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


strict regulations , often joined to various limitations or repressive measures . Even if , in practice , some Jews could reside in the major Russian cities and act there as merchants or craftsmen possessing special skills , the majority remained within the Pale of Settlement , and , for the most part , suffered under conditions of exclusion and poverty . For the most part Jews continued to live among themselves , speaking their own language , and observing ( although not always in full ) the commandments of their religion . The anti-Semitism that was prevalent in various strata of Russian society found extreme expression in a number of blood libels , and finally , in a series of pogroms that were apparently supported – even if not always initiated - by the authorities . Obviously , liberal trends of thought were present in Russia as well , and some political groups favored emancipation and looked positively upon the granting of equal rights to the Jews . The regime , however , never succeeded in freeing itself from its anti-Semitic tradition , and was unwilling to risk the hostility of the masses over an issue that was low on its order of priorities . In Germany , at times , the authorities also retreated from reformist intentions regarding the Jews , as in 1849 , when the local parliaments rescinded the emancipatory regulations of the revolutionary year , in response to a wave of petitions and demonstrations against the new enactments . In nineteenth-century Germany , however , liberalism eventually dominated and extensive emancipatory legislation was made possible in the years of economic prosperity and the atmosphere of relative public openness during the 1860 ’s . The annals of Russian Jewry did not know such moments of grace . At times , it was possible in the tsarist Russian Empire to express support for the Jews . Most of the blood libels ended in acquittal , and the Jews belonging to the middle class could at least continue to improve their economic situation , at times study in the universities , and even attain respectable social standing . All these achievements , however , were always partial and temporary . Some of Moscow’s Jews were issued expulsion decrees as late as 1891 ; a numerus clausus limiting the number of Jewish students prevented many from obtaining higher education , and any improvement whatsoever was liable to be merely a fleeting coincidence . The fifth model is characteristic of the Islamic lands with longstanding Jewish communities . Here , too , as in the Christian world , more than one pattern of relations between Jews and non-Jews can be discerned ; but everywhere modernization - in this case , mainly influences from the West - introduced sweeping changes . It should be stressed that secularization in Muslim society differed both in its timing and its intensity from that in the European countries . Notwithstanding this , during the course of the nineteenth century the standing of the Jews in the Muslim world changed from that of “ protected persons ” ( dhimmi ) , whose lives and property were guaranteed but whose inferiority was emphasized in various ways , to that of subjects of equal status , at least formally . But since Jews in North Africa were increasingly identified with the colonial power , their improved standing was also a source of new conflicts , and often resulted in a worsening of relationships with non-Jews . In the Ottoman Empire , extensive reforms during the nineteenth century improved the standing of the Jews , opened before them new economic opportunities , and , to a certain extent , social and cultural mobility , too . These reforms , however , coming “ from above , ” did not lessen the alienation between Jews and non-Jews . Often the Muslim majority’s hostility toward Jews only seemed to worsen . The survey of these five models shows that in the modern era the nature of the regime was the most important variable in determining the relations between Jews and non-Jews . As the autocracy characteristic of the old regime weakened , greater openness and more formal acceptance of the Jews became more probable . Other aspects of

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