The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times

By Reeva Spector Simon; Michael Menachem Laskier et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
5
Religfion: Rabbinic Tradition
and the Response to Modernity

ZVI ZOHAR

Arguably, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were the most dynamic and rapidly changing years of human history. For Judaism, as for many other religions, the central challenge of these years was secularization—the marginalization of religion in social and individual life. Science and technology posed another significant challenge. On a philosophical level science seemed to enable the understanding of nature without a need for the divine; on a more practical level ever more rapid technological advances led to correspondingly rapid change in patterns of everyday life, creating gaps between religion and social reality.

In the eighteenth century the Jewish communities of Western and Central Europe were the first to face the consequences of modernity's challenge to traditional religion. By the midnineteenth century, however, the Jews of most Muslim lands also were feeling the consequences of developments in Europe. By the eve of World War I modernity was significantly affecting Jews in North Africa and the Middle East in direct proportion to their economic status, their level of education, and their urban location. That is to say, a wealthy Jew who had been educated by the Alliance Israelite Universelle (AIU) and who was living in a newly built quarter of Cairo was quite modernized, whereas modernization had little effect on the life of a lower-class Jew educated in a kuttab (religious school for young children) and living in a Kurdish village. The interwar years saw the extension of modernization to large sectors of the Jewish middle and lower-middle classes. After the midtwentieth century, finding any Jew in these regions whose lifestyle and mind-set remained unaffected by modernity would have been extremely difficult.

-65-

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The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Contributors xiii
  • Part 1 - Themes 1
  • Chapter 1 3
  • Chapter 2 - Europe in the Middle East 19
  • Chapter 3 - Economic Lire 29
  • Chapter 4 - Community Leadership and Structure 49
  • Chapter 5 - Religfion: Rabbinic Tradition and the Response to Modernity 65
  • Chapter 6 - Intellectual Lire 85
  • Chapter 7 - Jewish Languages Enter the Modern Era 113
  • Chapter 8 - Education 142
  • Chapter 9 - Zionism 165
  • Chapter 10 - Beliefs And, Customs 180
  • Chapter 11 - Material Culture 205
  • Chapter 12 - Music 224
  • Chapter 13 - The World, or Women 235
  • Part 2 - Country-By-Country Survey 275
  • Chapter 14 - Ottoman Turkey 277
  • Chapter 15 - The Ottoman Balkans 292
  • Chapter 16 - Turkey 303
  • Chapter 17 - Syria and Lebanon 316
  • Chapter 18 - Erets Israel/Palestine, 1800–1948 335
  • Chapter 19 - Iraq 347
  • Chapter 20 - Iran and Afghanistan 367
  • Chapter 21 - Yemen 389
  • Chapter 22 - Egypt and the Sudan 409
  • Chapter 23 - Libya 431
  • Chapter 24 - Tunisia 444
  • Chapter 25 - Algeria 458
  • Chapter 26 - Morocco 471
  • Appendix - Middle East and North African Jewry Cd 505
  • Index 529
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