Syncretism and Judaism

Throughout history Jews have accepted some influences of outside religions and cultures, and rejected others.

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Responding to the 'Outside World'

When Western civilization posed a threat to the survival of Judaism, the diverse ways in which Jews responded to the challenge resulted in a degree of syncretism. The Haskalah, Reform and Conservative Judaism, and Samson Raphael Hirsch's neo-Orthodoxy are all examples of adaptation of the old to the new.

In the area of scientific theory, many Jewish thinkers accepted the view that the universe is not geocentric, that life has been on earth for a vast period of time and that human beings have evolved from lower forms and they reinterpreted the biblical record so that it could be understood in accordance with the new picture of the universe.

Thus, while the actual term 'syncretism' is not found in any of the Jewish sources, and while Jewish fundamentalists deny that any form of syncretism ever took place in Judaism, the idea denoted by this term is clearly evident to Jews with any sense of history, although this recognition does not interfere with their belief in the basic truths of the religion.

On the contrary, the evidence for syncretism is evidence of the Jewish genius that has made Judaism an undying faith.

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Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.