Beyond Auschwitz: Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought in America

Beyond Auschwitz: Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought in America

Beyond Auschwitz: Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought in America

Beyond Auschwitz: Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought in America

Synopsis

To this day Jewish thinkers struggle to articulate the appropriate response to the unprecedented catastrophe of the Holocaust. Here, Morgan offers the first comprehensive overview of Post-Holocaust Jewish theology, quoting extensively from and interpreting all of the significant American writings of the movement. Morgan's lucid analysis clarifies the background of the movement in the postwar period, its origins, its character, and its legacy for subsequent thinking, theological and otherwise. Ultimately, Morgan's primary purpose is to tell the story of the movement, to illuminate its real, deep point, and to demonstrate its continuing relevance today.

Excerpt

One of the most important features of the Holocaust's impact on Germans, Christians, and Jews was the problem it raised about the relation between history and self-understanding or memory and identity. For Germans, from the sixties through the eighties, the problem perplexed artists, politicians, historians, and social theorists who were concerned not about the epistemological status of national identity—for they all agreed on its historical situatedness— but about the role of the Nazi era and the ways it threatened the project of national recovery, of constructing an acceptable national character. Guilt and negativity were the issues, and the threat was that Nazi criminality might prevent national recovery and occlude German character.

For Christians and for Jews, the problem concerned the negativity of Auschwitz and the recovery of specific traditions and traditional beliefs, about God, providence, election, mission, and redemption. But for them the central problem is the historicity of self-understanding and its relation to tradition and the past. Auschwitz raises the question whether religious self-understanding is not wholly historical. and it is a radical question, for it seems to fly in the face of the traditionalism of Western religions, their rootedness in transcendence and aspiration for a transhistorical objectivity. Moreover, I have shown that Rubenstein seemed to accept such a view about Judaism; he appreciated the central role of historical interpretation in the construction of Jewish identity and the capacity of a historical event to generate a radical revision in religious, historical life and thinking. For Rubenstein, it is not rational argument that leads to abandoning one vocabulary, one discourse, for another; it is life that does so—life, in the West, in America, at a moment of crisis and threat.

Eliezer Berkovits, an orthodox Jewish theologian and philosopher, once chairperson of the Department of Philosophy at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, who moved to Israel in 1975, examines the same phenomena that . . .

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