Session Submission Summary

Direct link:

Jewish Thought in Social Context

Mon, December 18, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, Marquis Salon 15

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


The foundational role of modern Jewish thought in the making of modern Judaism has been a dominant and persuasive historical narrative. This panel adds another layer to this narrative by examining the dependencies and mutual influences between modern Jewish thought and Jewish social life based on three distinct case studies from nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German-Jewish history.
In the first paper, Kerstin von der Krone discusses the entanglements of modern Jewish thought, scholarship, and education in the nineteenth century based on educational literature—manuals, textbooks and devotional books—meant for religious instruction in school and at home. In the second paper, Alexandra Zirkle examines the theological interpretations of poverty in nineteenth-century German-Jewish sermons and aims to situate these Jewish theologies of poverty in their broader social, cultural, and intellectual context. Both papers highlight the richness of nineteenth-century Jewish religious literature, which served educational and communal purposes, helped to navigate new social realities, and became instrumental in promoting new conceptions of Judaism. In the third paper, Yaniv Feller discusses the notion of communal duty in Leo Baeck’s philosophy. An accomplished scholar and thinker, Baeck embodied the ideal of German Doktor-Rabbiner and was a devoted communal leader in the darkest period of German-Jewish history. Taken as a whole, the papers highlight the personal ties and dependencies between Jewish thought and Jewish social and communal life represented by scholars, teachers, and rabbis, who were often involved in both scholarly debates and community politics. Further, the panel elaborates how these Jewish intellectuals translated Jewish thought—historical, philosophical, and theological perceptions of Judaism—into practical and social knowledge that could be used to navigate the social realities of Jewish communal life. Finally, we explore the underlying expectations and perceptions of everyday Judaism that informed the scholarly and communal activities of Jewish intellectuals. In other words, we highlight the impact of the social realities of Jewish life on Jewish thought and scholarship, thereby challenging the notion that Jewish thought became more and more detached from Jewish practice. Instead, we interrogate how Jewish thought and practice constituted each other.

Sub Unit


Individual Presentations