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Jews: The Making of a Diaspora People



Jews: The Making of a Diaspora People

Irving M. Zeitlin

ISBN: 978-0-745-66148-3 April 2013 Polity 286 Pages

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This book is a comprehensive account of how the Jews became a diaspora people. The term 'diaspora' was first applied exclusively to the early history of the Jews as they began settling in scattered colonies outside of Israel-Judea during the time of the Babylonian exile; it has come to express the characteristic uniqueness of the Jewish historical experience. Zeitlin retraces the history of the Jewish diaspora from the ancient world to the present, beginning with expulsion from their ancestral homeland and concluding with the Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In mapping this process, Zeitlin argues that the Jews' religious self-understanding was crucial in enabling them to cope with the serious and recurring challenges they have had to face throughout their history. He analyses the varied reactions the Jews encountered from their so-called 'host peoples', paying special attention to the attitudes of famous thinkers such as Luther, Hegel, Nietzsche, Wagner, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, the Left Hegelians, Marx and others, who didn't shy away from making explicit their opinions of the Jews.

This book will be of interest to students and scholars of Jewish studies, diaspora studies, history and religion, as well as to general readers keen to learn more about the history of the Jewish experience.


Chapter One

"Diaspora" on the Genealogy of a Concept

The Relation of Theory to History and the Role of the Ideal Type

Global Diasporas by Robin Cohen

Ethnic Immigration in the Early Eras of American History

Diasporas by Stéphane Dufux

Static Thinking About Dispersion

Powers of Diaspora by Jonathan Boyarin and Daniel Boyarin

The Socratic Inversion of Values

The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness by Paul Gilroy

Children of Israel or Children of the Pharaohs

Black Culture and Ineffable Terror

Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century by James Clifford

Chapter Two

Varieties of Jewish Religious Experience

Resting, however, on Unifying Jewish Religious Principles

Moshe Rosman's Rethinking European Jewish History

Cultures of the Jews

Syncretism in Jewish History

Polytheism and Monotheism

The Nature of Polytheism

Chapter Three

Max Weber's Ancient Judaism

The Hebrew Prophets: The Setting

The Prophetic Ethic

Chapter Four

The Babylonian Empire

The Revolt and the Destruction of the First Temple

The Emigration to Egypt

Chapter Five

The Babylonian Exile and the Persian Supremacy (586-332BCE)

The Diaspora in Babylon and Persia

Chapter Six

Alexander the Great and the new Hegemony of the West

Chapter Seven

The World Diaspora

The Beginnings of the European Diaspora: Greece and Rome

Chapter Eight

The Diaspora in the 1st Century CE

Judaism's Proselytism

Chapter Nine

The Jews in the Roman Near East

Chapter Ten

The Jews Move to Poland

The Chmelnitzky Uprising of 1648-1649

Chapter Eleven

Sabbatai Zevi

Chapter Twelve

Gershom Scholem's Error

Dubnow on the Sabbatian Movement

Chapter Thirteen

The Rise of Hasidism and the Baal-Shem-Tob

Enter the Man, Israel, Who Became the Baal-Shem-Tob (abbreviated the Besht)

The Fundamental Principles of the Besht's Teachings

The Growth of Tzaddikism

Hasidism, Rabbinism and the Forerunners of the Enlightenment

Chapter Fourteen

The Jews of Spain

The Inquisition

The Jews, the Spanish and the "Conversos Problem"

The Aftermath of the Pogroms

Jewish Mysticism: The Kabbalah in Spanish-Jewish Life

Chapter Fifteen

The Expulsion of the Jews from Spain

The Conquest of Granada

Chapter Sixteen

The Enlightenment and the Jews

The English Deists

Varieties of Enlightenment Views on Religion



Rousseau on Judaism and the Jews

Chapter Seventeen

The Germanies

The Emerging German National Mind


Luther's Attitude toward the Jews


Hegel on Jews and Judaism

Chapter Eighteen

The Left Hegelians and the "So-Called" Jewish Question

Bruno Bauer on the "Jewish Question"


Marx's Use of the Terms "Jew" and "Judaism"

Weber vs. Sombart on the Spirit of Capitalism

Chapter Nineteen

From Religion to Race

Afro-American Ð Jewish Parallels

Arthur de Gobineau

Chapter Twenty

From Gobineau and H. Stewart Chamberlain to Wagner

Nietzsche, the Jews, and Judaism

Nietzsche's Legacy

Chapter Twenty One

The Rise of Nazism

The Versailles Treaty

The Origins of the Nazi Party

After the Putsch

Chapter Twenty Two

The Early Nazi Regime and the Jews as Perceived by Non-Jewish Contemporaries

Chapter Twenty Three

The First World War, the Collapse of the Old Regimes and the Rise of Totalitarianism

More on Nazi Ideology, Internal Factions and Foreign-Policy Aims

The Turning Point: The Attack on Poland

Chapter Twenty Four

Max Weber on Bureaucracy and its Relevance for an Analysis of the Shoah (Holocaust)


German Ideology and Bureaucracy

Weber's Serious Error

Chapter Twenty Five

Charisma, Bureaucracy and the "Final Solution"

Raul Hilberg's, The Destruction of the European Jews

The Administration of the Destructive Process

The Reich-Protektorat Area

The Creation of a Centralized authority in Ghettoized Jewish Communities

The Polish Jews under the Nazis

The Jewish Councils (Judenräte)

Nazi Food Controls

Mobile Killing Operations

The Role of the Other Ethnic Groups

Definition of "Jew" Again, and Himmler

Ian Kershaw's Recent Re-Examination of the Issues

Chapter Twenty Six

Leon Poliakov's Complementary Analysis of the Shoah

Hitler's Euthanasia Program


The "Death's Head" Formations (SS Totenkopf)

Back to the Question of a Distinctive German National Character

Significant Political Differences Between Eastern and Western Europe

The Role of the Christian Churches


Chapter Twenty Seven

The Battle of the Warsaw Ghetto

A Reflection on Jewish Resistance

Chapter Twenty Eight

Zionism, Israel and the Palestinians

Theodore Herzl

The Historical Jewish Presence in the Arab World

The Peace Conference of 1919

"The Unseen Question"

Arab Rebellion

Works Cited

"Zeitlin successfully sums up extensive and detailed historical data while keeping them within a framework of the ideas he seeks to get across."
Insight Turkey

"Of Jewish histories there is no shortage. But this remarkable book offers history from the critical perspective of sociology - itself critically examined in the light of history. In short, an intellectual feast."
Norman Miller, Trinity College, Hartford

"This comprehensive study provides a profound discourse on the meanings and boundaries of 'Diaspora' as a central dimension of Jewish history. The author launches his historical tour of diverse Jewish religious, social, geographical, political and cultural communities with a probing "genealogy" of the very concept of Diaspora, including contemporary theories."
Frederick M. Denny, University of Colorado at Boulder

"A prominent sociologist employs the concepts of his discipline to write diaspora Jewish history, as the story of national-religious Jewish peoplehood. Zeitlin shows that separate accounts of Jews living in different nations often miss the real connections in Jewish history."
Jacques Kornberg, University of Toronto