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The History of the Jewish Community in Gentile Society: Presidential Address

Rev. Dr. James Parkes

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The History of the Jewish Community in Gentile Society1 By The Rev. James W. Parkes, M.A., D.Phil., D.H.L. (Hon.) IHE key to Jewish history is to be found, not in any single factor, but in the tensions and interplay between two influences which, at first sight, might well seem to be contradictory. The one is the ethical monotheism which developed slowly into a national religion over the centuries of experience which lie between the days of Abraham and those of "the men of the Great Synagogue". The other is the Jewish will to survive as a people. For this determined that of the many migrants and conquerors who swept up and down the eastern Mediterranean sea-board it should have been those whom we call Hebrews, Israelites or Jews who survived. And because they used to the full the opportunities which their central position in the ancient world afforded, they experienced to the full the strange destiny which that position involved. Of itself ethical monotheism could not be held to be the natural basis for the survival as a separate unit of a single people. We have only to contrast Jewish experience with that of Christendom or Islam to see the relevance of such a statement. And, of itself, a national will to survive carries with it no universal implications, but rather suggests that a constant opposition to the pressure of its environment would be a basic condition of survival. Again we have only to think of such people as the Bretons or the Basques to see how natural such an attitude would be. The difference in Jewish destiny lies in part in the determinism of geography. Given the will to survive of a people living on a bridge between greater and more powerful civilisations, and inhabiting a homeland narrow and not all fertile, it was predictable both that such a people should be self-confident enough to receive constant influences from abroad, and that it should itself accept as part of its destiny that many of its children should live in a foreign environment. But it lies still more in the nature of the voluntary experience of the people and the content which they deliberately gave to the revelation which they believed themselves to have received. For ethical monotheism developed within the Jewish society not as a philosophic system or a personal creed, but as the challenge to a particular way of life in which the whole people from ruler to peasant, from priest to emigrant, was personally involved. It was a challenge so profound and so far-reaching that Jewry could not afford to neglect any contribution which the ex? periences of other peoples might offer, nor could it avoid the implications of its experience on the life and destinies of the smallest and remotest of its migrant groups. Hence the story of the Jewish people is the story of a constant interaction between the centre and the periphery, an interaction in which giving and receiving proceeded in both directions. To speak in modern terms it is a story of constant interplay between Israel and the Diaspora; and the experience and contribution of both are equally fundamental, equally essential to the picture as a whole. For this reason it is false to ask that Jews should choose between the concepts of nationalism and assimilation, that they should determine whether they survive as a religion or as a nation, or that, today, they should accept either the dominance of Israel or the independence of the Diaspora. For Jewish history has always embraced within 1 Presidential address delivered before the Jewish Historical Society of England on 8th November, 1950. c 11</page><page sequence="2">12 THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN GENTILE SOCIETY its scope both of the alternatives offered, and while each can be dangerous in isolation, it is by the interaction of the two that health has been maintained. From the very beginning it has been impossible for Israel to consider her religious tradition to be her private affair. Monotheism in any form must be held by its adherents to be universal in its application; and the explanation of the rabbis that the Law was given in the desert to emphasise that it was offered equally to all nations is balanced by the historic fact that the peoples of the Euphrates and the Nile, the cultures of Hammurabi and Ikhnaton, contributed to the spiritual experiences which Abraham transformed, and to the code which Moses proclaimed. And if the migrations of the Jews were the vehicle by which the monotheism of Israel exercised its influence on the nations, they were likewise the source from which Israel herself enriched her own experience. Because of this active interplay between centre and periphery, it is impossible to comprehend the whole of Jewish experience in emigration under the single phrase of "galuth" or exile, and thereby to imply that the eyes of Diaspora Jewry were turned only inward on the homeland, and that their minds were filled only with the thought of return. The thought of exile and return has, indeed, nearly always been present in some measure, because so much of the migration of the Jews has been forced and unhappy. But it has very rarely filled the whole canvas, and even forced migrations have been fruitful in experiences which have enriched the whole subsequent history of Jewry; and these experiences have been made possible only by the fact of exile and the presence of a foreign environment. This paradox is amply displayed by the exile to Babylon which terminated the independent history of the kingdom of Judah. It was certainly forced, and the minds of the exiles were certainly filled with the longing to return. Now in view of the nature of the religion of Judah at the time it might have been expected that the exiles would have done no more than create some pale replica of the Temple worship at Jerusalem, jealously guarding their past rituals, and conforming, as far as they could, to the religious customs of the metropolis. Such an expectation is not fanciful, for litde more than a hundred years later the Jewish community in Elephantine in Egypt, a community of voluntary emigrants rather than exiles, did precisely that, and set up in that city their own temple worship, a worship which the priests of the restored Temple of Jerusalem not unnaturally, refused to recognise. But the Babylonian Jews seem to have accepted at once that no centre was to be found for their communal and spiritual life in some copy of the religious activities of the homeland. Instead of creating a copied temple, they evolved new forms of religious expression appropriate to their situation, and so brought into existence the synagogue, devoted to congregational worship and to the study of their sacred books. It was these exiles who made of Judaism a religion at once democratic and intellectual, and of the Jews a people of the Book. Looking back we may, perhaps, say that in Jerusalem itself these developments, had they come at all, would have come much more slowly. A visible kingship as the natural source of contemporary legal developments, the Temple ritual as the highest expression of religious devotion, and history as something still unfolding rather than something complete to be recorded and preserved, all these would have led to a very different development in the story. Had the return meant the restoration of a new monarchy and a new sovereign state, the Babylonian experiment might have been no more than a brief historical anecdote. As it was, the returned community continued the Babylonian experience and built upon it the whole structure of historic Judaism.</page><page sequence="3">THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN GENTILE SOCIETY 13 The two centuries which followed the Return were centuries of quiet development. As the community grew in strength and numbers there began that voluntary emigration which was to create by the beginning of the Christian era the great Alexandrian Jewish community and others in all the main cities of the eastern Mediterranean, while pioneers had pushed even further afield to both east and west. Up to the time of the destruction of the Temple it can be said that the eyes of those Jews who Hved outside Israel were turned outward to the Hellenistic world around them. Though they formed but one of the many nationalities which mingled in every Mediterranean city, the religious inheritance which they brought with them effectively distinguished them from all others. The normal tendency in that period of religious eclecticism and national mingling was to find that gods differed only in names. When Rome met Greece it found that Jupiter was clearly Zeus. When both met Egypt they identified Zeus-Jupiter with Ammon. Stranger identifications were possible. The many-breasted fertility goddess of Ephesus could become the chaste huntress Diana, and the images doubtless sold as well as before. Like gods and goddesses, mysteries and esoteric rites could pass through similar identifications, and absorb into their bands of initiates members of all the races who thronged the cosmopolitan cities of the Mediterr? anean world. The Jews alone were forced to stand apart, apart but not uninterested. For their religion was not a "mystery" which they could proclaim to be of significance only to themselves. Its implications of universalism, which had first become understood in the prophetic period by the few who had insight, were now generally accepted by the whole people. Their God was the God of the whole earth, and His was the only true worship for man. But this was not all. He had Himself laid down a code of ethical conduct for men to observe, and so revealed His will for all men. To hold such a faith was inevitably to communicate it, if only by example. But, in fact, the Jews did more. The whole of the Scriptures had by this time been translated into Greek by the Jewish scholars of Alexandria, and contained ample material to interest the Hellenistic world. The ritual laws might leave Gentiles uninterested, or, more dangerously, appear, as Paul was to find, an initiation into a new mystery religion; but the monotheism of the prophets and the combination of homely wisdom with deep piety in the Wisdom literature could be powerful attractions. Nor must we omit the influence of the living Jewish communities. The readiness with which Julius Caesar gave them such concessions as made their loyalty to their religion compatible with loyalty to Rome is proof enough that Jews were felt to be good citizens. Jewish communities by their very presence drew Gentiles to study the nature of their communal life, a study which did not always lead to the contempt of a Juvenal or the misunderstandings of a Tacitus. Indeed it was natural that the Greeks, with their intellectual curiosity, and the Romans, with their puritan background, should have been interested in their Jewish neighbours. Every Jewish community became the centre of some degree of missionary effort; and the vagueness with which the rabbis defined the Noachic commandments is itself evidence that they were attempting to find solutions for a variety of situations resulting from such activities. We may assume that in an ordinary community, composed as it was likely to have been of merchants, business men and artisans, it was the strong ethical emphasis and the puritanism of Jewish life which was the attracting influence. But in Alexandria more was possible, and Jewish scholars put forward their revealed religion as the ultimate philosophy, the goal of reason sought by the Greeks, revealed to men by the ultimate c*</page><page sequence="4">14 THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN GENTILE SOCIETY Power in the universe itself. Men like Philo offered their Greek friends the reconciliation of religion and reason by their skilful combination of the revealed Tor ah with the Divine Wisdom which was the source of its revelation. The vast majority of Jewish literature in Greek must have perished. But in what remains we can see the elaborate apologetic which was offered to the Gentile world, and it is now generally recognised that the missionary activities of the Jewish communities were far more extensive and far more successful than used to be believed. The quotation, frequently repeated, that a proselyte is as harmful to Israel as a scab to the skin cannot be held to dispose of the issue. Roman Christian law, the frequent canons of Church councils, as well as much literary evidence right down to the time of the Carolingian renaissance and even later, all testify to the attractive power of Judaism as revealed in the lives of the scattered Jewish communities. But it is not only in Christian sources that the evidence is to be found. The classic conversion of the Khazars and the story of Helena of Adiabene are but the most familiar examples of a missionary activity to the north, east and south of Palestine which endured over a millenium and has left traces up to this day. Little of this expansion from the Diaspora communities was due to the activities of missionaries of the type with which we become familiar in Christian history. It is true that the family of Helena is said to have been converted through the zeal and energy of a single Jewish merchant, Ananias of an Assyrian town, Charax Spasini; but normally it was the presence of a whole Jewish community which exercised the influence. Some of these communities were primarily caravan stations, and it is the caravan routes of Jewish traders which are responsible for the survival into modern times of traces of Judaism as far afield as West Africa, and which brought into being Jewish communities as widely separated as the North African Berbers, the black Jews of India, the Falashas of Abyssinia and the Chinese Jews of Kai Feng Fu. Vast as this expansion was, in terms of both area and numbers, it is insignificant compared with the results of a different method by which ideas born and nurtured within the Jewish community, and spread by the Jewish Diaspora, expanded into the world. For Christianity and Islam are both religions born out of a Jewish background, both expressions in different ways of beliefs and practices which first saw the light within the Jewish community. The link between monotheism and righteous living, with whatever differences in theology, was a fundamental to the Christian Church as to the Jewish Synagogue ; and it is increasingly recognised how much the early theolo? gians of Islam supplemented the inadequacies of Muhammad's knowledge by direct application to Jewish scholars. They not only drew from them the framework of Muslim conceptions of worship, but were also deeply indebted to the Talmudists for the methods of interpretation, and the evolution of principles of codification, whereby the scattered pronouncements of Muhammad were welded into the complex system of Sharia law. During this long period it may be said that the gaze of Diaspora Jews was turned almost wholly outward. They expressed and transmitted to their environment a tradition and way of life which they had received; they did not seek to modify or to add to it out of their contacts and experience. To this statement there are two important ex? ceptions?Alexandria and Babylon. The Judaism evolved at Alexandria wore a philosophic dress, and by the use of allegory and symbolism softened the sharp edge of the Biblical text to make something more acceptable to a Greek environment. This Hellenisation had a powerful influence on the nascent Christian Church, but it was wholly rejected by the scholars of Jerusalem</page><page sequence="5">THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN GENTILE SOCIETY 15 and Galilee. They were prepared to make those minor accommodations with the world around them which invested with a Jewish religious dress customs and beliefs of their neighbours which were not in themselves offensive. The Christian Church did much the same when it transformed the spirits of fountain and spring into Christian saints. But more they would not do, and almost a millenium was to pass before the Greek inheritance passed into Jewry through the Islamic environment of Saadia and Maimonides. If the Alexandrian synthesis was rejected, the connections between Palestine and Babylon became closer and closer, until Babylon for almost half a millenium could occupy the centre in the story almost as authoritatively as Jerusalem. This relationship was unique alike in quality and duration. It was symbolised by such stories as that Shemaiah and Abtalion, leaders of Palestinian Jewry at the beginning of the Herodian period, were not merely of Babylonian stock, but actually descended from Sennacherib; and it was expressed historically in the Babylonian origin of the elder Hillel, the ancestor of the Palestinian patriarchs. As the power of Palestinian Jewry waned with the in? creasing Christianisation of the country after Constantine, the effective leadership of the whole Jewish world passed to Babylon, and remained there as long as the great rabbinic schools in that country endured. When they passed away, such authority in the hands of a single Diaspora Jewry passed likewise, never to be repeated. Thence? forward Judaism itself, like the Jewish people, lived dispersed, and its influence radiated from a dozen simultaneous or successive centres. Babylon had marked a necessary transition from the normal condition in which a people live united in a single country to this unique dispersion, and so made possible the effective survival both of Jewry and of Judaism. It had confirmed and strengthened the conception of a people whose religious life centred in a Book, and had made that life so self-contained that every ghetto synagogue could be an equally real centre of Jewish thoughts and hopes, spiritually secure from external influence or pressure. The period which followed cannot be defined by exact dates. It was the result of processes which only gradually became operative. The interplay of influence did not stop everywhere at the same time; the nature of the relationships between Jewry and the environing world did not change everywhere simultaneously. All mutual influences between Judaism and Christianity had ceased centuries before those between Judaism and Islam became operative. But gradually the characteristic of the period, that Jewish communities lived isolated by religious barriers and physical restrictions and humiliations, came to be true of the whole Jewish world. It was to continue in western Europe until emancipation, in eastern Europe almost until the massacres of Hitler, while in Islamic lands it still survives today. In spite of the restrictions under which Jewish life was lived, two outstanding examples of the old pattern of the influence of Diaspora Jewries occurred during the period. In the days of the Abbasid califate in Baghdad, in Egypt under the Ayyubids, and in the western califate in Spain, Jews at last accepted the Greek contribution which they had rejected in its Alexandrian guise, and enriched Judaism both philosophically and culturally from the store house of Hellenistic-Arabic metaphysics, scholarship and poetry. The other example is of the radiation outwards of Jewish thought. From the Christian Hebraists and scholastic philosophers of the Middle Ages, through the cabbalists of the Renaissance and the Protestant sects of the seventeenth century, to the great Talmudists like Seiden, Spencer or Surenhuis, there re-enter the Christian world influences, not trifling if not fundamental, mediated by the contacts of Jewish contemporaries with individual Christians.</page><page sequence="6">16 THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN GENTILE SOCIETY The central phenomenon of this period, however, does not lie in the religio-cultural fields in which we have previously traced the interplay of influences between the Jewish emigration and its centre on one hand, and its Gentile environment on the other. Jewish experience now enters a new field over a large area of the dispersion. In Islamic lands Jews were neither the only religious minority, nor the only depressed class, and as the tide of Muslim culture receded they shared in the universal stagnation which gradually infested the whole Islamic world. But within the area of western Christendom, Jewish immigrants emerged as an economic class. The belief that Jews have always been skilful dealers in financial affairs has no basis in history. Anecdotic though it may be, it is at least worth recalling that the earliest recorded European Jewish money-lender lies at the bottom of a well into which his Christian debtor pushed him on the only occasion of which we have evidence that he sought to collect a debt. This argues litde financial skill, but is, even so, not the whole story. He shares that watery grave with his no more skilful Christian partner. One may at least say that one element of truth lies at the bottom of that well. It is, I think, equally fantastic to follow scholars like Sombart in the search for some subtle feature in Judaism itself which, a thousand years after its formulation, was to discover the Jews suddenly to an astonished world as possessed of an inherent financial genius. The truth is not less interesting, but much more prosaic. It lies neither in their racial, nor in their religious, inheritance, but is a consequence of their social status as restricted immigrants, compelled to seek a living on the margin of the occupations already monopolised by older residents. In a stagnant society such a situation means a life next door to beggary. In a developing society it offers unlimited, if dangerous, opportunities; and it is worth noting that it is in Europe and the western world that this development took place, and that it has no parallel in Jewish life under Islam. At the moment I am not concerned whether, from the Jewish point of view, the European development was desirable or not. I am simply concerned, as a historian, to get the true picture of the experience of Diaspora Jewry. The passage of a sufficient number of Jews into dealing in money for it to be characterised as a Jewish occupation, arose naturally out of the fact that many Jews were merchants, and this in turn was a natural consequence of their position in Roman and later society. In mediaeval Europe they were never the only money-lenders, and rarely the most important. The oft-repeated statement that "the Church forbad usury" proves that no Christians were usurers only to the extent that the statement that the Church forbad adultery would prove that all adulterers were Muhammadans. The papacy itself was the money-lender and financial monopolist of mediaeval Europe with the largest resources, and not the most savoury reputation. Nevertheless Jews occupied a particular niche in the money market, and it is that which is relevant. In the development of European agriculture Jews played a particular part by lending to the lesser landowners and farmers, who were among their main clients, money between seed-time and harvest, and this filled a dangerous gap in the agricultural economy of the time. They also played a part, if unwillingly, in the development of public revenues. These classes owed military service, but no financial dues in peace time. Because Jews were the exclusive property of their prince, the debtors of the Jews contributed willy nilly to the revenues of the prince. He fixed their rate of interest by reference to the emptiness of his coffers, and whenever he was short of money simply collected such of the debts owed to his Jews as he needed, or else extracted so much money from</page><page sequence="7">THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN GENTILE SOCIETY 17 his Jews that they were compelled to call in their loans. In either case the main bene? ficiary, in the long run, was the prince, and a century of the occupation left any Jewry which had been compelled to indulge in it in a state of exhaustion. But the interesting point: about this aspect of Diaspora life is its apparently inexhaust? ible ingenuity. As one chapter closed another opened. The Jewries of western Europe were ruined or expelled by the fourteenth century. In 1344 Casimir the Great, one of the most brilliant rulers of Poland, confirmed and extended the ancient charter of Polish Jewry, and invited Jews to his kingdom as merchants and intermediaries, two classes which the Polish stratified society of landowners and peasants could not produce of itself. In a century, Jewish numbers are calculated to have swelled from 50,000 to half a million; and for some two hundred years the Jewish community, stable and self governing, was a hive of intellectual, as well as public and private economic activity. But the inherent instability of the Polish constitution led to the ruin of the country, and to a decline of the Jewish position in the seventeenth century; and the centre of the picture shifts again. Expelled from the Iberian peninsula at the end of the fifteenth century, or slipping out of the country as Marrano refugees during the succeeding period, Spanish Jews found a new field of activity in the colonial and Levantine trades which were growing rapidly in western Europe. Their friendly relations with Islam gave them almost a monopoly to the east, while their knowledge of Spanish and Portuguese assured them an important place in that to the west. In both they were pioneers, bringing enormous wealth into their new centres of Antwerp, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Bordeaux and London. In the eighteenth century it was the turn of the Jews of Germany. After the end of the Thirty Years' War Germany entered a slow period of reconstruction, and towards the end of the seventeenth century the situation clarified itself into a struggle of innumer? able princes to undermine the still mediaeval constitutions of their states, and to establish themselves as toy Louis Quatorze's, living in luxurious palaces, surrounded by magnificent courts, and enjoying absolute authority over their subjects. The only impediment to the realisation of this fashionable ambition was that from the Emperor downwards all were in debt, their countries were still too poor for them to increase taxes, their royal demesnes were either pawned or in ruins, and their mediaeval constitutions had an uncomfortable capacity for enquiring too strictly into the need for any financial resources which the princes might demand. Within a few decades the only method of resolving the dilemma had been universally adopted. From emperor to bishop, every prince and princeling had his court Jew. The court Jew was prepared to take over the work of the incompetent, often hereditary officials who grew rich out of providing necessities for the army; and the prince found that food and clothing, fodder and ammunition actually reached his forces. He was prepared to take over the customs, and the prince found revenue actually reached his coffers ; the royal demesnes, and he found himself a prosperous landowner; the con? cessions for salt, mining or industrial development, and he found that he, as well as the concessionaire, actually drew a profit from the enterprises. Did he wish to make war or peace, acquire a throne for his son, a husband for his daughter, an electoral hat for himself, jewels for his wife, a palace larger than his neighbour's for his court, for all there was the same answer. He needed a court Jew. Of these curiously com? petent, and usually honest officials, there were whole dynasties. Some single merchants managed, themselves, to be court Jew to half a dozen different princelings at the same time; sometimes whole families with sons and sons-in-law, brothers and cousins, who</page><page sequence="8">18 THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN GENTILE SOCIETY with their domestics might make up a household of a hundred persons, together shared the privileged position of residence in some otherwise forbidden city, and managed between them all the prince's affairs, created factories, developed trade, improved the financial system, and among many abuses and not a few absurdities, laid the foundations of the modern economy of Germany. It was the period known as baroque, with its swirling wealth of stucco detail, its facades, its glitter, its pomp and violence. And in Jewish history it is the most baroque episode one could find, with its sudden rises to fortune, its sudden falls, its crazy magnificence reared on a structure of still crazier debts, and its usual end in ruin, if not in disgrace. For there was one principle common to all princes, that the unfortunate court Jew need not be paid back what he lent; and indeed, did a prince die, it was a matter of principle for his successor or for the estates of his principality to make a counter claim larger than the debt actually owed. The Rothschilds were more fortunate than their predecessors. By the time that they succeeded to the line of the Oppenheimers, the Wertheimers, the Arons, the Liebmanns, Lehmanns and a dozen other dynasties, the profession had become safe, and emancipation gave a security their predecessors had never known. As the colourful court Jew passes, to be succeeded by the banker, the centre of pioneering activity changes again. This time it is to be found in Moldavia, the northern province of the principality of Rumania. Moldavian Jews entered the country from Poland, to escape the disorders attendant on the partitions of the end of the eighteenth century, or from Russia, to escape the harsh rule of Nicholas I. Their numbers rose from 12,000 in 1803 to 120,000 in 1840. They came as penniless refugees to a country which general poverty and public incompetence had reduced almost to a desert. The peasants and many of the landowners were illiterate, there was no general trade, and no commercial class. In 1859, when Rumania was recognised as a European constitu? tional principality, its foreign trade stood at 210 million gold francs; the country was covered by a network of busy market towns ; and western industrial goods had become familiar even in the cottages of the peasants. Almost the whole of this development was a Jewish creation; the population of the market towns was in some cases a hundred per cent. Jewish; they held by mortgage a substantial portion of the estates of the landowners; and the buying and selling which went on in the villages was almost exclusively in their hands. In fact, the economic foundations of modern Rumania were primarily laid by Jewish immigrants and their immediate descendants. At the end of the eighteenth century, a wholly new phase opens, that of the emanci? pation of the small, but prosperous and important, western Jewries. On the surface this might be said to have split Jewry into two, since the immense majority of the people, both in eastern Europe and in Africa and Asia, remained in the depressed social and economic conditions of the previous millenium. But this is not so. In spite of all the differences of outlook which undoubtedly existed, the ease with which Jews could pass individually from the eastern into the western society reveals that the underlying unity of their long history had not yet been broken. Nor had its basic quality altered. There is still the same dual vision, outward and inward, the same interchange of influences both within Jewry, and outward between Jewry and the environing Gentile world. Nevertheless the differences inherent in the new situation and in the new opportunities cannot be minimised. The central fact that emerges is that for the first time since the destruction of Jerusalem, the protective shell within which Jewry grew and developed its own peculiar characteristics had been broken. Outwardly it was broken by the falling of the ghetto</page><page sequence="9">THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN GENTILE SOCIETY 19 walls and the admission of Jews, individually, into full participation in the Gentile society around them. Inwardly it was broken by the inability of Jewish Orthodoxy, hardened by the tragedies of the preceding centuries, to retain that flexibility of its youth which had enabled it to cope successfully with the equally severe shock of the destruction of the Temple and the State seventeen hundred years earlier. On that occasion the crisis brought unity out of diversity. This time it broke up the unity into competing interpretations of Jewish destiny. It is interesting that the Court Jews, living at the centre of that flux of religious, political and scientific empiricism which makes the eighteenth century a fascinating epoch in western history, were wholly untouched by this environment. They satisfied their religious instincts by financing magnificent new editions of the Talmud, and by enriching with costly baroque ornament the traditional appurtenances of their synagogues. The new leaders of western Jewry had no such easy escape from their environment. In the new period economic activity, important as it undoubtedly remains, passes into the third place in our interest. For, paradoxical as it may seem, the first place must be given to the emergence of the Jewish people as a political entity. By this I do not mean that it became nationalistic or Zionist. Indeed the reverse is obviously true. Jewry for many decades after emancipation was passionately assimilationist. What I mean is that the expectations of Napoleon, for example, were not realised. He emancipated individuals, and looked to their becoming Frenchmen. In a measure they did; but they did not forget that they were Jews, however much they appeared to etiolate their Jewish inheritance. They remained conscious of being members of a separate community, and it was as communities that they made demands in the political field, both for themselves and for their brethren in less fortunate lands. In some respects the Jewish story of the period is paralleled, in England for example, by that of the Roman Catholics, and so could appear to reinforce the idea that Jewry is a purely religious entity. But in some respects it has equally close affinities both with the social strivings of the labour movement, and the nationalist strivings of other minorities. No ordinary definition of religion could cover most of the work of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, the Anglo-Jewish Association, of ORT, or of ICA. Jewry, in fact, had become a political entity, of which the main stream was strongly antinationalistic. The second place in this new period of Jewish history must be given to the individual Jew, now differentiated from his all-embracing Jewish environment, and seen for and by himself as a free citizen of one of the western societies. Whole volumes have been written on the Jewish contributions to every department of nineteenth century western fife, scientific, cultural, social and political, and in the main these volumes record the activities of individuals, sometimes only remotely connected with contemporary Jewish communal life. And yet they are justifiably called Jewish contributions. For, though they were expressed in a different field of action, they were expressions of the character? istics which we have already encountered in Jewish history. In the first place there was the ready adaptability to the opportunities offered by the non-Jewish environment; and, in the second place, there was the contribution, in new terms, to that environment of ideas and experiences already rooted in the Jewish past. The one gave Europe a whole galaxy of statesmen, scholars, scientists and technicians; the other determined the immense Jewish contribution to social and political reform. The struggle for justice, fundamental in Jewish thought and sharpened by Jewish experience, expressed itself as naturally in the participation of individual Jews in the whole liberal and working class movement, as it did in the battle of Jewish communities for better conditions</page><page sequence="10">20 THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN GENTILE SOCIETY for their less fortunate brethren. And the result was the same as when a similar phenomenon had arisen in the religious field, and had led to the "hiving off" of Christianity and Islam. Many such Jews merged themselves completely into the field of their struggle and left the Jewish community, to become leaders of liberal, radical and socialist parties. Not less fascinating or far-reaching were the consequences of the inward gaze of Diaspora Jewry. The influence of the new Gentile environment on a religious core whose task for centuries had been conservation and not sensitivity was inevitably tremen? dous. Some of the new pressures were frankly iconoclastic, but most of them were sincere and genuine attempts to effect a synthesis between the new experience and the ancient tradition. Movements such as that of the Me'assefim, or the distinguished group of German Jewish scholars associated at Berlin, Koenigsberg and Breslau in the development of J?dische Wissenschaft, or the Haskala, or the French scholars grouped around the Societe des Etudes Juives, all in their different ways sought to enrich the spiritual and cultural world of Jewry by studies and interpretations in which minds trained in the philosophies of Kant and Hegel, or Soloviev, and in the scholarship of Berlin and the Sorbonne, were brought to bear on Judaism and Jewish history. But the result was inevitably the breaking up of the old unity, for not all Jews were prepared to recognise that reinterpretation was necessary. Reform movements came into existence, and, in particular, as the Jewry of America waxed in numbers and importance, it took on forms owing more and more to the American Protestant environment. Before the century closed two new developments ushered in the modern period. One was the rebirth, in new forms, of antisemitism. The other was the emergence of a nationalist programme out of a combination of the political activity of the emanci? pated communities, the pressure of its new experience on the core of Judaism, and the external pressure of the antisemitic movement. With this new phase I am not at present concerned. It is time rather to sum up the results of this survey of the long history which has preceded it. The first point which I would make is that I have been dealing throughout with one aspect only of the picture, or rather, looking at the picture from one viewpoint only?that of the Jewish community in Gentile society. To make up the whole it would be necessary to survey the Jewish scene from the inside also, to trace the influence of the land of Israel on the changing fortunes of the emigrant communities, and the development within Jewry, and out of the Jewish environment itself, of religious move? ments, such as Karaism or Hassidism, and, above all, rabbinism. But while these different approaches would be needed to make the picture complete, I do not believe they would alter or modify that which emerges from our present study. The two other approaches would emphasise what is normal in Jewish history. They would show the motherland exercising its influence on the affections of her distant sons, a source of pride in prosperity, of inspiration in distress. They would show Jewish history, as the centuries wore on, enriched and developed from native sources and broadening with the experience of the centuries. It is from the standpoint which I have been treating in the previous pages that the high lights are on the unusual aspects of the picture. All nations influence their neighbours and are influenced by them. All great cultural nations can trace their cultures to many sources; and all nations whose sons have colonised and emigrated have been influenced by the fresh experience of the pioneers. But that experience in Jewish history, while akin in kind, is most exceptional in degree.</page><page sequence="11">THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN GENTILE SOCIETY 21 It would be difficult to produce a parallel to the closeness and intensity of the mutual influence between motherland, migrant and environment. It would be difficult to show such rich streams flowing in to the central pool of experience from such varied, distant, and, at times, temporary experiences; and it would be difficult to find an influence spreading from a centre as pervasive, as omni-competent, as the rabbinic Judaism born in Galilee and hammered out to its full form in Babylon. It would likewise be difficult to find an emigration so rich in influence on its foreign environment. The creation of the world's two other monotheisms would alone stamp the Jewish experience as unique. But the contribution to European economy is, at the least, most unusual. First, merchants in the Dark Ages. That is nothing special; they shared the function with Greeks, Byzantines, and other Mediterranean peoples. But then, as the other merchants, qua Christians, were absorbed, or, qua Muslims, were excluded, their role becomes more exceptional. Their position as private princely property marks them off still further. And from that stems the closing of two gaps, first in agriculture?and we should not forget that the mortgage by which so many of us "own" our houses is a product of a system evolved for Jewish loans to farmers and landowners seven or eight hundred years ago?and then in public revenues. From the princely point of view it was a shortsighted policy. Their Jews are soon sucked dry. But, penniless, they move eastwards and create a new economy in Poland. Poland sinks under the burden of her constitutional incompetence. Within a generation other Jews are richly engaged in pioneering the ocean trade to east and west. The episode of the Court Jews in Germany and the creation of the Rumanian economy are perhaps the two most extraordinary episodes of this long series. Of all it is true to say that they showed an astonishing general level of competence ; and I suspect that it is equally true to say that, relative to the standards of their time and the risks of their enterprises, these Jewish adventurers were more than "indifferent honest." The economic story of the Jews of Europe would be enough to mark their story as remarkable. But not less remarkable is the contribution to European culture and politics from the nineteenth century emancipation. I am not going to try and delve into reasons, a happy region of usually subjective speculation. I am content as a historian to record. But we can, at least, make an estimate of the character of Jewish history in the light of these experiences. If we take a narrow nationalistic view we shall regret the foreign influences enshrined in the heart of Judaism, and see in the Jewish contribution to foreign societies only loss, and gifts piteously rewarded by persecution and denigration. If we take the view that no nation lives to itself, save to stagnate, then the colours change completely. The Jewish contribution, stemming alike from their religion and their dispersion, is a magnificent record; but what is significant for us is the intimacy with which the Jewish communities in Gentile society are intergrated into the Jewish whole. Without them it is not an exaggeration to say that there is no Jewish history. For that history is made up of the continuous and creative interaction between centre and periphery, and an interplay, as extensive as circumstances permitted, between that whole and its non-Jewish environment. The Jewish emigrant community is seen as from one standpoint an exile community, constantly related, whether as giver or recipient, to a centre, and, from the other standpoint, as itself the centre from which there is a constant radiation out to its environment, whether that radiation expresses itself in religious, cultural or economic terms. When we consider more closely the nature of the contribution made to the Gentile environment, than any Gentile like myself cannot but express the deepest shame and</page><page sequence="12">22 THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN GENTILE SOCIETY horror at the suffering inflicted on the Jew over so many centuries. The Jewish con? tribution, whether to Christendom or to Rumanian economy, has been accepted without gratitude and repaid with contumely and blows, and, in our own days and our own civilisation, with mass extermination. But we must see this destiny in perspective. On the sombre tapestry of the still brief history of human civilisations it is Jewish survival, not Jewish suffering, which stamps the story of the Jewish people as unusual, if not unique. From the Christian monasteries and villages destroyed by the Northmen, to the Mediterranaen city civilisation overwhelmed first by the barbarians, then by the Arabs, from the caravan cities destroyed by Genghis Khan or Tamerlane to the ancient societies of Mexico and Peru destroyed by the Spaniards, from the Armenian in Turkey to the negro slave in America, the pages of human history are stained with blood. But they record few survivals such as that of the Jewish people, and that survival they owed in large measure to the lively dynamic of the interplay between the Diaspora communities and their centre on the one hand and their Gentile environment on the other.</page></plain_text>

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