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Major Periods of Modern Jewish History

  • Cherem of Baruch Spinoza

    Cherem of Baruch Spinoza
    Cherem was the only weapon that rabbinic authority had to maintain communal discipline. If someone was put into Cherem they would be cut off from the whole Jewish community. Therefore, a person put into Cherem would convert to Christainity or repent and return back to being Jewish. However, Spinoza didn't apologize or convert, instead he lived as a secular Jew. This event marks the transition from traditional Judaism to Modern Judaism.
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    The Enlightenment/ Scientific Revolution

    A cultural movement sparked by intellectuals like Spinoza. It focused on arriving at conclusions based on logic, and the scientific method. The Jews were influenced by this and as a result formed new movements that looked at religion through a scientific lens. This weakened rabbinic authority.
  • Judaism Splits

    Judaism Splits
    With the Cherem of Spinoza, the cultural diffusion of Jews in different places, combined with the heightened sense of communal cohesiveness, and the secular influences the rabbinic authority is declining. As a result, Judaism splits into three different movements: Haskalah, Hasidism and Misnagdim. Haskalah focusing on the secular world like the Enlightenment, Hasidism creating their own Halacha and way to connect to G-d no matter where they live, and Misnagdim studying in communal Yeshivot.
  • America Gains Independence

    America Gains Independence
    After America gains independence and is creating their own foundational values there is a increasingly obvious symbiotic relationship between unique American values and Jewish values. These two synonymous cultures culminate into one American Jewish Experience.
  • The French Revolution

    The French Revolution
    The French Revolution was a period of radical change in France. France's old ideas of tradition or hierarchy with monarchs, aristocrats etc. were overthrown with new principles of liberty and equality. Therefore, the idea of giving the Jews emancipation was founded.
  • Jewish Emancipation in France

    Jewish Emancipation in France
    During the aftermath of the French Revolution, France was the first European country to grant Jews equal rights and citizenship. France believed that law is action over intention. Furthermore, they believed that the Jews need to individually become a citizen. Berr Issac Berr, a fellow french jew writes that the Jews "have not deserved this wonderful change," but are granted it by the French.
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    Political Emancipation of European Jewry

    After the Enlightenment, many European countries formed new principles on equality, and freedom. Therefore, over the next hundred years many granted Jews political emancipation.
  • Immigration to America

    Immigration to America
    The First Jews to immigrate to America were the Spanish-Portuguese in the 17-18th century. Many were refugees from former Dutch Colonies. Once they came to America, they got involved in trade, which made them apart of the middle class. The Second Wave of Immigration were German immigrants who arrived C. 1830-60. They became small businessmen and were members of the middle class. The Third Wave of Immigration were Jews from Eastern European C. 1880-1924. They were lower class, skilled laborers.
  • Napoleon's Grand Sanhedrin

    Napoleon's Grand Sanhedrin
    After France granted Jews citizenship Napoleon wanted to see Jewish loyalty to the French empire. Therefore, he asked for 71 of the "Jewish Notables" to convene. Furthermore, Napoleon set the date to meet on Shabbat just because he wanted to see where their true loyalty lay. Napoleon’s Sanhedrin further erodes rabbinical authority because his ultimate goal was for the Jews to assimilate into French culture.
  • Reform Movement

    Reform Movement
    In the 1800's after Germany and France granted Jews equal citizenship, Jews were able to redefine and reinvent Judaism the way they wanted. Now that the Jews were apart of a nation, the reformers believed that Judaism doesn't have to be a nationhood, but a spiritual or religious guidance. Additionally, the reforms were not merely a response to rabbinic authority, but more to assimilating into France and Germany's culture.
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    American Jewish Experience

    America served as the "Golden Medina" for the Jews. A place where the Jews can live freely, seek opportunity and thrive. In America the Jews are able to believe in individual liberty and G-d at the same time.
  • To the Lower East Side...

    To the Lower East Side...
    When the Eastern European Jews immigrated to America, they had nothing! People had to find jobs, food, money etc. Many of the immigrants went to the Lower East side, which became the most densely populated area in the world. Therefore, Jews lived in cramped tenements and extreme poverty. Furthermore, people had to work in dangerous and serious conditions. For example, many Jewish women were killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
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    Although many places have granted Jews political emancipation, the need for self-determination up rises. There are constant pogroms, anti-Semitic instances, and threats to the Jews. Thus, Zionism is born with the help of the influential leader Theodore Herzl.
  • Bilu Manifesto

    Bilu Manifesto
    A small group of young adults who didn’t just talk the talk, but also walked the walk. They were the first pioneers who started the process of Zionism. They dropped out of college, made Aliyah to the Middle East and formed a community from nothing.
  • Conservative Movement is Founded

    Conservative Movement is Founded
    In the 1800's the Reform movement was spreading to America. Hebrew Union College held a banquet for its first graduating class. At this banquet, non-kosher food was served. Many people were disgusted and formed the Conservative Movement. The Conservative Movement's ideology is liberal, however it coined the name Conservative because it was a reaction to Reform. They believed in modernity, innovation, freedom, and an all-inclusive sect.
  • Industrialization

    As a result of the Civil War, America started to industrialize. One of the key sections to industrialization was standardizing parts and assembly lines. This helped the Jewish Immigrants because they can become skilled in one area and make money instead of having to learn a entire new skill set.
  • Dreyfus Trial

    Dreyfus Trial
    Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jew became a well-respected General in the French army. When France goes to war with Germany, Alfred Dreyfus becomes a spy for the French. Afterwards, Germany finds out and arrests Dreyfus. He is put on trial, but everyone knows he is innocent. Will the French do the right thing, or will they go back to always blaming the Jews. Herzl was sent to cover the case. After Dreyfus is convicted, Herzl realizes that assimilation won't work and that Zionism is the solution.
  • First Zionist Congress

    First Zionist Congress
    At this conference, delegates discussed the components of Zionism. Herzl advocated for Political Zionism. He believed that Jews need to have a safe-haven to escape anti-Semitism. Rav Kook led Religious Zionism that states that we have to be a light unto others, and influence others for the good. Haam supported Cultural Zionism. He says that we must be uniquely Jewish with our own culture. AD Gordon added that we have to leave behind the classic, weak Jewish identity and work hard until it hurts.
  • The Kishnev Pogrom

    The Kishnev Pogrom
    Under the reign of Czar Nicolai II a mob led by priests massacred thousands of Jews. Police made no attempt to stop this. A poet, Haim Nahman Bialik explained that the Jews had no courage to fight back. Therefore, he suggested that the solution is Zionism, for the Jews to take control of their own destiny and fight back if we have to.
  • World War Two

    World War Two
    This tragic event caused 6 million Jews to pass away in Europe. In America, Jewish counterparts felt insecure to express their nationalism. Therefore, during the Holocaust the Jews in need didn't get a lot of help from those who could. Afterwards however, America created DP camps, helped Jews get a job, and most importantly helped them survive.
  • Israel is Born

    Israel is Born
    After many years of anti-Semitism, hard times, and advocating for self-determination, the Jews are finally afforded a homeland. Israel will always be a place where Jews can be safe, live, and seek refuge.