Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Jewish Narrative: Introduction to this Blog

You don't have to be Jewish to be interested in Jewish history. The Jews were important players in world events from almost the beginning of recorded time. Jewish stock produced Moses, Jesus, Paul, Spinoza, Disraeli, Freud, Marx, and Einstein.

Mark Twain wrote in 1899 "If the statistics are right, the Jews contribute but one per cent of the human race... His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruce learning are away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers... and he has done it with his hands tied behind him."

While religious, ethnic, and racial hatred have beset all of mankind, in length of time and relentness of purpose no other people have endured the unhappy forturnes of the Jews. But their history transcends a recital of pain and misfortune. They gave the world unique ethical systems. Their Sabbath day of rest and study gifted a society that knew weeklong drudgery and endless toil. Their festivals, rituals, and customs offered more than legislation, more than aesthetics; they inculcated tradition and cultural continuity and offered opportunities to alleviate the bad and savor the good. Mainstream Judaism historically denied magical practices or human sacrifices, restricted slave ownership, regulated tillage of the soil, and limited the collection of debts.
In this blog I will discuss how Jews resolved - or failed to resolve - basic issues among themselves and well as how Jewish culture interfaced with Christianity, sometimes as colleagues, more often as dissenters. 

I am interested in the development of Jewish art, which I define as works by Jewish or Christian artists whether or not they are friendly or antagonistic. And I may say here that some baptized as well as indifferent Jews were morbidly anti-Jewish and did as much harm as any.

By the way, anti-Jewish and anti--Semitism are not the same. I'll talk about that another time.

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