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


modernization , including secularization , were of secondary importance . In the United States , for example , a surprising degree of affiliation to church and religious bodies of all types has been maintained to the present . This is accompanied by considerable openness towards a Jewish minority that defines itself in religious terms . Such openness , to be sure , was never absolute , and manifestations of anti-Semitism were never lacking . Generally speaking , however , in a republic that rigorously upholds the separation of religion and state , such manifestations cannot be overly influential . Also in England , despite the difficulty of separating the Anglican faith from the governmental system , and notwithstanding examples of discrimination against non-Anglicans , not just Jews , during the course of the nineteenth century , the atmosphere of openness has been preserved . Recent studies tend to downplay the scope and seriousness of the secularization process in Victorian England , and to stress instead a return to religion and the highlighting of its importance , even in the contexts of clearly modern movements . France , which underwent the processes of economic modernization at a much slower pace than England before it or Germany following it , also experienced only slow and partial secularization during the nineteenth century . At the same time , traditional hatred of the Jews continued to characterize the population in certain regions . This populace succeeded in adapting to the demands for equality and fairness dictated by the more or less liberal regimes that replaced one another during the course of that century , and finally , also to the principles dictated by the republican form of government . Thus , in the modern era , as in the centuries that preceded it , the state once again served as the mainstay of the Jewish minority . However , unlike the basically restrictive situation that was a consequence of the Christian tradition , the Jews could now participate in all aspects of the life of the modern state . In republican France , for instance , they could even fill positions at all ranks of the governmental bureaucracy : in the legal system , in the foreign service , and even in the army . This achievement was put to the test during the Dreyfus affair , in which a relatively high-ranking officer of Jewish origin was charged with espionage and treason . The results , despite the harsh and prolonged struggle , eventually strengthened the emancipatory stance of the republic , and confirmed the faith of French Jewry in their homeland . The diametric opposite was the Russian Empire , that had never accepted the possibility of a Jewish minority with equal rights , and which the Jews saw as an adversary that acted against them at every turn . The relationship that developed between the Jews and the Russian authorities was characterized by mutual hostility ; between the Jews and the French government – by openness ; and all of the intermediate shades could be found in the geographical and ideological expanse between them . Despite the importance of the state for change in the relations between Jews and non-Jews in the modern era , their true standing was not always the result of the structure of the regime or of the relevant legal system . German Jewry provides a fascinating example of a situation in which the Jews underwent a deep process of integration in society and culture , notwithstanding the state’s hesitation and the prolonged debate on the question of formal emancipation . By the late eighteenth century , well-to-do and educated Jews were already accepted , at least partially , in a “ semineutral ” society , as historian Jacob Katz termed it . Entrance to society by means of economic strength was a method known to Jews in the past , as well , but now this process was not limited to an elite of wealthy court Jews ; it was also open to successful urban merchants or fledgling industrialists . Berlin was a magnet for successful individuals of this type , but the striking innovation in the new era was the entry of the educated Jews , who had adopted the values and norms of their social environment . Moses Mendelssohn was the exemplar of this process , but there are many

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