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The Impact of the Holocaust on Jewish Theology

Steven Katz

Publication Year: 2005

The theological problems facing those trying to respond to the Holocaust remain monumental. Both Jewish and Christian post-Auschwitz religious thought must grapple with profound questions, from how God allowed it to happen to the nature of evil.

The Impact of the Holocaust on Jewish Theology brings together a distinguished international array of senior scholars—many of whose work is available here in English for the first time—to consider key topics from the meaning of divine providence to questions of redemption to the link between the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel. Together, they push our thinking further about how our belief in God has changed in the wake of the Holocaust.

Contributors: Yosef Achituv, Yehoyada Amir, Ester Farbstein, Gershon Greenberg, Warren Zev Harvey, Tova Ilan, Shmuel Jakobovits, Dan Michman, David Novak, Shalom Ratzabi, Michael Rosenak, Shalom Rosenberg, Eliezer Schweid, and Joseph A. Turner.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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Editor’s Introduction

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pp. 1-2

In the 1960s and ’70s the issue of post-Holocaust theology received a burst of attention. Among the seminal Jewish works on this subject produced in this period were Richard Rubenstein’s After Auschwitz (Indianapolis, 1966) and The Cunning of History (New York, 1975); Emil Fackenheim’s most important contributions, God’s Presence in History (New York, 1970) and ...

Part I. The Holocaust

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pp. 3-4

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Chapter 1. Is There a Religious Meaning to the Idea of a Chosen People after the Shoah?

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pp. 5-12

I prefer the above formulation of the problem of Jewish self-understanding after the Shoah because it emphasizes the emotional and intellectual difficulties that are involved in it. The idea of a chosen people established the self-consciousness of the Jewish people from its inception in the Babylonian exile to its second return to Zion. It seems that the Jewish people ...

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Chapter 2. The Issue of Confirmation and Disconfirmation in Jewish Thought after the Shoah

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pp. 13-60

Karl Popper, in particular, has taught modern thinkers that in assessing the truth of a proposition it is necessary to state the conditions under which the proposition would not be true. Since Popper’s initial work on this issue, it has become clear that the matter is not as straightforward as he, with his specific philosophical, logical, and scientific assumptions, ...

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Chapter 3. Philosophical and Midrashic Thinking on the Fateful Events of Jewish History

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pp. 61-81

In the following discussion, I would like to make a statement with regard to the interpretation of fateful events in Jewish history in the overall context of Jewish thought. More precisely, I would like to make a statement concerning the relative strengths and weaknesses of two types of Jewish thinking with regard to what I view as the two fundamental responsibilities ...

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Chapter 4. The Holocaust Lessons, Explanation, Meaning

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pp. 82-109

Just as standing upon sacred ground requires us to remove our shoes, and those entering the Holy of Holies remove any golden garments, so do I feel myself obligated, when writing about the Holocaust, to, so to speak, remove my academic robe—and declare that I am not speaking in the name of any academic discipline, but purely in terms of my own most ...

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Chapter 5. Between Holocaust and Redemption Silence, Cognition, and Eclipse

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pp. 110-131

My subject is the history of Jewish thought that existed during and through the years of the Holocaust in ultra-Orthodox circles. I will not be dealing with a central concept of Jewish thought, such as exile or chosenness, systematically, and will be covering material only from 1938 to 1947. In particular, I will focus on the issue of messianism within ultra-Orthodoxy, ...

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Chapter 6. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Thought about the Holocaust since World War II The Radicalized Aspect

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pp. 132-160

An element of theological absolutism has emerged within ultra-Orthodox Jewish thought since World War II. The anti-Zionism of the wartime period has been radicalized to the point of alleging an association between secular Zionism and Nazism. Religious Zionism has moved from the wartime theme of Israel’s change of mind about ascending to the land of ...

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Chapter 7. Theological Reflections on the Holocaust Between Unity and Controversy

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pp. 161-174

The Holocaust is, first and foremost, a feature and segment of history, that of the European Jews and that of the Christian nations of Europe and their largely post-Christian societies. But the educational, social, and existential concern with the subject is not primarily located in the discipline of history. On the firm basis of historical studies, two fundamental ways of presenting ...

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Chapter 8. Building amidst Devastation Halakic Historical Observations on Marriage during the Holocaust

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pp. 175-193

The conventional combination of words in the phrase “halakah in the Holocaust” is an ostensible oxymoron. “Halakah” denotes continuity, permanence, an ordering of personal and public life in view of Torah laws, an adherence to a path paved since time immemorial. The origin of the word “halakah” is the Hebrew root heh-lamed-khaf—a “walking” on a ...

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Chapter 9. Two Jewish Approaches to Evil in History

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pp. 194-201

In his classic book Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, Gershom Scholem, who was not only a historian of the Kabbalah, but also, to use the expression of Moshe Idel, a “theoretician of the Kabbalah,” contrasts the approaches of Kabbalah and Jewish philosophy. His contrast amounts to an appreciation of the Kabbalah and a critique of Jewish philosophy. One ...

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Chapter 10. A Call to Humility and Jewish Unity in the Aftermath of the Holocaust

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pp. 202-208

I am profoundly challenged, indeed humbled, by the task of presenting, in this collection of important essays, a distinctly haredi perspective on the terrible Nazi Shoah—and in particular on its ramifications for Jewish unity today. The Shoah and the question mark hovering over Jewish unity today, for many with implications for their very survival as Jews, are both subjects ...

Part II. The Holocaust and the State of Israel

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pp. 209-210

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Chapter 11. Is There Religious Meaning to the Rebirth of the State of Israel after the Shoah?

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pp. 211-225

The question posed in the title of this paper involves too many issues to be dealt with in one paper. I will therefore confine my discussion in the present essay to national religious Zionist thought as it has been manifested during the last century. The theme of this discussion is that although the greatest stream in the Zionist camp bases its outlook on traditional religious ...

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Chapter 12. The Concept of Exile as a Model for Dealing with the Holocaust

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pp. 226-247

The issue of theodicy, which has been frequently examined from a variety of different perspectives, as in this volume, is only one aspect of the multifaceted body of thought dealing with the Holocaust. Jews and Christians, in searching for a religious vocabulary with which to deal with this question, often express their distress and dismay with the words, “Where was ...

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Chapter 13. Is There a Theological Connection between the Holocaust and the Reestablishment of the State of Israel?

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pp. 248-262

To see a connection between the Holocaust and the reestablishment of the state of Israel is inevitable when one looks at the historical facts. There is a virtual juxtaposition between January 1933, when Hitler and the Nazi regime came to power in Germany, and May 1948, when the independence of the state of Israel was declared. In the incredibly brief historical period ...

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Chapter 14. The Holocaust and the State of Israel A Historical View of Their Impact on and Meaning for the Understanding of the Behavior of Jewish Religious Movements

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pp. 263-274

In this conference the participants have debated the meaning of the Shoah (or Holocaust, Churban, Catastrophe) for the post-1945 Jewish religious world. The majority of the participants have tackled this problem from the point of view of traditional religious and/or modern philosophical thought. “Cold” historical aspects influencing the stands that have been ...

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Chapter 15. Theology and the Holocaust The Presence of God and Divine Providence in History from the Perspective of the Holocaust

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pp. 275-286

This essay will evaluate various explanations of the Holocaust offered by the religious Zionist circles. It is not concerned with a comparative analysis that would elicit some criterion for judging how “successful” these explanations are. Rather, it focuses on one single issue: God’s presence and His providence in human history. It will dwell on the place this issue occupies ...

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Chapter 16. Educational Implications of Holocaust and Rebirth

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pp. 287-300

I want to begin by acknowledging the humility demanded of me when we discuss such an explosive topic as the implications of the Holocaust and the establishment of the state of Israel for our spirituality and religious concepts.1 I am aware of the fact that great respect is due both to those who were killed and to those who survived. I know that when we deal with these ...

About the Contributors

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pp. 301-304

Index of Names

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pp. 305-308

Index of Places

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pp. 309-310

E-ISBN-13: 9780814749012
E-ISBN-10: 0814749011
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814747841
Print-ISBN-10: 0814747841

Page Count: 316
Publication Year: 2005

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Subject Headings

  • Holocaust (Jewish theology) -- Congresses.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Influence -- Congresses.
  • Israel -- History -- Religious aspects -- Judaism -- Congresses.
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