Modern Jewish History 101

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Intergroup Relations

Modernity brought new possibilities for contact between Jews and their neighbors, both on a personal and collective level. Social relationships between Jews and non-Jews became much more common. From intermarriage to interfaith dialogue, Jews and non-Jews have created new categories of relationship and community. These developments were accompanied by another uniquely modern negative phenomenon: anti-semitism.passport

Intellectual History

Modern Jewish thought has also been fueled by the promise of emancipation. The Haskalah, the European-based movement for Jewish enlightenment, emerged as an effort to revive those Jewish intellectual traditions that were complimentary to European culture. The academic study of Judaism, the Wissenschaft des Judenthums, grew out of the Haskalah and examined Jewish religion from the perspectives of theology, literature, and history. It thus set the stage for future modern Jewish philosophers, like Franz Rosenzweig, Mordecai Kaplan, and Abraham Joshua Heschel to ask questions about modern Jewish identity (for example, regarding the particular and the universal within Judaism, and the relationship between the concepts of religion, people, and nation).

Social History

Modern Jews moved and multiplied. At the end of the eighteenth century, the world Jewish population was approximately 2.5 million, the majority of whom lived in Eastern Europe or the Ottoman Empire. By the second half of the twentieth century, the world Jewish community had been completely transformed, numbering 13 million with a majority living in Israel and the United States. This remarkable growth during the modern period contributed to the urbanization of the Jews and the diversification of their economic activities. Previously relegated to commercial occupations, mostly petty trade, modern Jews took advantage of newly won access to education and opportunity to take on new roles in the business and professional world.

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