NU: Leora Batnitzky

From Tzivi’s June ’12 Spotlight:

On April 19, I headed up to Northwestern to hear Princeton Professor Leora Batnitzky speak on “Private Faith, Public Religion: Tensions in Modern Jewish Thought.” In contrast to Greene, Batnitzky’s focus is more European than American, and her questions are more philosophical than historical.

Beginning with the rise of nation states in the mid-18th Century, the locus of political power shifted from self-governing Jewish communities to individual Jewish citizens. “The fundamental question for modern Jewish thought in all its variations thus becomes the following,” Batnitzky said. “What value is there to Judaism in an age in which Jews do not have to be defined as Jews, at least from the perspective of the modern nation-state?”

During the Q&A, Batnitzky was asked if she was advocating for Jewish law in the public sphere. “Political order requires religion to be in the private sphere,” she said. “But religious people (of many religions) now want religion to be part of the public sphere. I’m saying we need to find a better way to conceptualize this.”

Like Greene’s The Jewish Origins of Cultural Pluralism, Batnitzky’s most recent book, How Judaism Became a Religion: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought, is a great read, a stimulating synthesis filled with challenging assertions from a wide range of authors including Moses Mendelssohn, Abraham Geiger, Hermann Cohen, Martin Buber, Zvi Yehuda Kook, Theodor Herzl, and Mordecai Kaplan.

Click here to “Look InsideHow Judaism Became a Religion on Amazon :-)

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