A History of the Jewish People

A History of the Jewish People

A History of the Jewish People

A History of the Jewish People

Excerpt

The history of the Jews is the story of a people inextricably interwoven with that of a religion. Neither can be told apart from the other. It is obvious that there would be no story of Judaism if there were no Jews; but it is just as true that Jews would not have survived the long centuries of their total dispersion had there not been the cement of a religion moulded to their need either to transform or to tolerate the conditions of their corporate and individual lives.

A good example of this pattern was the rabbinic decision that a child of mixed parentage was Jewish only if it was the mother who was Jewish. It appears an illogical decision unless we take into account the historical probability that, if the mother was Jewish, the child was the result of rape and violence practised from outside on a Jewish community, and, if the father, it resulted from the chance liaison of a Jewish traveller away from home. It was obviously wiser for the child born in the community to be regarded as a Jew, and for the opposite to obtain with a child born abroad.

The history of the Jews is not the history of a 'race'; for Jews were not of pure stock at the beginning of their story, and in their dispersion their borrowings have been physical as well as intellectual and spiritual. It is an error to believe that they have never sought or accepted converts. It is best to describe them as a people, a word which is at once sufficiently precise and sufficiently vague to correspond with reality. For, on the one hand, Jews were identifiable as Jews from China to the Atlantic and, on the other, different groups of Jews were integral parts of different civilizations and cultures.

It is by regarding them always as a people that we can escape the error of thinking that, independence and geographical unity . . .

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