut (reigned 612-620). Such attempts, however, were hampered both by the converts' repulsion for the creed forced upon them and by anti-Semitic prejudices which soon marked the converts as "the others" as long as they formed a discernible group of Jewish descent (due at least to their large numbers). Thus Sisebut's conversion campaign,
rather than leading to the immediate absorption of the new converts by the majority, created still another easily identifiable group of "converted Jews." No longer formally members of the Jewish faith and hence no longer subject to the existing anti-Jewish restrictions, these converts were, as a rule, regarded neither by themselves nor by their neighbors as full-fledged Christians. To the end of the Visigothic regime, the laws continued to refer, almost in the same breath, to "Jews, baptized and non-baptized"... The very coexistence of the two types of "Jews" on the [Iberian] Peninsula made relapse relatively easy for the converts and nurtured undying suspicion of their [Christian] orthodoxy.
Indeed, Spanish Jews both converts and their descendants and those who succeeded in escaping the baptismal font hailed in 712 the Moorish conquerors as their liberators, returning to full and open profession of Judaism as soon as the sword of Islam destroyed the hated kingdom of the Visigoths.
A similar fate befell the Iberian Jews converted into Christianity in 1391-1497 and their descendants. Driven to baptismal fonts by fear of Christian mobs and by the harsh anti-Jewish legislation of the early 15th century, many such Spanish converts felt their new creed forced on them against their will and continued clandestinely to adhere to the former one. The same was true of Portuguese converts, baptized through the use of brute force on Manuel I's order. This situation cast the shadow of suspicion on the whole Marrano population, as this stock of converts was soon derogatory labeled (apparently derived from Arabic for "stranger," the term Marrano quickly took on the meaning of "pig").
The result was in increasing segregation of persons in whose veins coursed Jewish or (to a lesser extent) Moorish blood, and the absorption of even truly pious Catholics of non-Catholic descent was made doubly difficult. By the sixteenth century the inquisitorial procedures had created in the Spanish mind a regular obsession with the limpieza de sangre (purity of blood) and continued to envenom the country's domestic and international policies for generations thereafter.
In reaction, the Marranos closed their ranks and increasingly relied upon mutual self-help. From the outset most of them had preferred to marry persons of their own ancestr... Certainly, those Marranos who wished to observe Jewish rituals in their homes must have felt less imperiled if their mates were likewise of Jewish stock.
Seeking safer places for performance of Jewish rituals, and often for an open return to Judaism, tens of thousands of Marranos spread out across the whole world, from the Americas to Western Europe to the Ottoman Empire to the Far East. Many new communities such as those in Hamburg and its vicinity, the Netherlands and their overseas possessions, and England (where Jews were openly readmitted in the second half of the 17th century) were established by Marranos returning to Judaism. But even when no large and distinct group of "Jewish Christians" existed in a particular milieu, the mutual alienation of Jews and Gentiles was great enough to at times cause even voluntary converts, who succeeded in reaching prominent positions in the hierarchy of their new religion, to revert to their former creed.
Return to Judaism was, in turn, facilitated by the Rabbinic authorities' attitude to converts. Here the indispensably ethnic character of Jewish religion manifested itself most clearly. It was universally held that once a person has entered the Jewish community, either by being born of a Jewish mother or by conversion, he remains a Jew even if he renounces Judaism altogether.
The principle that the apostate remained a Jew was upheld even in the case of one who persisted in his apostasy, although this led to grave consequences so far as his Jewish relatives were concerned. If the apostate was regarded as a Jew, his wife was still a married woman and could not remarry unless he consented to divorce her according to Jewish law. In such cases all possible means were used to bring pressure upon the apostate to divorce his wife. Very often this seems to have been achieved, though certainly not always. In the latter case, the apostate's wife was doomed to a perpetual state of unmarried life. In spite of this it was, apparently, never suggested that the apostate, by severing himself from the Jewish community and its religion, had become a Gentile and that his wife should therefore be able to remarry without divorce.
Thus Jews who converted out of Judaism, either under external pressure or for internal motives, could return to the fold whenever they wished and were able. Moreover, since birth from a Jewish mother always rendered one a Jew, offspring of female Jewish converts through maternal lineage were considered, even after several generations, as belonging (potentially, at least) to the Jewish community. Wherever a clearly distinct community of Christians or Moslems of Jewish stock (e.g. the Marranos) existed, the community produced large numbers of reverts to Judaism whenever the circumstances were appropriate, and the purity of their maternal lineage was often presumed by the rabbis without requiring any specific evidence. The same is actually the case with modern secular Jews, who even after generations of non-allegiance to Judaism are treated as Jews by all religious Jewish circles present-day outreach efforts to sway such people into Orthodox Judaism are only a part of that treatment.
Wide communal autonomy granted by Gentile powers, effective Jewish self-government, a perception of Jewish identity as ethno-religious that is, essentially ethnic but filled with religious meaning of being God's chosen people and social segregation from the Gentiles, both cultivated by the Jews as result of this sense of chosenness and enforced on them by Gentile legislation and public opinion, were the main driving forces behind Jewish survival in the diaspora. But the picture was to undergo a complete change with the advance of modernity.
The 17th century witnessed the rise of mercantilism:
It was a commercial revolution, precipitated when the feudal and agricultural economy of Europe was inundated by vast new supplies of money. The mines of Mexico and Peru provided gold and silver ingots for the Old World in quantities heretofore undreamed of. The more this currency poured into Europe's veins, the more Europe became dependent on it for a rising standard of living. Money provided luxuries in food and dress for the city dweller. For the peasant in the field money meant an opportunity to pay off feudal obligations and to own a plot of soil free and clear. For the king, above all, money represented hired arms and bureaucrats, and independence of a jealous and covetous nobility.
With the advent of money-centered economy, religious jealousy began to drop out of fashion. As long as any group of human beings religious groups included contributed to the state's wealth, it would be inexpedient to suppress that group. Tolerance was more profitable than bigotry.
The Jews had everything to gain from such a change of attitudes. Never having been bound to agriculture, they were compelled, as result, to pioneer in business and finance for centuries before the dawn of mercantilism. As an effect of their ages-old commercial activities, they possessed considerable assets of liquid capital. An urbanized people with wide international connections, bent on pursuing any opportunity wherever it could be found and exploiting it to the end, they were extremely profitable for any state harboring them.
Thus, it was only reasonable that the Netherlands, one of the pioneering strongholds of mercantilism, would also become the hub of the 17th-century West European Jewry. England, another mercantilist power, lifted all limitations on open Jewish presence on her soil during the second half of that century. France refused to readmit the Jews to the areas from which they were banished from 1394 on, but with the conquest of Alsace and Lorraine in the 17th century, the Jews residing there were allowed to remain. Jewish settlers in Marseilles were expelled from the city in 1682, but during the next century a Jewish community was reestablished in the city, numbering some 200 families on the eve of the French Revolution. 3,500 Marranos living in Bordeaux and the vicinities of Bayonne were able to revert openly to Judaism and to found Jewish communities in their areas of residence during the 18th century, and in Paris there were some 500 Jews on the Revolution's eve. Even German states and principalities most notably, Prussia sought to attract wealthy Jews, granting them privileged status, rights of domicile outside the ghettos, and exemption from special "Jewish taxes" in return for promotion of industry and commerce. Jews were employed throughout German lands as royal purveyors and financial agents, also gaining access to political and diplomatic fields this was the beginning of the Court Jew phenomenon. To be sure, all these developments affected only a tiny minority of German Jewry while the rest continued to eke out a living in the ghettos or wandering as petty traders through the countryside, coping with the shaky toleration which was the most a mercantilist state could extend its "unproductive" Jewish subjects but still, it was a dawn of a new age.
Indeed, the world born of the devastation of Catholic-Protestant wars and nurtured by mercantilist economy and politics produced an entirely new mode of outlook:
No longer was there a unified political and religious world, protected by the secular sword of the Emperor and the religious sword of the Pope. In place of a universal monarchy and a universal Church there arose strong individual, autonomous states, each contending with the other, and independent religions and sects, each struggling against the other. For the all-dominating idea of supporting and defending the Church which alone had the power of granting salvation, there was substituted the idea of supporting and defending the European balance of power. The universal conception of an absolute, positive law was superseded by the belief in natural law. The belief in Revelation was replaced by the belief in Reason. The ideal of poverty gave way to the lust for possessions. The moral conception of the State, founded on the teachings of the Church Fathers, was supplanted by the conception of the powerof the State, the welfare of the State, the interest of the State, that is, by the Staatsraison.
Of course the state-centric outlook could and often did justify even the most brutish tyranny, but it was bridled by a belief in natural law (principles of right and justice common to all mankind belonging to the very essence of human nature and not derived from the rules of any particular society). Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) stated that natural law would retain its validity "even if we were to suppose... that God does not exist or is not concerned with human affairs." Jean Bodin (1530-1596), who first formulated the concept of state's sovereignty, insisted that government's power to command must be subject, in a well-ordered state, to the principles of divine and natural law: the Ten Commandments must be enforced and essential rights e.g. liberty and property must be granted to those governed. Characteristically, Bodin was the first person to condemn slavery in any form as immoral and counterproductive and to argue that no group of men should be excluded from the body politic. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), an advocate of state absolutism, argued that men are naturally free and equal in rights but since each of them is driven by the instinct of self-preservation, he would inevitably seek to broaden his rights at the expense of others, which would result in permanent war between each man and his fellow. This, in Hobbes' view, necessitated a "social contract" be worked out, whereby each individual would promise every other one that he will carry out whatever commands some selected person or assembly will consider necessary for the peace and defense of all, thus creating power sufficient to maintain law and order but Hobbes' vision of the natural condition of humankind as war of each against all was not shared by his successors:
In England, John Locke [1632-1704] departed from Hobbesian pessimism to the extent of describing the state of nature as a state of society, with free and equal men already observing the natural law. In France... Jean-Jacques Rousseau [1712-1778] postulated a savage who was virtuous in isolation and actuated by two principles "prior to reason," self-preservation and compassion (innate repugnance against the sufferings of others).
Thus the philosophy of liberalism was founded and developed, paralleled by general philosophical trends emphasizing reason as the chief power by which man can understand the universe and improve his own condition. Rationalism had become the watchword of age the age of the Enlightenment.
Wide recognition of the Enlightenment's ideas produced a remarkable social phenomenon:
here and there it created a new basis for the social grouping of the bearers of the new ideology. The rationalists who identified themselves with the vision of the marvelous new world of the future formed a distinct social unit. Whereas in the [medieval] class society, the intellectuals had attached themselves to their respective classes writers and lawyers to the courts of kings, priests and teachers to the commonalty organized in guilds, and talmudic scholars to their corresponding niche in Jewish society there now appeared a stratum of intelligentsia who presumed to be above and beyond all classes...
A social turning point was reached only where the Enlightenment came to serve as a basis for social grouping. This began in the middle of the eighteenth century, particularly in the German states, when intellectual changed from a mere label to an appellation of a well-defined social group. Ties were formed between individual rationalists in different ways by reading the same books and periodicals, by chance of arranged meetings, and finally by the creation of circles designed to foster the values of the Enlightenment within a single social framework...
In consequence of the sociological nature of this new grouping, the way was paved for a further innovation that even Jews would be accepted as equals. An association formed on the basis of an acknowledgement of the values of the Enlightenment would have to discard all rules of selection under which it would have been possible to restrict membership to adherents of a single religion. The rationalist creed recognized no class or religious divisions. The exclusion of the Jews from membership would have struck at the very basis of their principles.
The life of Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) was a symbol of the new age. Born of a poor family in the ghetto of Dessau, Anhalt, he was raised in typical traditionalist atmosphere. As an adolescent, he came under the influence of R' David Frankel, the rabbi of Dessau. Frankel, at home in Plato as well as in the Talmud, transmitted the essence of both intellectual worlds to his able and ardent disciple, who followed him on foot to Berlin when Frankel assumed, in 1743, the office of chief rabbi of the Prussian capital. Eking out a living as copyist of letters for a Jewish merchant, Mendelssohn succeeded in mastering, with the help of several influential Jews, German and Latin, and spent several hours daily over treatises on philosophy and metaphysics. In 1750 Mendelssohn was employed by the silk manufacturer Issak Bernhard as tutor for his children, and in 1754 he was taken into Bernhard's business. That same year he met a major German playwright, Gotthold Lessing, who had created a noble Jewish character in his play The Jews (1749) and came to see Mendelssohn as the realization of his ideal. A genuine friendship was established between the two, and, provided with enough funds and Lessing's patronage, Mendelssohn was at last able to devote himself to writing. His philosophical treatises found appreciation among the German readership, but he was determined to influence his own people to do away with ghetto obscurantism which he considered merely an accretion on the rational and humane body of Jewish tradition and to embrace European civilization. Translation of the Pentateuch into German, performed in 1778-1783, was the first step to acquaint the Jews with the language of their country, but Mendelssohn felt impelled to make a programmatic statement on the Jewish future in the Gentile world and this he did twice: in his introduction to the German translation of Manasseh ben Israel's Vindication of the Jews, published in 1782, and a year later in his own magnum opus, Jerusalem. The vision described by Mendelssohn
might be termed Utopian. It was the product of the first flush of his enthusiasm at the new horizons which were opening before his eyes. Mendelssohn based his predictions upon the assumption that there would come about a complete severance between the Church and the State, i.e. between the institutions of religion and of government. The latter, he thought, should concern itself with man's actions, and the former with his motives and spiritual life. Political institutions should not concern themselves with a man's religion, and religious institutions were to be restricted to the spiritual affairs of mankind. In such a society, a man's racial origins or religious affiliations would play no part in any sphere of life except that of religion, and the mutual relations of Jews and Christians would be unaffected by their faith. Mendelssohn wished to divest the Church, as then organized, of all coercive powers, including the right of ecclesiastical discipline and exclusion [and the rabbinate's power of excommunication, correspondingly]. As the Jewish community had, up to this time, been governed by its own institutions, the secular and religious powers of which were almost identical, what Mendelssohn advocated would have brought about the dissolution of the whole fabric of organized Jewish society. All that would have remained was a synagogue, where people of the same faith met, of their own free will, in order to worship together. Ethical values would be instilled by common religious worship and thus religion would, indirectly, fulfil a wholesome function in society. This whole conception was almost tantamount to revolution, as a moment's comparison with the part played by organized religion in Mendelssohn's time, particularly in Jewish society, will show.
And revolution, came about only three years after Mendelssohn's death, albeit in France. Louis XVI's ill-fated experiment in parliamentarism resulted in the Estates-General (with the exception of delegates from the nobility) proclaiming themselves the National Assembly, refusing to obey the king's orders and setting about to write a constitution for France. Louis' attempt to subdue the rebellious Assembly with the help of regular troops brought about massive popular mobilization to the National Guard and the storming of the Bastille ironically the old prison, which had been scheduled for demolition for five years, on the day of the storming housed only seven prisoners and a tiny garrison, several of whose soldiers were ruthlessly butchered by the storming Parisians. For the king, however, this was enough he did not want a civil war (which he had little chances of winning) inside the capital, so Louis capitulated, recognizing the Assembly's authority and publicly wearing the blue-white-red cockade, the tricolor that was to become the national flag of revolutionary France.
On August 27, 1789 the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was promulgated, stating that "Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good." Emancipation of French Jews full equation of their rights and duties, as defined by law, with those of their Gentile fellow citizens came, not before some political vicissitudes, in 1791. Deeply affected by the ideas of modernity, the Jews the vast majority of whom resided in Alsace and Lorraine and suffered from poverty and administrative restrictions, however minor welcomed emancipation with sincerest joy. In spite of the fact that the emancipation did away with their communal autonomy, French Jews cast their lot with the revolution.
They hurled themselves into the mainstream of French life, joining the National Guard by the thousands, serving with gallantry in the French army, making generous financial contributions even to the extent of donating their plate to the Revolutionary armies. Jews occupied public office and became lieutenants of the gendarmerie. They began tentatively, and then in increasing numbers, to send their children to the public schools.
But meanwhile, the revolution had overreached itself. The proclamation of a republic in 1792 was followed by the Robespierre Terror of 1793-1794, then by the Directory government, and finally, in 1799, power was seized by Napoleon Bonaparte, proclaimed the Emperor of France in 1804. Amidst all these calamities, anti-Jewish propaganda continued, widely employed by reactionary circles, and abolishment of political liberties only added fuel to the royalists' fire. The chief accusation against the Jews was, of course, "usury" most of the Alsatian Jews earned their living by money lending, and in 1802-1804 French courts had to issue thousands verdicts of foreclosure on behalf of Jewish creditors, whose debtors failed to pay in time (not much surprising given the fact that many breadwinners were off with Napoleon's armies).
Napoleon himself was too busy to pay attention to the "Jewish question" until January 1806. Then, returning from Austerlitz, he stopped at Strasbourg and was immediately inundated with anti-Jewish petitions and accounts of Jewish "ruination" of peasantry by money lending. Upon his return to Paris, Napoleon started giving more and more attention to the Jewish issue, and finally he conceived of a plan. On May 30, 1806, he declared a moratorium of one year on all judgments for debt against farmers of Alsace and Lorraine in favor of Jews, and two months later he summoned in Paris the Assembly of Jewish Notables 112 outstanding businessmen, financiers, rabbis, and scholars picked at emperor's request by prefects of the departments of France and of the puppet kingdom of Italy. The delegates were addressed by Napoleon's councilor, Count Louis Molé. They were charged with being usurers, Molé informed, and the charges were well grounded. However, the emperor would offer them an opportunity to cure the maleficent practices by themselves. Moreover, the emperor was determined that the Jews retain all their rights as Frenchmen, provided that they prove themselves worthy of these rights. As a part of this proof, the delegates were to answer twelve specific questions:
1. Are the Jews permitted to have more than one wife? 2. Does Judaism permit divorce? 3. Can Jews and Christians marry?... 4. In the eyes of the Jews are the French brothers or strangers? 5. What behavior does Jewish law prescribe toward French Christians? 6. Do Jews born in France consider France their country? Are they willing to defend it and to obey its laws? 7. Who names the rabbis? 8. What police jurisdiction do the rabbis exercise over Jews? 9. Are Jewish electoral forms and police jurisdictions prescribed by Jewish law or merely by custom? 10. Does Jewish law prohibit the Jews from entering the professions? 11. Does Jewish law encourage Jews to practice usury among their own community? 12. Among the Christians?
The Assembly presented its answers in writing in a few weeks. But Napoleon, willing to endow them with a kind of "religious" prestige and to dazzle the French Jews with his benevolence, did not stop at that. On September 3, 1806, he summoned the Sanhedrin. The very name of this institution, reminiscent of the days of yore when the Jerusalem Temple was still in existence, could not fail to move the Jews to tears. With one brilliant gesture, Napoleon secured for himself lasting Jewish gratitude.
The Sanhedrin a gathering of 80 delegates, 46 of them rabbis was convened in Paris on February 4, 1807 under the presidency of R' David Sinzheim, the rabbi of Strasbourg and a French patriot. The Sanhedrin held its sessions until April, endorsing the answers given by the Assembly of Notables a year before, with only minor amendments. Of these answers, those on usury were the least remarkable: money lending, the Jewish leaders assured, was not forbidden by either the Bible or the Talmud, but interest could be charged only in commercial transactions and the rate must be fair; no interest could be charged from a Jew. Nor were the answers on monogamy, divorce rights and professions very interesting. But the rest of the answers were really groundbreaking. The Jews considered France their country and were ready to sacrifice their very lives for her defense. The Jews regarded Christian Frenchmen their brothers, and it would be "impossible that a Jew should treat a Frenchman, not of his religion, in any other manner than he would treat one of his Israelitish brethren." The rabbis' authority was spiritual only, without police jurisdiction. The Jews' political allegiance was to France alone; decisions of civil tribunals would have priority over those of Jewish religious courts. The issue of intermarriage understandably arose passionate debate between reformers and traditionalists, but a compromise was reached: first, it was stated, the Bible only forbade the Jews to marry idolaters; second, the 19th-century Frenchmen were definitely not such; third, while a Jew and a Christian could get married, their marriage would possess only civil but not religious validation; and fourth, "a Jew, who marries a Christian woman, does not cease on that account to be considered as a Jew by his brethren, any more than if he had married a Jewess civilly and not religiously." In sum, the Sanhedrin assured, "Jews no longer constitute a separate nation and they regard their incorporation into the Great [French] Nation as a privilege and as political redemption."
Napoleon was satisfied. In March 1808, he issued the "Organic Regulation of the Mosaic Religion," in which Judaism was declared to be one of the "official" religions of France. Professing Jews of each department should be organized into a "consistory"; the rabbis of each consistory were obliged not only to supervise Jewish religious life but also to preach loyalty to France and obedience to her laws, to reprimand, together with the consistory's lay officials, those Jews who reverted to usury, and to ensure that all able-bodied Jewish youths made themselves available for conscription. Placed under the auspices of the Ministry of Religion, the consistories were, in return for the state's recognition and financial support, to become a kind of police force over Jewish morals. To make matters worse, Napoleon simultaneously issued another edict, containing discriminative measures against Jews: restrictions on money lending, a prohibition forbidding those Jews who had temporarily left Alsace and Lorraine from returning to their former homes, a prohibition on Jews changing their domicile throughout the rest of France except for the purpose of agricultural activity, and the like. The discrimination was none too severe milder, in fact, than that to which most French Jews were subject before the 1780s but the idea of civil equality had become so deeply ingrained in Jewish hearts that the regulation was soon tellingly dubbed "The Infamous Decree." The decree's term, however, was limited to ten years from the outset , and in 1818, after the Napoleonic regime had already been replaced with the rule of the last Bourbons, the decree was not renewed. Over the following two decades Jews succeeded in attaining full civil equality in law and largely in practice.
The other side of the coin, however, was assimilation. Many Jews converted to Christianity: once social and cultural segregation was done away with, the dominant still largely Christian culture could not fail to exert profound influence on the Jewish minority that, although remarkably modernized in comparison with other Jewries, was still perceived as backward compared with the broader French society. Another plague was severance of ties of nominally Jewish individuals with the community: Jewishness was now reduced to a religion, in the narrow modern sense of the term, and in considerably secularized society many did not bother with participation in religious rituals. Often such "nominal Jews" preferred to have their children registered as Christians from the outset. But even those committed to the communal life relinquished more and more external symbols of Jewishness unlike in Germany, the organ was introduced into synagogue liturgy and prayers were significantly abridged with almost no protesting by rabbinic authorities. Yet, although one must keep in mind that many Jews' affiliation with the community was little more than nominal, it should be noted that French Jewry succeeded in increasing its numbers from 40,000 in 1789 to 100,000 in 1870 a growth of 150%, compared with only about 50% growth of the general population; here the progress of medicine, technology, and social services, resulting in larger life spans and lower infant mortality, was accompanied by traditionally high Jewish fertility rates.
Another important development of the Napoleonic age was the fact that the French bayonet brought Jews equality before the law in most of Western Europe. Having under its control Flanders, the Netherlands, most German lands, Italy, and Poland, the Napoleonic regime emancipated the Jews in almost all of these lands. Ghetto walls were battered down to festive tunes played by French army orchestras, and French officers personally led the bewildered Jews out of their prisons, which had by then become so overcrowded that life there was barely endurable. It took the "liberated" Jews time to grasp the fact of their emancipation and by the time they did, Napoleon was already retreating to France after the failure of his Russian campaign and his defeat in the Battle of Leipzig. But throughout Western Europe, the Jews had cast their lot with political liberalism. Prussia granted her Jews a partial emancipation with the exception of the right to occupy state positions in March 1812; a similar settlement, although with more restrictions on Jews, was achieved in Lombardy-Venetia and Tuscany after they passed to the Hapsburgs' control. The Prussian delegates to the Vienna Conference of 1815, Wilhelm von Humboldt and Karl von Hardenberg, tried to secure a reaffirmation of Jewish emancipation in the emergent German Confederation, but their efforts were disrupted by other delegates; throughout most of Germany, old restriction on Jews, including ghetto domicile, were revived. Similar restrictions were reinstated in Sardinia-Piedmont, in Modena, and in the Papal States. In the Netherlands, however, Jewish equality before the law was fully retained.
Only in Austria was Jewish emancipation not an issue at all no attempt at emancipation was made during the whole Napoleonic period but here the Edict of Toleration, issued by Emperor Joseph II as early as 1782, was still in force. Although restricted to Vienna, Bohemia, and Moravia and far from relieving all the restrictions imposed on Jews since the Middle Ages, this edict rendered them free to engage in any profession and to attend public schools and universities, and abolished the infamous Jewish badge and capitation tax, demanding in return that Jews make themselves available for conscription and use the German language instead of Yiddish. Characteristically, while Jewish reformers, headed by Naphtali Herz Weisel, hailed the edict, the traditionalists, led by the famous R' Ezekiel Landa of Prague, opposed it, sensing that its implementation would undermine the traditional fabric of Jewish community. The majority of Austrian Jews, however, lived in the former Polish province of Galicia, where Joseph II abolished Jewish autonomy and ordered that Jews study in public schools, be drafted to the Austrian army, and adopt German surnames, but instead of widening their rights forbade them several professions and ousted them from villages. During the Vienna Conference local Jews inundated the Austrian authorities with petitions of emancipation but these were rejected on the spot by the ultra-conservative Klemens von Metternich.
The next six decades in the history of Western Europe were marked by the struggle for political liberties, in which Jews participated most actively. But the same period also witnessed the rise of nationalism, whose ideas were adopted in part by liberals and conservatives alike. Jewish liberals, likewise, became nationalists of their host nations. Thousands of Italian Jews, both in Italy and abroad, joined Guiseppe Mazzini's "Young Italy" the cradle of Italian nationalism. The ranks of German liberal nationalists were also full of Jews, and when in the Frankfurt Parliament of 1848 a proposal was raised to make "the peculiar conditions of the Israelitish race" the object of special consideration, one of the liberal Jewish leaders, Gabriel Riesser, raised his voice in vehement protest, claiming that German Jews were neither a separate race nor nation but merely "Germans of Jewish faith." During the 1848 revolution in Hungary, Jews by the thousands joined the Hungarian National Army, and the reform-minded rabbis Loeb Schwab and Leopold Löw led public prayers for success of the revolutionary cause. For most West European Jews, the Sanhedrin's acceptance of "incorporation into the Great Nation as a privilege and as political redemption" became the watchword of age and for each one, "the Great Nation" was the Gentile people around him, on whose behalf he was often ready literally to fight to the death.
And the liberals often had to fight: both national and civil liberation could be attained only through prolonged and determined struggle. With the exception of France, the revolutions of 1848 were all suppressed but additional rebellions, warfare, and political deals brought about tremendous changes in the map of Europe in a mere 25 years: a united and independent Italy, a united Germany, an autonomous Hungary and in each of these countries Jews were granted full or almost full equality before the law as they were in Austria proper. Meanwhile, in Great Britain Jewish emancipation was gradually introduced without any revolution or clamorous debate whatsoever: naturalized in 1826 as full-fledged citizens, British Jews had all their legal disabilities relby 1871, the same year in which almost all Jewish disabilities were relieved in the emergent German Empire and eleven years after full equality was won by the Jews of Italy.
But the Jews' entrance into general society boded ill for Jewish ethnic perseverance. Already in the beginning of the 19th century Jewish champions of the Enlightenment the maskilim found that socialization with Gentiles, even on neutral grounds, was often only a transitory stage before a full merger into their society, adoption of their religion included:
This process... gained in momentum in the famous salons of Jewish women in the generation after Mendelssohn's death. The salons of both Rachel Varnhagen and Henriette Herz in Berlin and of Fanny Arnstein and Zipporah Eskeles in Vienna were ostensibly neutral meeting grounds where Jews and non-Jews could spend time in one another's company, with their differences of origin forgotten. However, since the unifying feature of the salons was social amusement for its own sake, they established a style of behavior which clashed with the traditional way of life to a far greater degree than did the rationalist circles in which Mendelssohn participated. The salons became parts of an assimilating social framework dominated by non-Jewish culture. Participation in salon life generally led Jews to join the non-Jewish society outright, an act that meant embracing its religion and church.
If the new converts required ideological backing for their decision, this was forthcoming in the theory of positive nucleus common to all religions that discredited completely the claims to uniqueness of each religion. A person who accepted this theory could believe that in changing his religion he was simply altering the external trappings, which were unimportant in any case... For those individuals who were enticed by social inducements to accept the prevailing religion, this theory no doubt served to soothe their conscience and remove psychological inhibitions.
With the advent of emancipation, conversions became less frequent: the certificate of baptism did little now to improve one's civil, social, or professional stand, and inroads in science, historical criticism, and materialistic philosophy did much to discredit all the established religions, to the point that secularism became almost a proof of one's intellectuality. But in a world becoming increasingly secular, there was little room for Jewish identity, which for the most of West European Jews had come to mean religious creed alone. For many, Jewishness became merely a fact of personal background, without much social or cultural significance. And of those who maintained their religious affiliation, or even actively participated in public worship, most made conscious attempts to divest their ritual of as many ethno-cultural elements as possible: organs and sermons in the country's language were introduced in reformed synagogues, prayers for a return to Zion were omitted from reformed prayerbooks, and the more radical reformers even demanded abolishing the rite of circumcision and observing the Sabbath on Sunday. To be sure, the modernist approach to Jewish heritage brought about significant contributions of which the critical reappraisal of Jewish history by the "Science of Judaism" school was the most important but Jewish collective identity was becoming more a museum exhibit than an élan vital, and the ethnic aspect of Jewishness was almost altogether neglected. Perhaps the most striking example was in Austria-Hungary (as the Hapsburg empire was officially named after 1867), where the national affiliation of subjects was officially recorded: the Jews did not count as a separate nationality, being registered instead as Poles (in Galicia), Magyars (in Hungary) and Germans (elsewhere) and no protest was raised in this regard by the Jewish community.
Philanthropy became perhaps the main link between Jews of different countries: the mission of aid to co-religionists in trouble appealed even to those whose active participation in religious practices was rather meager. But here, too, partition along the lines dividing the host nations made itself apparent: the establishment of Alliance Israélite Universelle in France (1860) was soon followed by the formation of The Anglo-Jewish Association in Great Britain, Israelitische Allianz in Austria-Hungary, and Hilfsverein in Germany. The main significance of Jewish philanthropy was for the Jews of the Orient (where the philanthropists established extensive school systems combining modernized Jewish and general education) and for East European Jewry (which benefited from the philanthropists' financial aid and assistance in emigration to more hospitable shores).
It was East European Jewry, indeed, that both comprised by the 19th century the bulk of world Jewry and was the bulwark of Jewish ethnic perseverance. By 1800, with the final partition of Poland between Austria, Prussia, and Russia, there were 300,000 Jews in the new Austrian province of Galicia and 800,000 Jews in newly Russian lands. In the rest of Europe there were, by that time, some 400,000 Jews and 1,000,000 more in Northern Africa, Persia, and the Ottoman Empire (which at that time also ruled the Balkans). By 1850 there were 4,750,000 Jews in the world, 3,420,000 of them in Eastern Europe; by 1880 7,750,000 Jews in the world, 5,810,000 in Eastern Europe; by 1900 10,500,000 Jews in the world, 6,440,000 in Eastern Europe. The Jews of Eastern Europe lived in far more miserable conditions than their West European confreres. In Galicia, where the number of Jews grew to 449,000 by 1857, they were driven out of villages, their occupational rights were restricted, they were drafted into the Austrian army and subjected to special "Jewish taxes." Only in 1867 did the new constitution of Austria-Hungary provide them full equality of rights. Their economic status thus considerably bettered, the Jews of Galicia increased their numbers from 576,000 in 1869 to 687,000 in 1880 to 811,000 in 1900. Assimilatory trends were manifest here also: by the late 1860s there were even two assimilatory movements one called for assimilation into the Polish nation and the other into the German. But the bulk of Galician Jewry, from maskilim to hard-headed traditionalists, remained within a Jewish social and cultural milieu.
In Galicia (in Zolkiew, Brody, and Tarnopol) Nahman Krochmal (1785-1840), the forerunner of modern Jewish nationalism, lived and was active. He transplanted the romantic nationalism of Germany into genuinely Jewish soil:
In the manner of the German Idealists, Krochmal sought to identify the characteristics which made up the historic Jewish "spirit." Ultimately, he discovered that "spirit" in the Jewish people itself. By subsuming religion in the larger concept of nation, Krochmal laid the groundwork for the secular-nationalist philosophy of Jewish history which was ultimately to become so important to Zionism.
Krochmal's nationalism found immediate followers in the persons of Solomon Rapoport (1790-1867, Galicia and Prague) and Samuel David Luzzatto (1800-1865, Italy). Moses Hess (1812-1875, Germany and France), whose biography reflected the history of many 19th-century European Jewish intellectuals born of a traditionalist Jewish family, married to a Christian woman, participant in 1848 revolution in Germany and avowed socialist discovered Jewish nationalism by the late 1850s; in his book Rome and Jerusalem, published in 1862, he argued for the necessity of forming a Jewish state in Palestine. But the ultimate fate of Jewish nationalism depended on developments in the largest 19th-century Jewry that of Russia.
Russian monarchs, zealous adherents of the Greek Orthodox Church, could never really tolerate the Jews. Those Jews who succeeded in infiltrating Russian domains in commercial pursuits were periodically ordered out of the country, the last such order given and enforced in 1742. On the other hand, when in the second half of the 18th century Russia conquered the Crimean Khanate, lying on the northern shores of the Black Sea, the Jews residing in the conquered lands were tacitly allowed to stay. Then Czarina Catherine II annexed most of Poland and found herself with 800,000 Jews under her reign. Neither she nor her successors on the Russian throne could make up their mind decisively about what to do with this multitude. The only desire common to all czars was that the Jews convert to the Greek Orthodox faith and merge with the Slavic majority. But this was more easily wished than done. Meanwhile, Jewish residence was officially restricted to the areas seized from Poland and the Crimean Khanate and to the old Russian provinces of Poltava and Chernigov. This was the Pale of Settlement as much a symbol of Jewish life in Czarist Russia as the ghetto was of Jewish life in Europe of the Late Middle Ages.
The following three decades were marked by growing infringement on Jewish communal autonomy, prohibitions against leasing land and keeping taverns, and banishment from villages, unless one personally engaged in agriculture, which only a few thousand did. Russia's public schools were opened to Jews, but this was only a blind for conversion: the educational system was thoroughly designed for raising pious and docile Greek Orthodox Christians. New European areas were annexed to Russia during this period: Kurland (roughly the western half of modern Latvia), Bessarabia (modern Moldova), and the Kingdom of Poland (comprising most of the Napoleonic Grand Duchy of Warsaw) and affixed to the Pale.
When Nicholas I ascended the Russian throne in 1825, the situation got much worse. The czar was determined to have his Jews baptized as soon as possible. Jews were now drafted into the Russian army with its incredible 25 years term of service but as opposed to other subjects, Jewish youths picked for conscription were drafted at the age of twelve and underwent six years of preliminary "cantonment" before they began their service proper. Russian military service was little better than imprisonment at hard labor, and the "cantonment" was nothing more than a technique of forced conversion: children were whipped, starved, and doused with ice-cold water until they expressed their will to be baptized or until they committed suicide, as many did. To make matters worse, Jewish communal authorities themselves were obligated to furnish Jewish recruits which resulted in the offspring of wealthy and influential families staying at home while children of their less distinguished confreres were herded to the cantonment camps. Few policies could be as successful at discrediting the vestiges of Jewish self-government in the eyes of its own people. In 1844, however, even these vestiges were fully liquidated by imperial edict a decade after additional restrictions were imposed on Jewish rights of domicile and all Jewish religious literature was placed under strict censorship. The network of imperial Jewish schools, established in the 1840s, was but another tool for coaxing Jewish youths into Christianity this design was so manifest to the Jews that only a few thousand sent their children to these schools, where almost all principals and the most of teachers were Christians, and where most of the Jewish teachers were utter ignoramuses. Yet, Russian Jewry under Nicholas' rule survived and multiplied remarkably: in 1850, five years before the czar's death, there were 2,350,000 Jews in Russia.
This happened, of course, because the social rapprochement between Jews and Gentiles, which had become the norm in the West since the Enlightenment, did not take place to any significant extent in Russia. The czars' consistent, half-conscious and in most cases conscious effort to stave off the "dangerous" ideas of the Enlightenment from the empire's borders was crowned with a large measure of success. Religion continued to dominate most of public life, and measures aimed at degrading the Jews resulted only in their further social isolation. Jewish communities were alienated from the general society and the traditionalists firmly held sway. By general public consent they were recognized as legitimate Jewish leaders, and the fact that they were not endowed with official posts only augmented their authority: perceiving the imperial bureaucracy as their enemy and oppressor, the Jews trusted more a leader who occupied no position in the imperial mechanism. Once the official communal administration was suppressed, it was replaced by voluntary self-help associations devoted to social, economic, educational, and religious goals. When there was a conflict between Jews they turned to rabbinic courts, and the fact that the latter were not officially authorized could not bother them less. Fully traditional education meant, of course, isolation from all intellectual and cultural currents in the larger world and inculcation into an outlook viewing Jews and Gentiles as fundamentally different beings. As far as social life was concerned, Russian Jews were still living under medieval conditions.
The ascension of Alexander II to the throne in 1855 spelled the beginning of a thaw in Russia, with the emancipation of serfs, the creation of a judicial system which could withstand comparison with those of Western countries, the formation of local self-government, and the shortening of military service term from twenty-five to a maximum of six years (the shortage of manpower was compensated by universal conscription). The Jews' status in the empire was also significantly improved. The "cantonment" system for Jewish youths was abolished as early as 1856. "Productive" Jews wealthy merchants and financiers, skilled professionals, and university graduates were allowed to leave the Pale and to settle wherever they wished. Judicial reform admitted Jews to the bar, and a significant number entered the legal profession. Attempts at modernizing Russia's economy provided opportunities for the effective investment of Jewish capital especially in the emerging railroad system and within a decade or so a full-fledged Jewish capitalist class emerged. A certain relief of the burden of military service for graduates of state secondary schools, accompanied by the clear advantage these schools provided their graduates in regards to future careers, drove throngs of Jewish youths into the Russian educational system.
And of course, greater participation of Jews in Russia's life brought about a social and cultural rapprochement with the Russians much like the one which the West had witnessed a century before. There were, however, important differences. First of all, Russian Jewry was much less urbanized than its Western counterparts; nowhere in the 19th-century world were the Jews so spread over rural areas as in Russia. Understandably, it took the new winds a great deal of time to reach the immense countryside of the Pale, and the majority of Russian Jews were only superficially affected by the new tendencies. Second, Alexander II's modernization policies were lackadaisical: many restrictions on Jews remained in force including, of course, the Pale of Settlement itself, from which it was very hard for an ordinary person to get out. And third, even these half-hearted policies were short-lived. Harsh suppression of the 1863 revolt in Poland marked the start of a new wave of reaction: increasingly popular and influential Russian nationalism was based to a very significant extent on affiliation with the Greek Orthodox Church and conservative in the extreme and the 1870s witnessed new anti-Jewish measures.
Things got only worse when Alexander II was murdered in 1881 and his son, Alexander III, ascended to the throne. His reign (1881-1894) and that of his son Nicholas II (1895-1917) were the harshest times for the Jews of the Russian Empire. New legal disabilities were heaped upon them one after another, accompanied by determined impediment of their economic activities and state-sponsored pogroms. The influential Russian statesman, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, bluntly defined the aim of the new imperial policy in regard to the Jews: "One-third of them will accept baptism, one-third will die, and one-third will emigrate." Yet Alexander's and Nicholas' efforts proved futile against traditionally high Jewish birth rates and the progress of medicine and technology: by 1897, there were 5,190,000 Jews in the Russian Empire half of whole world Jewry.
No less important than the numerical strength of Russian Jewry was the greater influence of Jewish tradition (with its emphasis on ethnic particularism), the half-heartedness and short-livedness of political reforms, and the deep connection between nationalism and religion perceived in Russia as self-evident, pushed even the most Russian maskilim from attempts at integration into Russian society and towards self-conscious Jewish nationalism. The latter manifested itself in different forms, often mutually hostile such as the rivalry between advocates of Yiddish and advocates of the Hebrew language at the beginning of the 20th century but the nationalism seeing Palestine and the Hebrew language as the focus of its inspirations soon gained the widest popularity. The Hibat Siyon movement, embracing this nationalism, was founded in the 1880s; the same decade witnessed a new wave of Jewish emigration to Palestine, for the first time consciously aimed at creating a self-sufficient Jewish entity on nationalist principles in the ancient Jewish homeland an ideology that somewhat later was termed Zionism.
Jews from Russia and Poland, before World War I largely under Russian control, were to dominate immigration to Palestine until the 1930s but by the end of the 19th century they were so unacquainted with the ways of international politics that the first push for political organization on Zionist lines had to come from elsewhere. And it did not tarry.
From the 1880s, all of Europe witnessed a new ideological trend, termed by its founders anti-Semitism. Although presently the common designation of any anti-Jewish agenda, initially this term meant a particular form of Jew-hatred a view of the Jews as a racial rather than religious or cultural entity, and an inferior or dangerous race at that. Any person of Jewish descent, the new philosophy taught, was to be suspected and best kept at society's margin, even if he was baptized or adopted his host nation's culture. Although not without parallel in earlier times e.g. in late medieval Spain and Portugal with their large Marrano populations in Europe of the late 19th-20th centuries racially-oriented anti-Semitism reached its greatest popularity, usually embraced by reactionary circles in their fight against the ideas of laissez-faire capitalism and political liberalism (what could be better than presenting the latter as Jewish innovations, alien to the original spirit of whatever nation a particular anti-Semite belonged to?).
Anti-Semitism was to grow, of course, to its most murderous extent in Germany but in the 1890s, its most significant manifestation was the Dreyfus affair in France. Although ending up with the anti-Semites' defeat, vindication of Dreyfus himself, and the political triumph of the liberals, this affair convinced the Austrian-Jewish journalist Theodor Herzl that the best way for the Jews to save themselves from the anti-Semitic menace was to have a state of their own. Unlike many other thinkers who pondered the idea of Jewish state, Herzl was a practical person: he initiated a political campaign designed to bring such a state into existence. Herzl's programmatic work, The Jewish State, was published in 1896; the next year the first Zionist Congress was convened and the World Zionist Organization (with all the necessary apparatuses) was established. Then Herzl embarked on a series of meetings with the world superpowers' monarchs and leading statesmen in order to obtain their consent to and assistance in the formation of a Jewish state. These diplomatic maneuvers yielded, of course, no practical result except for the short-lived British initiative of forming a Jewish state in Uganda but they brought the Zionist issue into the superpowers' sphere of interest, and, more importantly, Herzl succeeded in persuading large numbers of Jews that the goal of Jewish state was "not in heaven" but attainable through their own efforts.
In the year which followed the first Zionist Congress... the number of Zionist societies throughout the world increased from 117 to 913. Each subsequent Congress lent new strength and enthusiasm to the movement. In 1901 the Jewish Colonial Trust was established; and while the Trust had sold only a million dollars' worth of shares by 1904, out of this modest beginning arose the Anglo-Palestine Company, which in years to come was to play a leading role in the development of Palestine. The Jewish National Fund was founded at the behest of an eminent German Zionist, Professor Hermann Shapira. Because its purpose was to purchase land in Palestine as the inalienable property of the Jewish people, the Fund ultimately made possible the impressive social experiment of co-operative farm settlement. Each Zionist Congress attracted as its delegates some of the finest minds of the Jewish world, and of the Eastern European Jewish world at that.
Indeed, it was East European, especially Russian, Jews who soon assumed the leading role in the Zionist movement. It could have hardly been otherwise, for among Russian Jewry the Zionist feelings were the most profound: "These were the zealots, men for whom Zion was not merely a solution to political problems, but rather a fact of deepest cultural and religious significance, and for whom, therefore, the short-term success or failure of diplomatic negotiations brought neither elation nor dismay."
The widespread popularity of Zionism and the disasters which befell European Jewry in the 20th century the ruination of many East European communities during World War I and the Russian Civil War of 1917-1921, discrimination against the Jews in the emergent post-war states, and ultimately the Nazi onslaught drove throngs of Jews to Palestine; the total number of Jewish immigrants from 1882 to 1948 is estimated at over 500,000. The vast majority of these immigrants were allegiant to the Zionist ideal, and their conscious effort to build a Jewish society able to provide for its economic, cultural, political and military needs was crowned with success: by the late 1930s the yishuv the Jewish community of British-ruled Palestine was fully "a state underway." Perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of the yishuv was its predominant secularity: the process of transforming the Jews from religiously-oriented ethnic group into a modern nation had begun.
Meanwhile, the Zionist idea received international support. Upon Herzl's death in 1904 the strategy of diplomatic maneuvers was adopted by his followers, and in 1917 it brought about the Balfour Declaration, whereby the British government recognized the Jews' right to their "national home" in Palestine. After World War I, this right was recognized by the Paris Peace Conference, which endowed Great Britain with a mandate on governing Palestine for the sake of fulfilling the Balfour Declaration. During the following two and a half decades, the idea of Jewish state dropped off the world's agenda, and the British became increasingly hostile to the Zionist enterprise but the horrors of the Holocaust, the fact that hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors had literally nowhere to go, the shortsighted British policy of staunch refusal to admit these survivors into Palestine, the growing influence of American Jewish community on the United States' politics and the genuine interest of the Soviets in increasing their role in the Middle East at Britain's expense resulted in renewal of international concern with "the Palestine problem," which in November 1947 led to the UN resolution on the formation of a Jewish state. Officially proclaimed on May 14, 1948, the State of Israel proved its vitality by winning its War of Independence against local Arab guerillas and regular and well-equipped but poorly trained and ill-commanded armies of five Arab states. The ardent patriotism of the yishuv members stalwartly fighting for every inch of their soil, the good military training they received in the ranks of the yishuv's militias and the British army, and massive weapons supplies from Czechoslovakia (read: the Soviet Union) and France combined to produce the impressive Jewish victory. As its foreseers and founders thought, the State of Israel became the bulwark of Jewish survival since the day of its emergence, turning an ever larger part of world Jewry from scattered ethnic minority into a modern nation firmly rooted on its soil. In the following decade it became home for a million more Jews most of the remnant of East European Jewry (save the Soviet Jews) and almost all Oriental Jewry.
But if by the 1950s it was clear that Zionism was the triumphant movement of 20th-century Jewish history, a great deal of imagination would be needed to think of such a possibility when this movement was in its cradle. Until the 1930s, only a minority (one-third at most) of Jewish emigrants from Eastern Europe settled in Palestine. Most went to shores which provided more personal security and better economic opportunities chiefly to the United States. In 1880 there were less than 300,000 Jews in the USA, in 1900 1,100,000, and in 1925 3,800,000. And though immigration was largely stemmed by legislation of the 1920s, by 1940 American Jewry numbered 4.5 million people, and after the Holocaust, in 1951 it reached 5.1 million, fully 45% of world Jewry. Almost all immigrants, especially during the wave of 1880-1925, were from Eastern Europe, chiefly from Russia. Most of them were piously observant, Orthodox (a term they might never have heard before leaving Russia) by Western standards but as they struck roots in the New World, new trends made their influence felt: socialism in the political sphere, Reform and Conservative Judaism in the religious. Socialism, however, was, in its American incarnation, concerned with "bread-and-butter" gains for the workers much more than with Marxist doctrine, and once a large measure of economic security was achieved through Roosevelt's New Deal policy, socialism's popularity in the United States vanished, especially among the Jews, many of whom were now entrepreneurs rather than laborers. Religious affiliation was also weakening, with less and less people present at synagogue services and most of those attending doing so more in response to a kind of social convention than out of genuine faith. Furthermore, partition along denominational lines Orthodox versus Reform versus Conservative versus overtly secular and the sense of unity felt nevertheless by most American Jews made it impossible to shape the American Jewish identity exclusively on religious lines.
Instead, a new kind of Jewish identity emerged, and gave birth to what the American Jewish sociologist Jonathan Woocher termed "the civil religion of American Jews":
The organized American Jewish community is not a nation but it is... an imposing voluntary polity in its own right. Through their ostensibly "secular" organizations, American Jews have undertaken to govern themselves as a component of k'lal Yisrael, the peoplehood of Israel. In so doing they have achieved unity, purpose and identity as a moral community which transcends (without excluding) the overtly religious ideology and practice of the denominational movements of American Judaism. They have given expression to this sense of purposive unity in a characteristic set of beliefs, myths and rituals which legitimate the work of the American Jewish polity and which mobilize support for its endeavors.
The major tenets of American "civil Judaism" are listed by Woocher as following: fundamental unity of the Jewish people, mutual responsibility of the Jews, Jewish survival in a threatening world as an ultimate value, centrality of the State of Israel for this survival, enduring value not necessarily on religious terms of the Jewish tradition, philanthropy and pursuit of social justice both in Jewish and general contexts, and perception of American identity and experience as a virtue. Of course, this is not an official credo, as "civil Judaism" is not a religion in classical sense of the term but shared by the vast majority of American Jews as their core values, these beliefs have been shaping the American Jewish ethos for more than half a century and, as things look now, will be shaping it for generations to come. Living up to this ethos, American Jewry was able to emerge as both a distinct community on its own (one of the two most important world Jewish centers) and an integral part of the American society at large.
Besides the United States, the great Jewish migration of the late 19th-early 20th centuries brought large masses of East European Jews to Latin America and to the lands of the British Empire Great Britain itself (where the immigrants quickly outnumbered the "native" Jews), Canada, South Africa, and even Australia. In all these countries Jewish communities emerged whose members perceived their identity as ethnic rather than religious; community centers, instead of confining themselves to religious activities, provided a wide spectrum of educational, social and recreational services, and Zionism rather than Judaism became the backbone of Jewish self-identification.
But even during the years of great migration the bulk of East European Jews stayed at home. Here they espoused a wide array of ideologies, ranging from militant ultra-Orthodoxy to hard-headed secularism, from Zionism to Yiddish nationalism (emphasizing the Yiddish language and culture and demanding educational, cultural or even political autonomy for East European Jews in their countries of residence) to overt assimilationism, usually professed by radical Socialists and Communists with their vision of an "international proletarian brotherhood" and contempt for "bourgeois nationalism." But the advent of the 20th century augured no good for this most populous and fecund part of world Jewry.
The Eastern front campaigns of World War I brought ruination to vast areas thickly populated with Jews. Devastation common to all war theaters was only magnified by the improved technology of killing and aggravated by the Russian command's order to deport the Jews of those regions which the Russian army was leaving during its retreat in the winter of 1914-1915. Some 600,000 Jews were driven away from their homes; one-sixth of them died of starvation and exposure to the terrible cold of Russian winter. The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 brought about civil war, in which Ukrainian nationalists, Russian counter-revolutionists, and gangs of thugs assaulted every Jewish community they found in their way, and in which the country's economy was ruined completely. About 250,000 Jews were slain or starved to death during the years 1915-1921. But still, more than two million Jews survived the war to become citizens of the emergent Soviet Union.
The Soviets, at last, granted their Jewish citizens full equality with non-Jews and went to considerable extents to combat anti-Semitism, which in the 1920s they perceived as a reactionary ideology. But on the other hand, the Bolshevik regime ruthlessly suppressed religious activities not only Jewish, of course, but for the Jews religious tradition was still a crucial part of their ethnic identity, and these measures affected their ethnic self-consciousness more than it did any other minority. With their religious schools closed, their synagogues confiscated or fallen into shabbiness without permission to repair, their rabbis persecuted, and state-run newspapers and schools turned into vehicles of anti-religious propaganda, the Soviet Jews' loyalty to their tradition faded rapidly. But the alternative of secular nationalism, increasingly popular in other countries and embraced by the yishuv in Palestine, was also unavailable to Soviet Jewry. Zionism was condemned as "bourgeois nationalism," Zionist activists were persecuted, and the use of Hebrew was not tolerated in any but strictly religious activities. Instead, the Jews were permitted to use Yiddish and there even was a sort of renaissance in Yiddish literary creativity but the new Yiddish novels, plays, newspapers and journals were almost totally rid of any authentic Jewish feeling. Instead, they were filled in accordance with the Soviet stereotype with tractors, wheat fields, Five Year Plans, and international proletarian solidarity. Even this Yiddish culture was appealing to fewer and fewer Jews, however: by 1939, less than a quarter of Soviet Jews spoke Yiddish. The formation of a Jewish autonomous polity under Soviet auspices was likewise doomed to failure the territory allotted for the Jewish Autonomous Region was the province of Birobijan, in the depths of Siberian taiga on the Chinese border. Few Jews were willing to migrate to such a place, and by 1939 Jews in the whole region numbered only 20,000.
The Nazis, invading the USSR in 1941, exterminated about a million Soviet Jews. Yet, this were only a third of Soviet Jewry the others lived in areas which the Soviets succeeded in defending or managed to escape into the Soviet hinterland before their places of residence were occupied (some 100,000 refugees expired of submarginal conditions in Central Asia). Fully 500,000 Jews fought in the Red Army, 340,000 of them were awarded medals and orders. To mobilize the goodwill of Jews in the West chiefly in the United States Stalin even allowed the formation of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and a certain resurgence of Jewish cultural activity. But all this was to end in 1948, when an official anti-Jewish campaign was unleashed. Venomous articles were published by Soviet press, the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee was dissolved, its chairman, Solomon Mikhoels, murdered, its other leaders arrested and most of them put to death. Yiddish-language schools, theaters and journals were closed, and hundreds of Jewish writers were arrested (almost all of them died in prison). In January 1953, Soviet newspapers carried front-page announcements of the arrest of a group of Jewish "physicians-saboteurs" who had allegedly plotted the death of high Soviet officials as a part of some general Zionist conspiracy. Waves of accusations against other Jewish doctors throughout the USSR immediately followed, creating wide anti-Semitic frenzy. Hundreds of Jews were fired from their jobs, Jewish children were harassed in schools, and rumors spread of a planned deportation of all Soviet Jews to Siberia.
Stalin's death in February 1953 stopped the horror, but a degree of official anti-Semitism was felt by the Soviet Jews ever after. Manifesting itself, first and foremost, in the curtailment of Jews' access to high education and in widespread anti-Zionist propaganda, this anti-Semitism did, however, remind many thoroughly assimilated Soviet Jews of their Jewish identity. The Zionist underground was already active in the 1950s, and the Israeli victory in the Six Day War triggered feelings of identification with the Jewish state. During the late 1960s and the 1970s Soviet Jews immigrated to Israel by the thousands. In the early 1980s the number of exit permits was sharply reduced, but with the relaxation of Soviet emigration policy in 1989, hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews CIS Jews after the USSR's collapse in 1991 poured into Israel. Of course, not all Soviet Jews were devout Zionists: many emigrants chose the United States or other Western countries as their destination, and even of those who left for Israel especially after 1989 most did so out of a desire to secure better standards of living for themselves and their children rather than in response to the call of Zion. Nevertheless, by the turn of the millennium almost a million Jews from the former Soviet lands found themselves integrating into Israeli society, swelling the Jewish population of the Jewish state to above five million.
But while even this wave of mass emigration left hundreds of thousands of Jews in the former Soviet republics, in other countries of Eastern Europe all but a nominal Jewish presence has ceased since the 1970s. Of some 4.8 million Jews living there between the world wars, most with the significant exception of Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria were subject to harsh economic discrimination. Treaties signed at the end of World War I, whereby the emergent East European states were obligated to recognize Jewish cultural autonomy and to support Jewish communal institutions, quickly fell into disregard; instead, militant anti-Semitic movements gained popularity and frequently rose to power. Popular and official anti-Semitism led tens of thousands of East European Jews to emigrate to Palestine and elsewhere, but the number of emigrants was negligible compared to those who stayed at home and were slaughtered by the Nazis, often with active assistance of the local Gentile populace.
By the end of World War II there still were almost a million Jews in Eastern Europe those who survived the Holocaust and those who managed to escape into the Soviet interior as the war began and were returning now to their former places of residence but they were too disillusioned to hope that the long and murderous tradition of anti-Semitism in their countries would ever be overcome. Their sole desire was emigration to Palestine/Israel and elsewhere. During the six postwar years, most of East European Jews departed.
New Communist regimes labored at first to stem popular anti-Semitism, but in the early 1950s fierce "anti-Zionist" campaigns swept through the countries of Eastern Europe, with massive purges of the ruling parties and public institutions of "alien" elements. In the 1960s similar purges recurred in Poland. But on the other hand, these regimes kept the doors to Jewish emigration largely open, and by the 1970s, no East European country had a Jewish population of 100,000 or more. The following decade witnessed a further decline not only emigration, but also low birth rates and frequent intermarriage played a role and by the mid-1980s less than 130,000 Jews were left in the whole Eastern Europe, of them 75,000 in Hungary and 30,000 in Romania.
In Western Europe, like in Eastern, the Holocaust was a turning point of Jewish history. Most of those Jews who lived in Germany, Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands at the outset of World War II were exterminated. In Italy, where the local government and population were reluctant to assist the Nazis in the "final solution," most Jews survived the war but their communal life was never able to recover completely, and Italian Jewry remained plagued by frequent conversions to Christianity and intermarriage. In spite of a certain influx of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, never since the end of the war has there been a West European country harboring more than 100,000 Jews, with the understandable exception of Great Britain, not occupied by the Germans, and France.
Of the 340,000 Jews living in France by 1940, only 90,000 perished in the Holocaust. In the six postwar years, 55,000 Jews from Eastern Europe immigrated to the country. From the mid-1950s, France was flooded by the stream of immigrants from Northern Africa. Alarmed by the rise of Maghreb nationalism, which in 1956 brought about the independence of Morocco and Tunisia and ignited the Franco-Algerian War (ending with Algerian independence in 1962), hundreds of thousands of Europeans and Jews left the North African lands. Many Jews departed for Israel, but most some 350,000 preferred France. During the 1960s, the Jewish population of France rose to the record number of 670,000 the largest community of Western Europe. And, like elsewhere, religious observance has been less manifest among the French Jews than a sheer sense of ethnic pride and confidence. Here, too, Zionism became the backbone of Jewish self-identification. That this happened in a country where two centuries ago Jewish leaders assured that "Jews no longer constitute a separate nation and they regard their incorporation into the Great Nation as a privilege and as political redemption" was only symbolic of the great transformation which Jewish identity has undergone in the last century.
This is the history of Jewish survival. A remarkable history, to be sure but does one need to delve into the realm of the supernatural to explain it? The answer is no: even the most remarkable phenomena can be explained in exclusively natural terms. True, human beings and societies are enormously complex entities, and "mechanical" explanation of social and historical processes through a sequence of causation, whereby at every stage of the process the next stage would be completely determined by some set of laws, is impossible. Yet, our reason can comprehend how a given set of factors may bring about a certain historical phenomenon: the decline and fall of the Roman empire, the breakup of the Polish state in the 18th century, the Allies' victory in World War II or Jewish survival.
To conceive of a set of factors which brought about Jewish ethnic perseverance, one must take into account, first and foremost, the Jews' own sense of chosenness. Regardless of whether there is a God and whether He expressed His will to mankind in any form, Judaism, with its ethos of the chosen people, is a historical and social reality. Moreover, until the late 19th century Judaism was the backbone of Jewish ethnic self-consciousness, and its teachings and laws kept the Jews throughout the ages caring about continuation of their existence as a people, ensured a large measure of behavioral and cultural uniformity among the Jews themselves, and guided them to separate themselves from their Gentile surroundings and to raise the following generations in the spirit of devotion to the Jewish people no less, and perhaps even more, than to God. And when Judaism largely lost its grip on the Jewish minds, falling prey to the inroads of modernity and secularism, its place was taken by secular Jewish nationalism ethnic consciousness had at last outweighed religious. To put it metaphorically, from God's chosen the Jews turned into a self-chosen people. Assimilation is anathema to more modern Jews than atheism.
Of course, no people can survive on ethos alone; an appropriate social and political framework is necessary. In the Jews' case, these were social segregation from Gentiles, both cultivated by Jewish communities from within and enforced on them from without, and communal self-government, enjoyed by the Jews in all countries of their dispersal through most of their history. It was the collapse of this framework in the modern age which made Jewish survival a problem.
Another peril which befell Jews in the modern age was racially-oriented anti-Semitism, which made many countries increasingly unsafe for Jewish residence and brought about the greatest tragedy of Jewish history the Holocaust. Modern anti-Semites were not inhibited by considerations which prevented well-organized attempts at systematic destruction of the Jewish people in earlier times, such as Christian and Moslem doctrines of toleration or the unique role played by Jews in the economy (which ceased to be unique, to all intents and purposes, quite soon after the advent of modernity). Yet, the threat of anti-Semitism has been largely overcome by modern society. Greater social contact between Jews and Gentiles brought more and more people to view the murder of a person on the sole grounds of his belonging to either group as a brutish evil. The extermination of six million Jews in the Holocaust was perceived by world public opinion as one of the most dreadful manifestations of evil in human history, and most countries of the world realized the need to fight anti-Semitism at least in its most radical and threatening forms. And of course, it should be remembered that anti-Semitism, both in its modern and earlier forms, never could give the "final solution of the Jewish question" because of the sheer dispersion of the Jews: neither suppression of Judaism in Byzantium, nor expulsions from Western Europe in the Late Middle Ages, nor pogroms and discrimination in 19th-century Russia, nor even the Nazi onslaught could wipe out the whole Jewish people.
But, while remembering the tragedies anti-Semitism brought about, it would be wrong to forget the positive impact it had on Jewish ethnic perseverance. First, anti-Semitism reminded even most thoroughly assimilated Jews that they were not welcome in the Gentile societies they thought themselves part of. After all, Zionism the main vehicle of Jewish survival in the last century emerged in the wake of pogroms and persecutions in Czarist Russia in the 1880s, and it was European anti-Semitism which moved the assimilated Theodor Herzl to shape Zionist movement on political lines, with the Jewish state as its goal. Second, while Hitler's campaign of the "final solution of the Jewish question" was doomed to failure from the outset at least because populous Jewish communities on the American continent were definitely beyond his reach it made the world powers conscious of the need to form a Jewish state which would become haven of refuge for the Holocaust survivors and victims of further persecutions which might befall Jewish communities in other parts of the world. In a sense, the State of Israel owes its creation to the Holocaust victims and survivors a fact which did not escape the grasp of the state's founding fathers: the Israeli Declaration of Independence explicitly mentions the Holocaust as one of the reasons for the creation of the Jewish state. And third, for many modern Jews especially in the United States anti-Semitism is much less of a real danger than a symbolic common enemy which serves as a unifying factor for the community. If, as Jonathan Woocher has put it, "Jewish survival is what the [American] Jewish polity is about," the struggle against anti-Semitism, presenting at least a potential danger to this survival, plays one of the most important roles in American Jewry's collective identity. Dialectical tension between the effects of anti-Semitism on Jewish survival is only one example of the complexity of the factors which made Jewish survival possible.
But do we need to assume that God Himself set these factors into motion? Again, no: not only would our understanding of these factors be no better with this assumption than without it, but to postulate God as an explanation would be, again, to try to explain the unclear by the incomprehensible. Jewish ethnic perseverance is no less a fact than is the expansion of the universe, and we have no other way to understand it than to use our powers of perception and reason to the best of our ability but to posit the existence of entities we cannot even comprehend would not count as an explanation; it would be merely the plain old monkey business of mythical guesswork.
Bar-Ilan University, The Global Jewish Database (The Responsa Project), the Bible with commentaries, the Babylonian Talmud with commentaries, the Jerusalem Talmud, Midrashes, Halakhic codices and responsa, works of Judaic philosophy, Version 9.
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.
- Project Gutenberg Fine Literature Digitally Re-Published.
- New Advent Christian Bible, Church Fathers, Catholic Writings.
Sources in Print English
Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. J. Pritchard. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969.
Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century BC, ed. and transl. A. Cowley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1923.
The Library of Photius, ed. J. Freese. New York, 1920.
Salo Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews. New York: Columbia University Press, 1952-1983.
Elias Bickerman, Four Strange Books of the Bible. New York: Shocken, 1967.
Elias Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees. Leiden: Brill, 1979.
Elias Bickerman, The Jews in the Greek Age. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988.
William Dever, What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2001.
Israel Finkelstein, Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed. New York: Free Press, 2001.
Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961.
Jacob Katz, Tradition and Crisis. New York: Shocken, 1971.
Lawrence Kelemen, Permission to Believe: Four Rational Approaches to God's Existence. Southfield, Mich.: Targum Press, 1990.
Ben-Zion Netanyahu, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain. New York: Random House, 1995.
Jacob Neusner, A History of the Jews in Babylonia. Leiden: Brill, 1965-1970.
Howard Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.
Stanford Shaw, The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. New York: New York University Press, 1991.
Anthony Smith, "Chosen Peoples: Why Ethnic Groups Survive," Ethnic and Racial Studies, v. 15 (1992), pp. 436-456.
Kenton Sparks, Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Israel. Winona Lake, In.: Eisenbrauns, 1998.
Selma Stern, The Court Jew. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1950.
Bernard Weinryb, The Jews of Poland: A Social and Economic History of the Jewish Community in Poland from 1100 to 1800. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1973.
Jonathan Woocher, Sacred Survival: The Civil Religion of American Jews. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.
Sources in Print Hebrew[*]
Ensiqlopediyah Miqrait (Encyclopaedia Biblica). Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 1950-1982.
Ensiqlopediyah 'Ivrit (Encyclopaedia Hebraica). Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem: Encyclopaedias Publishing Society, 1951-1981.
Ha-Sefarim ha-Hisoniyim (Apocrypha), ed. A. Kahana. Tel-Aviv: Beit Hillel.
Igrot ha-Rambam, ed. Y. Shilat, Ma'aleh-Adumim-Jerusalem: Shilat Publishers, 1995.
Mishnah 'im Perush Rabenu Mosheh ben Maimon, ed. and transl. R' Y. Qapah. Jerusalem: Mossad ha-Rav Kook, 1963.
Toledot Yeshu, ed. M. Wechsler. New York: General Linotype Co., 1932.
R' Menahem ha-Meiri, Beit ha-Behirah 'al Masekhet 'Avodah Zarah, ed. R' A. Sofer. Jerusalem: Ha-Tehiyah, 1965.
Artur Rupin, Milhemet ha-Yehudim le-Qiyumam (The Jewish Struggle for Existence). Tel Aviv: Mossad Bialik, 1940.
R' Yehudah Liwai ben Besalel, Gevurot ha-Shem. Jerusalem: Yahadut Publishers, 1971.
 Lawrence Kelemen, Permission to Believe: Four Rational Approaches to God's Existence (Southfield, Mich.: Targum Press, 1990), p. 84.
 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Basque; Basque language.
 Ibid., Armenian; Armenian language.
 Ibid., China.
 That is, knowledge in general is not an innate part of a person's being: one may acquire knowledge by learning or lose it by forgetting what he knew.
 Exodus 33:20.
 Isaiah 55:8.
 Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 5:5.
 This is, indeed, the title of a review by the present author of the abovementioned outreach book.
 New York: Columbia University Press, 1952-1983.
 A good summary may be found in Israel Finkelstein, Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed (New York: Free Press, 2001).
 For the text of Merneptah's Stele, see ANET (Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. J. Pritchard, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), pp. 376-378.
 I. Finkelstein, N. A. Silberman, The Bible Unearthed, pp. 243-246; see, however, William Dever, What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2001), pp. 97-157.
 L. Kelemen, Permission to Believe, p. 74.
 History, book 5, chapter 98 (reference added).
 E. Bickerman, The Jews in the Greek Age (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), pp. 37-38.
 See ANET, p. 308.
 II Kings 25:27-28.
 Encyclopaedia Biblica, Galut Bavel, v. 2, pp. 505-506.
1> Jeremiah 29:1; cf. Ezekiel 14:1, 20:1.
 Ezekiel 13:9.
 Nehemiah 3, 5:14.
 Ezra 7:25-26, 10; Nehemiah 3, 5:14, 13:16-20.
 Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century BC (ed. and transl. A. Cowley, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1923), nos. 30-33.
 Ibid., no. 21.
 E. Bickerman, The Jews in the Greek Age, p. 50.
 Encyclopaedia Biblica, Yeshayahu, v. 3, p. 917.
 For identification of the places mentioned in Isaiah 11:11 and in Obadiah 1:20, see the respective entries in Encyclopaedia Biblica.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 1, p. 131.
 Ibid., p. 169.
 Ibid., v. 2, p. 102.
 Ibid., pp. 108-110, 123.
 Arthur Ruppin, The Jewish Struggle for Existence (in Hebrew, Tel Aviv: Mossad Bialik, 1940), p. 33.
 Antiquities of the Jews, book 11, chapter 7, section 1.
 Esther 3:13.
 Esther 9:16.
 Esther 9:12-15.
 Ibid. 8:8.
 Besides the obvious similarity between Ahashwerosh and Khshayarsha (called in Aramaic documents Hshirash), Ezra 4:5-7 lists apparently subsequent Persian kings as Koresh, Daryavesh, Ahashwerosh and Artahshasta. Koresh is, of course Cyrus, and Daryavesh and Artahshasta must be Darius I and Artaxerxes I respectively (the names specified in Ezra are almost identical with the Persian names of these kings). Ahashwerosh, then, is clearly Xerxes yet, for unknown reasons, the list omits Cambyses (Kanbuzi), who reigned for 8 years between Cyrus and Darius I.
 Herodotus, History, book 7, chapter 61. The names are, of course, Hellenized, but no reasonable connection can exist between Amestris and Esther. Amestris is described in Ctesias' Persika (in The Library of Photius, ed. J. Freese, New York, 1920, v. 1, pp. 92-120) as having outlived Xerxes and having been active in royal affairs during the reign of his son Artaxerxes I.
 Herodotus, History, book 3, chapter 84.
 Elias Bickerman, Four Strange Books of the Bible (New York: Shocken, 1967), pp. 206-207.
 Ibid., pp. 74-75, 120-129, 144.
 See Mishnah, 'Avodah Zarah 2:6.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 1, pp. 218, 245.
 Ibid., pp. 239-240.
 Ibid., v. 2, pp. 107-110, 147-150, 163; Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Eres-Yisrael, v. 6, pp. 400-408.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Gamliel, Rabban, v. 10, p. 952.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 2, p. 193.
 Origen, Letter to Africanus, section 14.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Eres-Yisrael, v. 6, pp. 410-418.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 2, pp. 215-292, v. 5, pp. 138-285, v. 6, pp. 3-151.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Eres-Yisrael, v. 6, pp. 426-427; ibid., R' Abahu, v. 1, pp. 74-75.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 2, pp. 191-195; Encyclopaedia Britannica, Theodosius I, The middle years.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 3, pp. 4-15.
 Ibid., pp. 18-24.
 Ibid., p. 175.
 Ibid., p. 185.
 Ibid., p. 190.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Bavel, v. 7, p. 572.
 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Mesopotamia, history of, Mesopotamia from c. 320 BC to c. AD 620, The Parthian period
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 2, p. 403, n. 29.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Bavel, v. 7, p. 572.
 The Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 5a.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Bavel, v. 7, pp. 572-574.
 Jacob Neusner, A History of the Jews in Babylonia (Leiden: Brill, 1965-1970), v. 5, pp. 60-72, 103-112, 122-132.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 3, pp. 79-80.
 5:44-48, 68-69.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 3, pp. 130-132; Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Sabim, v. 28, p. 474.
 Quran 9:29.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 3, pp. 128-131, 134, 150.
 Ibid., v. 3, pp. 120-172, 310, v. 4, pp. 164-165, 187-196.
 Romans 11.
 City of God, book 4, chapter 34.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 3, p. 28.
 Cited ibid., p. 29.
 Ibid., v. 4, pp. 6-7.
 Ibid., v. 9, p. 54.
 Quran 3:69-79, 4:44-46.
 Matthew 27:15-25, Revelation 2:9, 3:9, John 8:44.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 5, p. 79, v. 9, pp. 24-44, v. 11, pp. 42-49, 87-121, v. 14, pp. 34-35.
 Ibid., v. 11, p. 122.
 Ibid., p. 123.
 Ibid., v. 4, p. 172.
 Ibid., p. 173.
 Ibid., p. 48.
 Ibid., pp. 48-53.
 Ibid., pp. 197-215.
 Ibid., p. 75.
 Ibid., v. 12, p. 92.
 Ibid., pp. 80-90.
 Cited ibid., p. 199.
 Ibid., v. 4, pp. 77-81.
 Responsa, part 2, resp. 213.
 Dicta on Tractate Bava Batra, chapter 1, paragraph 29.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 12, p. 199.
 Ibid., v. 11, pp. 8-9; italics preserved.
 Ibid., p. 21.
 Ibid., pp. 22-33.
 Tosafot on the Babylonian Talmud, Bava Qama 58a, s. v. i nami.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 4, p. 278, n. 103.
 Ibid., v.4, p. 106, v. 11, pp. 39-55, 71-72, v. 13, pp. 3-21.
 Ibid., v. 11, p. 21.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, otonomiyah yehudit, v. 1, p. 787.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 11, p. 76.
 Ibid., p. 57.
 Ibid., pp. 64-75.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, otonomiyah yehudit, v. 1, p. 787
 Responsum of R' Paltoi Gaon, in Sha'arei Sedeq Geonic Responsa, part 4, ch. 5, resp. 14.
[112} Encyclopaedia Hebraica, otonomiyah yehudit, v. 1, p. 787.
 Ibid.; S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 11, p. 61.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, otonomiyah yehudit, v. 1, p. 787.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 11, pp. 36, 41, 60.
 Ibid., v. 5, pp. 70-71.
 Ibid., v. 3, pp. 122-123, 289 (n. 3).
 Maimonides, Maamar Kidush ha-Shem.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 3, pp. 124-127, v. 17, pp. 231-236.
 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Almohads.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 11, pp. 192-210.
 Ibid., pp. 211-225.
 Ibid., pp. 262-270.
 Ibid., p. 163.
 Ibid., v. 13, pp. 258-274.
 Ben-Zion Netanyahu, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain (New York: Random House, 1995), pp. 1095-1102; S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 10, pp. 171-172, v. 11, p. 240.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 11, pp. 225-243.
 Ibid., pp. 243-249.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Portugal, v. 27, p. 526.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 11, p. 243.
 Ibid., p. 261.
 Ibid., v. 14, pp. 48-49.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 9, pp. 149-150.
 Ibid., v. 10, pp. 25, 39, v. 13, pp. 261-263.
 Bernard Weinryb, The Jews of Poland: A Social and Economic History of the Jewish Community in Poland from 1100 to 1800 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1973), pp. 115, 181-205.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 15, pp. 3-73.
 Ibid., v. 18, pp. 3-121.
 Ibid., v. 15, pp. 33-41.
 B. Weinryb, The Jews of Poland, p. 72.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 16, pp. 12-13.
 Stanford Shaw, The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic (New York: New York University Press, 1991), p. 43.
 Ibid., p. 57.
 Ibid., pp. 44-65.
 Deuteronomy 7:6, also 14:2.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 1, p. 10 (italics preserved). For the legal theorem of the common responsibility of all Jews for the deeds of each, see the Babylonian Talmud, Shavuot 39a.
 See Anthony Smith, "Chosen Peoples: Why Ethnic Groups Survive," Ethnic and Racial Studies, v. 15 (1992), pp. 436-456.
 Numbers 23:9.
 Hosea 7:11.
 Hosea 12:2.
 Ezekiel 20:32-33.
 Deuteronomy 7:1-2, 20:16-17 (the latter verse omits the Girgashites from the list).
 Kenton Sparks, Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Israel (Winona Lake, In.: Eisenbrauns, 1998), pp. 257-258.
 See e.g. the inscription of Mesha, king of Moab (ANET, p. 320).
 Deuteronomy 7:3-4.
 Ezra 9-10.
 Ezra 4:1-4.
 Nehemiah 13:24.
 The Wars of the Jews, book 2, chapter 18, section 7.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 1, p. 188.
 The Babylonian Talmud, Bava Qama 114a.
 See e.g. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Neighbors 12:7 and Laws of Torah Study 6:14; R' Joseph Karo, Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 175:40 and Yoreh De'ah 334:43.
 The Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 82a.
 Sanhedrin 9:6.
 'Avodah Zarah, chapter 2.
 The Babylonian Talmud, 'Avodah Zarah 38a.
 Ibid., 8a-b.
 Ibid., Sanhedrin 63b, Bekhorot 2b.
 Ibid., 'Avodah Zarah 2a, 7b, 13b, 16a, 19b, 20a.
 Ibid., 13a, 18b.
 Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 37.
 Preserved in the Tosafot commentary on the Babylonian Talmud, 'Avodah Zarah 57b, s.v. le-apukei.
 The Babylonian Talmud, 'Avodah Zarah 31a.
 R' Menahem ha-Meiri, Beit ha-Behirah on 'Avodah Zarah (ed. R' A. Sofer, Jerusalem: Ha-Tehiyah, 1965), p. 132.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 3, pp. 97, 142-144, v. 11, pp. 77-121.
 J. Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance, pp. 21-22.
 Jacob Katz, Tradition and Crisis (New York: Shocken, 1971), pp. 26-27.
 Leviticus 19:18.
 I Maccabees 1:15, 11:21.
 E. Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees (Leiden: Brill, 1979), pp. 17-21.
 The Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 61a, Bava Mesi'a 114b, Keritot 6b.
 Ibid., Berakhot 25b, 58a, Shabbat 150a, Yevamot 98a.
 Ibid., Menahot 43b, Berakhot 58b.
 Cited from the Hebrew edition, translated from original Arabic manuscript and edited by R' Joseph Qapah (Jerusalem: Mossad ha-Rav Kook, 1963). This edition has the advantage of the texts being preserved in their original form, uncorrupted by censorship.
 Mishneh Torah, Laws of Other Principal Categories of Impurity 2:10.
 Isaiah 40:15.
 R' Judah Löwe ben Besalel, Gevurot ha-Shem (Jerusalem: Yahadut Publishers, 1971), p. 167.
 The Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 17b, Shabbat 104b, Sanhedrin 107b.
 Ibid. 43a.
 Ibid., Shabbat 116a.
 The last reprint was published in Israel by the Kest-Leibowitz Institute for Support of the Torah Study.
 Published in several editions, one of them by M. Wechsler, in a compendium of three anti-Christian polemic works (the other two being Isaac of Troki's Hizuq ha-Emunah and Nahmanides' Milhamot Hovah), New York: General Linotype Co., 1932.
 R' Yeruham, Toledot Adam we-Hawah 17:5; Tosafot on the Babylonian Talmud, Bekhorot 2b, s.v. shema; R' Asher ben Yehiel, Dicta on Tractate Sanhedrin, chapter 7, paragraph 3; R' Moses Iserless, Glosses on the Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayim 156:1.
 See. J. Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance, pp. 114-128, for treatment of ha-Meiri's doctrine.
 Ibid., p. 162.
Maimonides, Responsa, resp. 448.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 5, p. 94.
 The drop of Islamdom's Jewish population from 2,000,000 persons in 1000 to 750,000 in 1490 (A. Ruppin, The Jewish Struggle for Existence, p. 30) was doubtless due, in part, to mass conversions to Islam: the stream of migration into Europe had evidently dried out with the Crusades and the persecutions which befell the Jews of Christendom from the 13th century on; the loss of Spain to the Christians could account for decrease of Islamdom's Jewry by hundreds of thousands at most; and the same is true of the havoc wrecked in the Middle East by the Mongols in the 13th century. Hundreds of thousands of Jews must have converted to Islam during these five centuries. For the next 450 years the Jewish population of Islamdom fluctuated between 500,000 and 1,000,000 persons, without ever growing significantly beyond the latter figure (ibid.; Ruppin's estimate of a 1,473,000 people strong "Oriental" Jewry in 1940 includes the Jewish population of Palestine, which by that time reached over 460,000 persons see Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Eres-Yisrael, v. 6, pp. 671-674). This demographic tendency, again, can be explained only by assumption of large-scale conversions of Jews to Islam.
 S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 3, p. 39.
 Ibid., pp. 91-92, 108-109.
 Ibid., v. 13, p. 66.
 Ibid., pp. 84-85.
 Ibid., pp. 64-158.
 Ibid., v. 14, pp. 271-281, v. 15, pp. 3-73, 125-160; Encyclopaedia Hebraica, (ha-)Mamlakhah ha-Meuhedet, v. 23, pp. 918-919.
 An example of such a Jewish revert from Christianity is brought in the Tosafists' Responsa, resp. 3.
 J. Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance, pp. 68-76.
 Ibid., p. 70.
 The Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 45b.
 See e.g. S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, v. 13, pp. 149-150.
 Howard Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), p. 17.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Sarefat, v. 28, p. 958-959, Marsey, v. 24, p. 483.
 H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 18-27.
 Selma Stern, The Court Jew (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1950), p. 1.
 Cited in Encyclopaedia Britannica, natural law.
 Ibid., Jean Bodin.
 Ibid., slavery, Historical survey, Ways of ending slavery.
 Ibid., natural law.
 J. Katz, Tradition and Crisis, pp. 252-254.
 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Mendelssohn, Moses; H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 30-34.
 J. Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance, pp. 179-180.
 Encyclopaedia Britannica, France, history of, The French Revolution and Napoleon, 1789-1815, The destruction of the ancien règime, 1789: the convergence of revolutions.
 H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, p. 43.
 Ibid., pp. 47-48.
 Ibid., pp. 47-51; J. Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance, pp. 183-194.
 H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 50-53, 94-96.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Sarefat, v. 28, pp. 895, 927, 958-961.
 H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 56-57, 94-102.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Ostriyah, v. 1, p. 978, Galisiyah, v. 10, p. 884.
 H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 59-60, 102-119.
 J. Katz, Tradition and Crisis, pp. 256-257.
 H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 148-174, 488-489.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Ostriyah-Hungariyah, v. 1, p. 984.
 Ibid., 'Am Yisrael, v. 26, pp. 941-942, Kol Yisrael Haverim, v. 20, pp. 856-859, Agudat Ahim, v. 1, p. 370, 'Ezrah, v. 26, p. 793, Alyans, v. 3, pp. 533-534.
 A. Ruppin, The Jewish Struggle for Existence, pp. 29-30.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Galisiyah, v. 10, pp. 883-886.
 H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, p. 231.
 Ibid., pp. 304-307; Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Hes, Mosheh, v. 14, pp. 841-848.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Rusiyah, v. 30, pp. 897-898.
 Ibid.; H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 73-80.
 Ibid., pp. 80-93, 216-223; Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Rusiyah, v. 30, pp. 898-899.
 Ibid., pp. 899-902; H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 202-224, 277-302.
 Ibid., pp. 303-313; Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Rusiyah, v. 30, p. 903.
 Ibid., Antishemiyut, v. 4, pp. 493-496; H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 253-276.
 Ibid., pp. 319-320.
 Ibid., p. 320.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Eres-Yisrael, v. 6, p. 666.
 H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 440-471, 557-593, 736-740.
 Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Eres-Yisrael, v. 6, p. 666.
 Ibid., Arsot ha-Brit Shel Amerikah, v. 7, p. 249.
 H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 359-413, 705-713.
 Jonathan Woocher, Sacred Survival: The Civil Religion of American Jews (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), p. vii.
 Ibid., pp. 63-89.
 H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 657-662, 664-704.
 Ibid., pp. 348-357, 415.
 Ibid., pp. 414-421.
 Ibid., pp. 348-357, 414-421, 534-536, 612-641.
 A. Ruppin, The Jewish Struggle for Existence, pp. 32-33.
 H. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History, pp. 421-439, 594-612, 702-703.
 Ibid., pp. 632-663.
 J. Woocher, Sacred Survival, p. 73.
[*] Authors' names and titles are given in transliteration.