Interim JudaismJewish Thought in a Century of Crisis
Michael L. Morgan
Probes the impact of the 20th century on Jewish belief and practice.
Confronting the challenges of the 20th century, from modernity and the Great War to the Holocaust and postmodern culture, Jewish thinkers have wrestled with such fundamental issues as redemption and revelation, eternity and history, messianism and politics. From the turn of the century through the 1920s, European Jewish intellectuals confronted alienation and the challenges of modernity by seeking secure grounds for a meaningful life. After the Holocaust and the fall of Nazism, the rich results of their thinking -- on topics such as transcendence, redemption, revelation, and politics -- were reinterpreted in an atmosphere of increasing disillusion and fragmentation. In Interim Judaism, Michael L. Morgan traces the evolution of this shift in values, as expressed in the work of social thinkers, novelists, artists, and poets as well as philosophers and theologians at the beginning and end of the century. Focusing on the problem of objectivity, the experience of the transcendent, and the relationship between redemption and politics, he argues that the outcome for contemporary Jews is a pragmatic style of religiosity that has abandoned traditional conceptions of Judaism and is searching and waiting for new ones, a condition that he describes as "interim Judaism."
Michael L. Morgan is Professor of Philosophy and Jewish Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is author of Platonic Piety and Dilemmas in Modern Jewish Thought (Indiana University Press). He has edited The Jewish Thought of Emil Fackenheim; Classics in Moral and Political Theory; Jewish Philosophers and Jewish Philosophy (Indiana University Press); and A Holocaust Reader: Responses to the Nazi Extermination. With Paul Franks, he has translated and edited Franz Rosenzweig: Philosophical and Theological Writings.
Published with the generous support of Hebrew Union College--Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati
July 2001128 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4cloth 0-253-33856-5 $35.00 L / 26.50paper 0-253-21441-6 $15.95 s / 12.50
The three chapters in this book--the 1999 Samuel Goldenson Lectures delivered at Hebrew Union College--reveal the cumulative knowledge of a core debate in Judaism on the dilemma between reason and revelation and its effect on contemporary American Jewish life and thought. Morgan (philosophy and Jewish studies, Indiana Univ.) focuses on three strands of intellectual fabric, namely, the problem of objectivity, the question of transcendence in the human experience, and the view of redemption in historical life, which he calls the problem of messianism and politics. Through a variety of sources and spokespeople, Jew and non-Jew, he stitches religious, political, and philosophical thinking through patches of history and eternity, but there is no clear pattern showing whether the religionist (fundamentalist, existentialist) or the modernist (humanist, naturalist, secularist) patch came from the original cloth. The hand that weaves Jewish civilization, is it divine or human or both? What is seen in American Judaism at the start of a new century is a pragmatic Judaism less of rationalism and more of spirituality without clear concepts of redemption and revelation, made necessary by Auschwitz and Zion. Why? The former eclipsed biblical monotheism and rabbinic Geistesgeschichte, and the latter provided a legitimate and justified Jewish return to history. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and researchers.
--Z. Garber, Los Angeles Valley College "Choice "