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


The Secularization of Relations between Jews and Non-Jews : An Introduction | Shulamit Volkov Following the destruction of the Jewish political center in Eretz Israel , a singular relationship developed between Jews and non-Jews . This relationship can be defined with the help of two main concepts that do not seem to be immediately obvious in this context : “ Diaspora ” ( pezurah ) and “ minority . ” Both , moreover , entail a number of ideological consequences . “ Diaspora ” describes the results of expulsion and the subsequent migration processes of Jews since antiquity . It also refers to the establishment of separate and dispersed Jewish communities , different in composition from place to place but always preserving a single , common identity . This term is surely less charged than “ exile ” ( Galut ) , with its theological connotation , properly used in the context of divine reward and punishment , and even less charged than the negatively-connoted “ golah ” – yet another Hebrew term for dispersion in foreign lands . “ Diaspora , ” in contrast to “ Exile , ” does not necessarily suggest life under the threat of persecution or humiliation . Nor is it a uniquely Jewish phenomenon . Although the Jewish Diaspora possesses singular characteristics , it and its components can be analyzed with general historical and sociological tools . Thus , for example , most diasporic groups , and not only Jews , have a unique social structure in comparison with the “ host” society . They are often characterized by a special professional distribution and other demographic data that distinguish them from the rest of the local population . Still , over the course of time , Jews have everywhere borne with them a unique consciousness of exile . They interpreted the loss of their political center and their geographical dispersion in terms of heavenly punishment , and within such a context proper relations with the surrounding world could not be expected . In fact , both Jews and Jews believed that tension and hatred born out of religious and historical necessity dictated the relations between them . In practice , however , these relations were not fashioned solely by principles of this sort . They also resulted from the existential needs of Jews and non-Jews in particular situations , from the fact of their permanent proximity , and the reality of the unavoidable contacts between them in every location . Thus , the process of secularization , or more precisely , the at least partial secularization experienced by all Europeans since the second half of the eighteenth century , was only one of the factors leading to the changing pattern of relations between Jews and non-Jews . Various other aspects of modernization , too , helped forge anew the nature of these relations , and the attempt to describe such relations requires terminology relatively free of religious meaning . The term “ minority ” is indeed a modern term . It acquired a distinct meaning only in a world in which the concept of equality gained in significance . Both in theory and in practice , premodern society was

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