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


Thus , even in the era of rationalism , alienation - if not always direct hatred - continued to characterize the attitudes to Jews , and controversies abounded in this respect . Unlike English deists such as Matthew Tindal , who viewed the Jews as an ignorant and barbarian slave people , John Toland spoke in favor of the Jews . Montesquieu’s tolerance is marked in comparison with that of d’Holbach in France . The anti-Semitic writings of Johann Andreas Eisenmenger could be contrasted with Jüdische Merkwürdigkeiten ( The Peculiarities of the Jews ) by Johann Jakob Schudt . The expectation of conversion is present here , as well , but now there is a concurrent ethnographic interest in the practices and uniqueness of the Jews , with even a measure of respect for their customs and singularity . Finally , decades of secularization enabled the publication of Christian Wilhelm von Dohm’s Über die Bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden ( On the Civil Improvement of the Jews ) , that called for granting the Jews equal rights and attempted to blame their presumed shortcomings on their age-long discrimination . Traces of Christian preconceptions regarding the character and traits of the Jews readily present themselves in Dohm’s tract , too ; and even in the writings of his French counterpart Abbé Gregoire . But in the final analysis , it was enlightened and rationalist thought that dictated the general tone of their books . Now , even a churchman such as Gregoire unhesitatingly placed the blame for the Jews ’ present condition , and what he deemed their negative character traits , on the Christian society that had subjugated them for so long . At this point , even a confident Christian faith could contain a measure of religious tolerance and acknowledge the need to put an end to Jew-hatred . For those who had distanced themselves from Christian dogma , this step was an additional , almost necessary aspect of their liberal stance . But the processes of change were not based solely on secularization . Additional aspects of modernization influenced relations between the Jews and their surroundings : sweeping economic transformations , the process of urbanization , the consolidation of the bourgeoisie , and the creation of the new centralized state -- all left their mark on the status of the Jews and opened new opportunities before them . The transition to a capitalist market economy and the beginning of industrialization lent special importance to the economic activities in which Jews had traditionally been engaged , willingly or not . The Jewish socioeconomic pyramid was headed by the bankers , whose international financial ties enabled them to raise considerable amounts of capital , mainly for the new needs of princes and royalties . The latter sought to establish centralized and more effective rule in their territories , as they reorganized their armies and established active and efficient bureaucracies . In many instances there was no substitute for the Jewish coin-minters and large-scale merchants . But even the Jews at the bottom of this pyramid filled important economic functions . Struggling peddlers , often regarded as a plague , still played an important role in the developing economy . They provided rural dwellers , even in the most remote areas , with essential products , both traditional and new , and connected them with the emerging urban markets . Jewish tax collectors , moneylenders , cattle merchants , and the like , lived in these regions , too , and their role in the modernizing economy now increased . During the course of the eighteenth century some sovereigns encouraged Jews to settle in their lands and afforded them special privileges , in the hope that this would stimulate their economies . The most outstanding among such rulers was Frederick II (“ The Great” ) of Prussia , who permitted Jewish immigration , even to Berlin , the capital of his kingdom . It is noteworthy that he also invited Huguenot émigrés from France , Protestants who had been expelled from Salzburg , and Mennonites from the Low Countries to settle in his domain and contribute to its development . The dominant mercantilist view within his bureaucracy prevailed over theological considerations . These seemed antiquated and irrelevant for the needs of the state economy . And though Jews were obviously not

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