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How Judaism Became a Religion: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought
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How Judaism Became a Religion: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  35 Ratings  ·  7 Reviews
Is Judaism a religion, a culture, a nationality--or a mixture of all of these? In "How Judaism Became a Religion," Leora Batnitzky boldly argues that this question more than any other has driven modern Jewish thought since the eighteenth century. This wide-ranging and lucid introduction tells the story of how Judaism came to be defined as a religion in the modern period--a ...more
Hardcover, 211 pages
Published September 11th 2011 by Princeton University Press (first published August 22nd 2011)
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Michael Lewyn
Oct 21, 2014 Michael Lewyn rated it really liked it
This book is a tale of two stories about Judaism. Before the 18th-century Enlightenment, many European Jews lived in self-governing communities. Disputes between Jews were adjudicated by Jewish courts, who could punish Jews for violations of Jewish law (both ritual and ethical).

In the 18th and 19th centuries, as feudalism died, states began to monopolize the use of force. This left Jews with a question: if Judaism is no longer an all-encompassing religious/political system, what is it?

The leadin
Aug 16, 2015 Miriam rated it really liked it
The basic concept, that Judaism might not be a religion, is one that is difficult for the modern mind to grasp and this is where the book is weakest. Greater help in understanding what this means would have been helpful. Nonetheless, Batnitzky covers a remarkable range of philosophers, both Jewish and non, to explore the political and social reasons for relegating Judaism to the limited sphere of religion as well as its implications for the nature and future of Judaism. In the process, she also ...more
Jun 23, 2014 Brian rated it really liked it
Shelves: secularism
The material in the book was at times fascinating, at times a laborious examination of philosophical concepts probably aimed more at philosophers than readers like myself. I learned a great deal about how the concept of "religion" changed over time, and about the modern history of Judaism, in particular about Zionism.

Some aspects of the book made it difficult reading. As mentioned, I think it was aimed at people more schooled in philosophy, with brief mention and little explanation of classic ph
Andrew Pessin
Dec 04, 2013 Andrew Pessin rated it liked it
a useful book review of an overvew of a number of different thinkers from medieval to modern, much stress on 19th-20th century, around the question 'is judaism a religion?' maeaning could it be extracted from its role as the binding force of a well-defined public community and just become the private affairs of emancipated individuals, one small component of their lives separated from the political and civic lives -- i.e. can we be Jews in private while still be citizens of western liberal democ ...more
Dec 20, 2012 Ashton rated it liked it
This book has some interesting subject matter, such as what we consider to be "religion"-- in the Western Protestant sense. However, this book is horribly formatted and choppy. She says that this book arose from her class notes, but that doesn't mean her book should read that way.
Jul 09, 2013 Sue rated it it was ok
Read a few chapters. Densely written, & emphasis more on the "thought" (as in the title) than on the corresponding history, which I think I would have found more interesting.
Jul 13, 2012 Josh marked it as put-down
Shelves: judaism
Couldn't get into this one now, but I hope to try again at some point.
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