The Secularization of Relations between Jews and Non-Jews: An Introduction


The second model , the French one , was based on the principled assumptions of the revolutionary legislation : “ Everything to the individual Jew , nothing to the Jews as a nation , ” ran the maxim . Thus , unlike the Jews of Spanish origin , who had settled mainly in southern France and in Bordeaux , the Ashkenazi Jews in Alsace , for instance , were apprehensive of having to waive their rights to communal autonomy as a precondition to emancipation . In fact , the initial revolutionary legislation , from January 28 , 1790 , was applied only to Sephardic Jews , and was extended to all of French Jewry only in September 1791 . Later on , when the revolutionary fervor had subsided , and the strength of Jewish communal ties , even under conditions of full equality , was acknowledged once more , an assembly of Jewish notables , a “ Sanhedrin , ” was convened and entrusted with the task of clarifying the position of Jews towards non-Jews , in questions of mixed marriages , loyalty to the state , etc . And eventually , the Consistoire , a body meant to replace the former corporative communities , provided collective expression for French Jewry , despite much opposition . A mixed solution had been found , allowing emancipation for individual Jews as well as institutional expression of their collectivity . Despite the official language used , emancipation in France was always accompanied by the expectation of assimilation . It was argued over and again that when the status of Jews within the modern state would be equal to that of non-Jews , they would gradually adopt the practices of the majority . In a political system that proclaimed , in theory at least , the complete separation of religion and state , this process could advance gradually , it was believed , without impediment . These hopes did not completely fade away even during the Third Republic , in which Jews formally enjoyed full equality and to which they demonstrated complete loyalty . The third model is the German one . Here , Jewish emancipation did not have a revolutionary basis , despite an attempt in the National Assembly in this direction during the Revolution of 1848 . In fact , the accepted approach in the various German states , up to the establishment of Bismarck’s Reich in 1871 , was that equal rights could not be granted the Jews before their loyalty had been proven and their ability to integrate into German society had been tested . This stance opened the way for prolonged debate for and against emancipation , for continuous examination of the mores of the Jews , and for repeated efforts to determine whether they indeed came to resemble the general population more closely as time passed or not . Emancipation was , in fact , considered a reward for good behavior . It should not be forgotten , however , that in the German world the concept of emancipation as a reward for loyalty and for proper civil behavior was not applied only to Jews . Bourgeois emancipation in general was intended solely for worthy citizens , and the emancipation of women was almost universally disregarded because , so it was claimed , they lacked the necessary traits for true partnership in the public realm . The fourth model is that characteristic of the Russian Empire , where it was only the Bolshevik Revolution that led to the cancellation of all limitations and prohibitions suffered by Jews . From the time of Catherine the Great to the fall of the empire in 1917 , Russian policy regarding the Jews oscillated between attempts to improve their standing and measures that increased discrimination against them . Forced assimilation was clearly an underlying factor in mandatory conscription for Jews , as well as the attempts to convert them as part of this lengthy compulsory military service . In the educational sphere , too , we find regulations that required Jewish children to receive compulsory Russian education . Sometimes , certain legal concessions were granted the Jews , mainly concerning the right to settle beyond the Pale of Settlement , but leniencies granted to individuals only served to emphasize the limitations upon the masses . While efforts to integrate the Jews in their surroundings were deemed a worthy goal , such efforts were always made – due to the authoritarian nature of the regime – through the introduction of

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