No Cover Image

Historicism, the Holocaust, and Zionism: Critical Studies in Modern Jewish History and Thought

Copyright Date: 1992
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 328
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Historicism, the Holocaust, and Zionism
    Book Description:

    "[Of] the 12 well-crafted essays in this volume...the most useful are those dealing with the Holocaust."- Choice "Especially recommended for college-level students of Jewish history and culture." - The Bookwatch This is a critical exploration of the most repercussive topics in modern Jewish history and thought. A sequel to Katz's National Jewish Book Award-winning study, Post-Holocaust Dialogues, this book identifies the main issues in the contemporary Jewish intellectual universe and outlines a larger, more synthetic understanding of contemporary Jewish existence.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6354-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xii)

    The present collection brings together essays written over the past decade. Once again, it reflects my ongoing preoccupation with the most important issues in contemporary Jewish thought, in particular, the question of authority and its relationship to historical development, that is, the problem of historicism, the nature and impact of antisemitism in our century culminating in the monumental destructiveness of theShoah,and the meaning of Zionism and its near-miraculous offspring, the State of Israel. Each of these topoi raises difficult and challenging intellectual (as well as existential) conundrums for anyone concerned with the continued vitality of the Jewish People...

  5. 1 On Historicism and Eternity: Reflections on the 100th Birthday of Franz Rosenzweig
    (pp. 1-26)

    In honoring Franz Rosenzweig on this centenary occasion, it is appropriate to ask what it is in his work that brings us together. Is this gathering, for all of its special and genuine poignancy, yet another form of war reparations, the honoring of a long-dead Jewish thinker by his native German city nearly 40 years after theShoah,or is it something else? And if something else, what else can it be? That is to say, there are many who would contend that Rosenzweig’s philosophical and theological contribution was forever buried in the rubble of Nazism, another minor casualty of...

  6. 2 Jewish Philosophy in the 1980s: A Diagnosis and Prescription
    (pp. 27-52)

    The new beginning represented by the creation of this Academy is a significant event of which I feel privileged to be a part. The dialogue that fuels philosophical creativity requires a community of shared interest and support—and these promise to be provided by the sustained experience of our work together. Though in the end philosophical ingenuity is an individual gift, this gift needs to be nurtured and encouraged. It is not accidental that moments of philosophical novelty are almost always the result of a stimulative environment where issues are “in the air” and many minds are all seeking their...

  7. 3 Abraham Joshua Heschel and Hasidism
    (pp. 53-73)

    Abraham Joshua Heschel is now a twice famous name in the annals of Hasidism. It belonged to the beloved early sage, Abraham Joshua Heschel of Apt (d. 1825) and to his great-grandson, our late contemporary Abraham Joshua Heschel (d. 1972). If one believed in the kabbalistic doctrine ofgilgul(transmigration of souls) one might argue that the soul of the first Abraham Joshua had reappeared in the body of the second, but perhaps the more reasonable doctrine ofyiches,noble family tradition, is sufficient to begin to account for the latter’s greatness. Stemming as he did from two major Hasidic...

  8. 4 1918 and After: The Role of Racial Antisemitism in the Nazi Analysis of the Weimar Republic
    (pp. 74-104)

    Post-1918 Europe was a breeding ground for conditions in which racial theory and political reality converged. The final coalescence of these two vectors after 1933 was neither “fore-ordained” nor “historically inevitable,” but rather, one of the fecund possibilities that a traumatized and exhausted post-war Europe generated. The forces and personalities that could have acted to prevent this victory, that could have brought about some other scenario, failed the test, leaving Nazism, and its phantasmagoric racial doctrines, victorious.¹ The causes of this devastating eventuality lie inherent in the fact that from 1918 to theNSDAPseizure of power, German political and...

  9. 5 Quantity and Interpretation—Issues in the Comparative Historical Analysis of the Holocaust
    (pp. 105-137)

    The comparative analysis of the Holocaust with other major historical tragedies turns on three issues at the very least. First, matters of definition and method; secondly, matters of fact; and third, matters of interpretation. In this paper I propose to suggest a definitional and methodological approach to the vexing comparative issue based on a summary review of a number of relevant comparative cases. My carefully chosen cases, all widely referred to in the literature without adequate analysis or nuance, are of two sorts. The first set of putatively parallel examples is drawn from the vast pre-Holocaust, pre-20th century historical experience...

  10. 6 Auschwitz and the Gulag: Discontinuities and Dissimilarities
    (pp. 138-161)

    Scholars and others have, for various reasons, been likening Auschwitz and the Gulag since the 1940’s, and the comparison has become “canonical” since its powerful employment by Hannah Arendt in herOrigins of Totalitarianism,first published in 1951.¹ Today this linkage is again at the center of the historical and normative discussion due to its vital role in the “Historical Debate” generated in Germany by the obscene nationalist apologetics of Ernest Nolte and his supporters.² But is this accepted historical piety correct? I think not. In contradistinction to Arendt and Nolte,³ and others, I want to argue that the usual...

  11. 7 Defining the Uniqueness of the Holocaust: Preliminary Clarifications and Disclaimers
    (pp. 162-192)

    Given the confusion, crossed purposes, and misunderstandings that have accumulated around the evidently contentious question of the “uniqueness” of theSho’ahI should like, in this chapter, to clarify six elemental issues that must be understood aright if any real philosophical advance is to be made in the analysis of this matter.

    In advancing and supporting the position that the destruction of European Jewry between 1933 and 1945 is phenomenologically unique I am not proposing or endorsing any particular theological conclusion(s). It is not at all clear to me that there is a direct, and preferred, theological meaning to be...

  12. 8 Technology and Genocide: Technology as a “Form of Life”
    (pp. 193-224)

    Technology is a determinative, metaphysical factor requiring consideration in any analytic probe of the uniqueness of theSboah. Though the technological element has been recognized as salient from the inception of the debate over Nazism, it is important for analytic purposes to give it heightened prominence as a “normative” category. The quintessence of this designation lies in the recognition that the dominating reality of technology is not merely a matter of a consuming mechanics, but is tied to a larger uncompromising cultural-ideological process that needs to be described through such modalities as “dehumanization,” “rationalization,” “disenchantment,” bureaucracy, and totalitarianism—all transformative...

  13. 9 “Voluntary Covenant”: Irving Greenberg on Faith after the Holocaust
    (pp. 225-250)

    One of the most widely discussed recent theological responses to the Holocaust is to be found in Irving (Yitz) Greenberg’s challenging and provocative writings on this theme. In this chapter I would like to review and critique Greenberg’s analysis of this difficult matter.

    In a series of five articles¹ to date, Greenberg has sketched (I use this term in its literal meaning) his evolving view of the meaning of theShoahand its consequences. His first² and, I believe, still most important statement on the subject was made in the 1973 Symposium on the Holocaust held at St. John of...

  14. 10 “The Tremendum”: Arthur Cohen’s Understanding of Faith after the Holocaust
    (pp. 251-273)

    Among the most sustained recent Jewish theological discussions of theSho’ahis Arthur A. Cohen’sThe Tremendum: A Theological Interpretation of the Holocaust.¹ Though a relatively short book, 110 pages in all, it attacks this immense conceptual issue with all of Cohen’s customary verve and intelligence. No school theologian, either in the dogmatic or systematic sense, Cohen here makes a prodigious effort to strike out in a new, more radical metaphysical direction as a necessary response to the Event with which he deals.

    Four highly ramified theses lie at the root of Cohen’s philosophical reflections. They are: (1) the Holocaust...

  15. 11 Criteria for a Contemporary Zionist Ideology
    (pp. 274-288)

    Exile and return, the twin premises of Zionism, are co-extensive on one fundamental, substantive level with classical rabbinic Judaism. Both are rooted in the negative, empirical odyssey of the Jewish people inside and outside the land of Israel after theChurban Bayit Sheni(the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 c.e.); both perceive the historic status quo as a temporary estrangement (if for how long?), that must necessarily be opposed, finally to be negated and overcome. Moreover, the influence of the latter upon the former, of millennial old Jewish hopes upon modern Zionism, cannot à la, e.g., Amos Elon,...

  16. 12 Zionism as an Expression of Jewish Freedom
    (pp. 289-300)

    Zionism is the momentous Jewish response to modernity. Amid all the diverse and alternating reactions to the unprecedented situation of the Jewish people after 1750, Zionism and Zionism alone insisted, and rightly, that the unresolved and tragically unresolvable tensions, the painful ambiguities, and the dark ironies of the post-Enlightenment landscape required both a political and a fully national response. In the context of 20th century European history, where the optimism of theHaskalahandThe Enlightenment,where the nationalist loyalties of assimilated and Reform Jews, where the insurrectional naivete of the socialists, Bundists, and Marxists, were all devoured in the...

  17. Index
    (pp. 301-316)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-317)