MODERN JEWISH ILLIBERALISM
David B. Starr
The Enlightenment changed Jewish life irrevocably, introducing notions of rationalism, individualism, and progress into the world of tradition. The Enlightenment in turn aroused great opposition, and suffered crises. We may see modern Jewish history through the lense of that encounter: if Jewishness became tied to the fate of the Enlightenment, and if the Enlightenment faltered if not failed, what then? This course constitutes both a teaching and an invitation to begin working through this interesting question.
Background reading for us all to enjoy: any and all of Isaiah Berlin’s writings, many of which focused on what he called the “Counter-Enlightenment.” He’s a delight to read. One text in particular is The Roots of Romanticism, but others would bring you into this thought-world. Mark Lilla’s recent book The Stillborn God is indispensable, though it focuses on the the particular issue of the nexus between religion and politics. A denser text is David Myers’ Resisting History, which deals with the opposition to 19th century historicism.
January 22 Hatam Sofer/Hungarian Orthodoxy
January 29 Zionism: Berdichevski and Brenner
February 19 Solomon Schechter and Catholic Israel
March 11 Franz Rosenzweig, “The New Thinking”
March 18 Gershom Scholem, “letter to Franz Rosenzweig”
March 25 Isaac Breuer/Agudat Yisrael
April 1 Leo Strauss
April 8 TBA