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An Analysis of the Jewish Culture in its Unified and Diversified Nature


 

Feng Jihua

Research fellow of IWAAS

fengjh@cass.org.

Hebrews, the ancestors of Jews, originated in UR to the north of the Euphrates in Mesopotamia[1]. Over the long course of recorded history of the Jewish culture dating back to the antediluvian times more than 4,000 years ago, the Jews, who once enjoyed political autonomy in those glorious days of King Solomon and King David, had most of the time lived under gentile oppression by the savage Pharaohs, against whom they resisted during 400 years upon their migration to Goshen in the east of the delta along the Nile River[2] and to Egypt as well; and by the Philistines and such peoples as of Moab, Median, and Ammon, with whom they engaged in constant fights in the land of Canaan (namely, the modern-day Palestinian territories) in the Age of Jephthah[3]. The fleeting glory of political autonomy was extinguished when the Jewish Kingdom collapsed at the invasion of Assyria and the New Babylonian Empire, and ever since the Jewish people had been leading a vagrant life in slavery to Persians, Greeks, and Romans.

Historically, it is observed that the Jewish community as a whole, for nearly 2,000 years of exile, had forged under intense gentile oppression a religious culture distinctive in an awareness of nationalism and, over the long course of conflict and coexistence with the rest of the world, opened its ancient traditions up to a vitality derived from the strengths of other cultures. It is hence by interaction with many a community around the world that the Jewish culture had its existence in both unity and diversity.

Contradiction, as it is generally observed, so exists in everything that it is recognized as the fundamental force driving the change and development of an object. This principle, known as “unity of opposites” in dialectics, is in all respects justified in the Jewish culture, the evolutionary preservation and development of which were all driven by a contradictory force of persistent clashes with gentile cultures and struggles with anti-Semitism.

Unification of the Jewish Culture

The Jewish communities around the world have been well kept in unity despite geological and racial differences they were forced to take over the two millennia of exile and exclusion. They also have indomitably maintained prosperity in the long course of historic turmoil. How could such a disadvantaged people have possibly been rooted in the human history? There may come many answers to this question that ring true, but there are only two that lie at the heart of the truth. One is religion and the other, race. For one thing, Judaism, a religion that unites all the Jewish communities, represents the Jewish culture in a spiritual sense. For another, it is the racial genes that biologically carried down the Jewish culture towards unity. Moreover, the “unity of opposites” theorem has it that what anti-Semitism brought about – clashes between gentile cultures and the Jewish culture – awoke the Jewish people to a regained consciousness of the need for national unity, which later triggered the flourishing Zionist movements and ultimately led to the establishment of Israel, all the while preventing the Jewish culture from acculturation.

1. Judaism – the spiritual essence of the Jewish culture

The Jewish culture in its fullest sense is indispensable to the religion. As the spiritual essence of the Jewish culture, Judaism required the learning and the enforcement of Torah, which is in the broadest sense the substance of divine revelation to the Jewish people. Also established in Judaism were rites and festivals infiltrated into the Jewish spiritual and cultural character. Not only do they serve as a significant hallmark with which to differentiate the Jewish culture; they are also indicative of what is construed as Jewish nationalism.

One of the Jewish rites is circumcision, which is performed on the eighth day after the birth of a male child to, as stated in Torah, represent his special relationship with God. For a greater religious impact, it is emphasized that the operation should be done to an effect more spiritual than physical. It is less cutting of the foreskin than a warning of the soul.

The Sabbath, one particular day of holiness and rest observed by Jews each week, plays such a sacred role in their lives that Yitzhak Rabin, former Israeli prime minister, resigned due to an impeachment by the National Religious Party for a breach of the Sabbath he committed on the Israeli Air Force base when a new batch of jets were delivered from the US. The sacredness of the Sabbath has not just been for Jews a joyous reminder of their perpetual Covenant with God. It has also been significantly instrumental in passing Judaism and Jewish tradition down through history.

The attributes as exhibited in the Jewish people – strong coherence, historic consciousness, and resistance to assimilation – are ascribed to the fact that religious festivals Jews observe all have their roots in historical stories recognized in Judaism. Examples of such can be found in Passover, a holiday commemorating the Jews’ liberation, led by Moses the prophet, from slavery in Egypt and the “passing over” of the destructive forces of Pharaohs; in Sukkoth, a festival reminding the Jewish people of the difficult time when the Israelites lived in huts (sukkot) during their years of wandering in the wilderness of the Desert of Sinai after the Exodus from Egypt; in Hanukkah, or Feast of Dedication[4], a festival that perpetuates the memories of the Second Temple’s rededication and of the Judas Maccabeus’s victory; and in Purim, a holiday commemorating the victory of the Jews over Persian vizier Haman.

Significant in profound cultural meaning are the Jewish rites and festivals which, when handed down from the ancient times, have arisen to an extraordinary character – refined and cultivated through profundity of the Jewish history, and served in the Jewish daily life as a culturally symbolic ritual unique in its nature – to have the Jewish conception of nationalism strengthened with Jewish practices and particularly circumcision, a physical practice reflective of the Jewish culture. [5]

In addition, it is also observed that where there lived Jews, there a synagogue would be built, serving as a center for all the religious activities of Judaism and as a symbol of Jewish faith and existence. It plays a significant role in uniting the faith, culture, sentiment, and composition mutually shared among the Jewish people. The synagogue was not just the pillar of Jewish spiritual support, but a gathering spot for Jews to communicate with one another during the Diaspora.

2. It’s all in the genes

The ethnic group, also known as “human race”, is the concept that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical differences – e.g., skin color, hair color, eye color, hair texture, and blood type. Modern anthropologies generally believe that such distinctive features are associated with geographically separated populations that have long been exposed to a natural setting of a particular continent, and that these continental aggregates are categorized into three races: the Mongoloid or “Yellow Race,” the European or “White Race”, the Negroid-Australoid or “Black-Brown Race”.[6]  The Jewish people belongs to the European Race.

As a Chinese saying goes, "the unique features of a local environment always give special characteristics to its inhabitants,” a natural habitat is what acclimates its inhabitants and therefore makes them as unique as it is with its many distinctive features. It is just the case with the Jewish people, who were made to gradually possess cultural and physical characteristics exclusive to a particular region, where they settled down during the Diasporas, by marrying locales and producing offspring of mixed blood. For this reason the Jewish populations around the world now differ greatly in physical appearance and ways of living – such as Black Jews in Ethiopia, Brown Jews in India, and K’ai-feng Jews in China. To put it simply, what best defines the Ethnic Group of Jews is its racial and religious character, as identified by Zionism and Israel. This notion went to such an extent that it became the criterion for anti-Semitic forces and even Nazi in their cruel attempt to eliminate Jews.

In the United States, the Chinese American is nicknamed “Banana” and the African American “Coco", despite the fact that they have long adopted the American culture, identified themselves with the American society, and become American citizens. From the racial aspect, they are indeed Yellow and Black in their genes. The same is true for Jews. They may live in different parts of the world and integrate themselves into the local society, but still they are Jews, unexceptionally passing the Jewish culture down generations.

It is thus concluded that the surviving Jewish gene is what united the Jewish culture physically.

3.  Resistance to Anti-Semitism

Historically, it is essentially the anti-Semitism which, in its various forms, had brought abject misery to the Jewish people that to a certain degree revived their culture by awaking them to a consciousness of their national identity and, what’s more, fortified what they had in their nationalist spirit.

Following the destruction of the Second Temple, yeshiva activities that aimed to disseminate Judaism, educate the youth, and nourish Judaism began to take place around the time when the Jews were reduced to “Prisoners of Babylonia.” One of the achievements that contributed to the fullest expansion of the Jewish culture was none other than the Talmud, which was regarded as the second scripture for Judaism and served as a powerful ideological weapon for the Jews to defend national independence and uphold Jewish tradition.

The Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century developed the ghetto system[7] for better management of the Jewish community, and since then the Jews had been compelled to live in the autonomous ghettos. A Code of Conduct was formulated as per the Talmud to allow the segregated people to principally live the traditional Jewish way. The system, compelling and manipulative as it might have first appeared against the Jewish population, was attributed to a harmonious Jewish society, an upheld religious faith and tradition, and a Jewish culture which would be passed down in a more secured way.

There had been a great number of Jews who failed to entertain the notion of nationalism in the long course of dispersed existence, and some even had “homeland feelings” for where they had lived long enough to call it a home. Their nationalist spirit would not be regained until anti-Semitism came along. In 1881 a surge of anti-Semitism made a splash in Russia, where a Jewish youth who, so shocked by the massacre of Jews that he later escaped to Palestine, wrote along the lines of, “I took little interest in my lineage before that. I had thought I was a loyal son of Russia. That country was the reason I existed and the air I breathed. Every new discovery, every new literary classic, every victory would make me proud. I had hoped to exert every bit of my energy and happily fulfill my duty for the prosperity of my motherland. But all of a sudden came an order of eviction….” [8]  This voice was just a small one compared to many heard in the Western world, and yet it reflected the youth’s bewilderment, confusion, and disillusion, a combination of feelings well shared by any Jew who faced the anti-Semitic cruelty in the West. Sartre believed that “the contemptuous and hostile attitude toward the Jews was the bond that united them.”[9] At eviction the Jews painfully tore themselves away from the feelings for their countries of residence and gradually reestablished the Jewish identity under the great pressure of anti-Semitism. Ironically, the anti-Semitic surges to a great extent were the very support to what the Jewish leaders had always dreamed to do. Thousands upon thousands of Jews were led away from assimilation and directed to the pursuit of self-liberation. With hope they came to Palestine, looking for ways to start a bright new life and, with passion, to reconstruct the Jewish culture. Hebrew, the ancient Jewish language, was miraculously revived in the process. The Jews, as testified by history, cast aside what remained of internal disagreement and became ever so united at the climax of anti-Semitism. Six million Jewish souls perished in the Holocaust led by German Nazis, but this historic tragedy helped deliver the birth of a Jewish country, where the Jewish faith, tradition, and culture would be inspirited as never before.

Radical religious and racial conflicts did not only put an end to the Jewish attempt and effort to live peacefully with the gentile peoples in their diaspora. They also pulled the Jewish culture forever away from the gentile culture. It is observed that before the Jewish culture was revived through cultural conflicts, the Jews living in harmony with a gentile society had an involuntary tendency to drive the Jewish character and identity into oblivion. It is the case with the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel and with the K’ai-feng Jews, who were eventually assimilated into the Chinese culture. For this reason the anti-Semitism was in effect “positive” for the preservation and promotion of the Jewish culture. As revealed by the “unity of opposites” principle, two conflicting sides cannot keep the contradiction when separated from each other. If the opposites were completely balanced, the result would be stasis. One side depends on its opposing counterpart to grow stronger. The similar result can be found in the Jewish culture, which depended on the opposition of gentile communities to retain its distinctive identity of Judaism.

Diversification of the Jewish Culture

1.  The splitting of Judaism diversified the Jewish Culture.

Religious discord was constantly fomented when the Jewish ideologies underwent a significant influence of the Western cultural and philosophic trends in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. From political, economic, and religious discrepancies two religious sects, Sadducees[10] and Pharisees[11], were formed within Judaism, differing for the most part in their social classes as well as in their views on the Torah.

A party of high priests, aristocratic families, and wealthy merchants, the Sadducees represented the group of the High Priests and members of high social status. They came under the influence of Hellenism during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and adopted an attitude totally different from that of the Pharisees toward religious issues. The sect refused to go beyond the written Torah, rejected the Oral Law, and thus, unlike the Pharisees, denied the immortality of the soul and bodily resurrection after death. Their compromising service to the Maccabean Kingdom won them the privilege to dominate the Temple and its priesthood. In their religious zeal for the Temple and the sacrificial rite, the Sadducees, though in a small number, had a noticeable political influence. In Egypt, Syria, and Babylonia, however, the Jews, who viewed the fundamentals in Judaism as both oral and written tradition, were offended by the Sadducean rejection of an Oral Torah. The Sadducees’ political and religious power, therefore, was limited only to Palestine. Naturally, they ceased to exist as a religious sect after the destruction of the Temple.

As a group of merchants, scholars, handicraftsmen, and peasants, The Pharisees, on the contrary, neither cooperated with nor stood up against the Roman Empire in their messianic vision. As a result of their concentrated attention on the preservation of Jewish traditions and daily practices, the Pharisees, by prudently applying the Law to every aspect of life, turned themselves from interpreters of the Law into protectionists of the national cultural heritage. Stringent observers as they were, they intended applying the religious practices to a mundane aspect of Jewish life in an effort to prevent stasis. They believed that what the Jews in Palestine and other parts of the world desperately needed were not rigid rites or indispensable priests, sacrifices, or even the Temple, but rather a religion very much alive for a new and more acceptable meaning. It was due to the straightforwardness, flexibility, and progressive tendency of the Pharisaic sect that Pharisees remained a dominating force in Judaism during the Hellenistic and Babylonian periods.

Derived from the Pharisaic sect were two smaller parties – the Zealots[12] and the Essenes[13].  Consisting of proletarians from the low social class, the Zealot Party shared their religious view with the Pharisees but very much disagreed with them on political issues. To a political vision, the parties would hold strikingly different insights. The Zealots’ belief that a white flag to the Roman authorities meant the betrayal of God led to a series of successful and momentous guerrilla battles against the Roman. One of their descendents is Bar Kokhba, Jewish revolutionary leader from 132 to 135 AD.

The Essenes were a group of herders in the low economic class who remained faithful to Judaism and developed a philosophy of life that encouraged an ascetic and unpolitical way of living. They mostly lived meagerly, in groups, on herding and doing some simple craft work, and refused to be immersed in public life. They studied ethics and probed into social justice, shunning earthly vision and meticulously leading the full worship of God. Much of the Essenes’ written work, as discovered in contemporary times, was included in the Dead Sea Scrolls found in the Qumran Caves.

In modern times Judaism has been roughly divided into four major cliques: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist. Regarding itself as exclusive, Orthodox Judaism, the largest group of all four in utmost dominance over Israel, has most of the followers in the United States and Israel. It is the religion of those Jews who adhere most strictly to the Talmud and traditional beliefs and practices in Judaism. 

Reform Judaism, one of the major religious parties formed in modern times, advocates reforms in an effort to adapt Judaism to the social, political, and cultural conditions of the modern world, lays emphasis on the importance to abandon anything in the religion that set Jews apart from the rest of the world, and challenges many of the laws and customs in the Torah and the Talmud that Orthodox Judaism have long regarded as books of light and leadership. The party conceives any truth in the religious ideology as an ever-changing law to be tested by logic and reason. With an exuberant and progressive spirit, Reform Judaism today has become the largest denomination of American and European Jews and gained an all-time leadership in religious dialogues. It should be noted, however, that Reform Judaism has given birth to the Moderates and the Radicals. There are a few members going to such an extreme as to despise the Jewish tradition, but most are Reformers who are moderate in their ideology towards Judaism.

Between Reform and Orthodox stands Conservative Judaism which was founded by Sabata Morais in the 19th century. The Conservatives in principle seek to conserve essential elements of traditional Judaism, while expressing an attitude that what really matters in a religion is not rigidly adhering to its formalities but rather understanding and observing it in a spiritual sense. They also take the view that the Torah, the sacred books Moses received from God on Mount Sinai, contains truths and laws that could be updated to fit the ever-changing context of modern life, and that the Talmud should be reinterpreted in a more flexible manner.

Reconstructionist Judaism, the youngest of the quartet, sets itself at variance with the Conservatives in respect of ideology and philosophy, although it stays in a close relationship with them in general terms. In the 1920s Reconstructionism was developed within Conservative Judaism by American Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, whose views were popular among Jews in the United States and reflective of his strong support to Zionism and of his efforts to coordinate Judaism, the Jewish culture, and the Jewish nationalism. The Reconstructionists take a firm foothold in expressing their support to Israel, which is regarded as the homeland for the Jewish culture.

Apart from the aforementioned Jewish sects, there are a number of smaller Jewish parties around the world that remain isolated from the mainstream schools of thought due to either geographical inconveniences or unpopular religious practices. An example of such is the Falasha Sect –an Ethiopian group of Jewish faith dating back to the first century AD – that comprises 15,000 to 25,000 members. Some other small and distinctive Jewish groups claim their existence in India and China. [14]

As was discussed earlier, contradiction in a general sense exists to sustain everything in nature, including Judaism, which has been very much diversified by a labyrinth of religious sects in opposition to one another.

2. The integration with gentile cultures revived the Jewish culture.

Diasporas, the dispersal of Jews throughout the world, have made the Jewish civilization unprecedented, as compared with other cultures, in its depth and width of social contact with the gentiles. Throughout the entire dispersion, the Jewish culture had been passed down and enriched by what is called “historic interaction” which, while being of great significance to the Jews, provided a fundamental way mankind proved its progressive existence and a complicated historic process in which the peoples gained insights, established communications, achieved understanding, and reached integration with one another. Any group of man, any civilization must develop a certain degree of openness – association with society on a wide scale - to continue going forward with productivity and achievement. Jewish history amply testifies that historic interaction gives impetus to social advancement and progress. For a traditional culture confined in regional and national constraints, an expansion of social interaction is a requisite to avoid the fatal seclusion. World history has for quite a few times seen an ancient civilization, though dazzling first at its rise, died out eventually for its inability to interact with the rest of the world – The Mayan Civilization is a conspicuous example to back up this point of view. [15]

The way the Jewish community interacted with ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Phoenicians[16], and Assyrians prompted it to absorb the quintessence of these peoples and, in the process, grow into a much enriched civilization itself. On the basis of cultural interaction, integration, and inheritance, the Jews created a monotheism that claims to be the oldest of all in history. Since the Diaspora Era, the Jews had risen to a wider scale of sociality in the Diasporas. A long-range experience of clashing and cooperating with Greek and Roman civilizations led the Jews to a very much updated civilization which, with the Greeks, gave birth to Christianity. It also produced the Sephardim – a group of Jews thriving from the 8th to 13th century like a pearl shining bright in the Jewish civilization. The Yiddish Culture was yet another branch grown out of the Jewish settlement with the medieval German and Slavonic civilizations. The Jewish Enlightenment, a mid 18th- and 19th-century intellectual movement, symbolized a historically significant advance towards social recognition. For the first time in their lives the Jews bravely rose up to bring down the fences of nationalism and threw themselves in torrents at modern sciences. They came up with ideas to “reconstruct Judaism” and “nurture scientific spirit”. They aimed to turn the Jewish culture into a “malleable civilization that adapts to its living environment at all times.” This markedly modernized and intellect-driven enlightenment campaign started with and landed on historic interaction, through which the Jews felt an overwhelming twinge of uneasiness when they became aware how the ever advancing gentile cultures contrasted with their own. The campaign in turn contributed to a wider and deeper Jewish interaction with the rest of the world.

From the modern times the Jews began to accommodate themselves to a modernized world by integrating with the dominate culture on the American continent, thus creating, through reforms and readjustments, a United States-based Jewish culture unique in itself. In the mid 20th century, the matrix of the Jewish spirit returned to the newly established state of Israel as a support to Israeli national culture. Evidently, it is from constant conflict and integration with gentile cultures that the Jewish culture had sought ways to be enriched and developed in its historic quintessential course of existence.

Variety of the Jewish People

1. Can Jews still be recognized as one “ethnic group?”

Jews in various skin colors are a common sight in Israel – Ethiopian and Indian Jews with dark skins, European and American Jews with pale skins, and Chinese Jews with yellow skins. Not only are they distinguishable by physical appearance, language, and ways of life; but they are also ranked at different social and educational rungs. From different parts of the world they come to Israel with such distinctive regional features as in diet, music, and dance. This has invited many scholars to wonder, “Who are the Jews? Can they still be possibly singled out as one ethnic group?”

To answer these questions, one must understand what a human race is and how it is differentiated from an ethnic group. They are in fact two ideas different by nature for classification of the human species. The race is an idea so developed that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical differences, whereas an ethnic group is defined on the basis of lifestyles and customs as a category of the population that, in a larger society, is bound together by common ties of economy, culture, language, or nationality. From this point of view it is correct to deduce that one race may contain different ethnic groups and vice versa. One of the reasons why people tend to confuse these two ideas is that the race and the ethnic group may be both defined by or limited to genetics – inherited through marriage. Little do they know that they differ in how they are bound by heredity. As shown in history, people in a race, though subjected to geographical confinement, have more freedom to pass down their genes than those in an ethnic group, who are concerned with religion, culture, economy, and social status. [17]

Biologically, the term race is defined as a category of the human species which, genetically characterized, resists to social and hereditary changes over time. The Jews in a particular region, though relatively separated from local communities, have long acquired local languages and folkways for economic and cultural collaboration. Intermarriage, whether be it done in secrecy or public, is identified as yet another unavoidable factor that contributed to Jewish integration with gentile communities in the region. As a result of intermarriage, Jewish genes were “diluted and dissolved” like a drop of ink fading away in water. Millennia’s worth of evolution, migration, integration, and intermarriage gradually mutated the genes in the Jewish people, making the difference to their physical traits. There is not so much to see the uniqueness in African, Central Asian, and European Jews as to note the dissimilitude that expands from physiques (skull shape, skin color, physical appearance, hair texture, etc.) to temperaments within the European Jewish community alone. Jews in Northern France, for instance, look different from Jews in the South, and North German Jews, like anyone who shares a regional character, are unlike their fellows living in South Germany. It is hence by long-range integration and intermarriage with gentiles that the Jewish people, who first came along as one race and later scattered around the world, gradually bore a resemblance to a predominantly local people in physical appearance.

The classification of ethnic groups, however, is in the realm of sociology, where the human species is set apart by its lifestyles and traditions. The Jews in their dispersed existence have long acquired different appearances and languages, but they have held a traditional culture deep in their hearts – a culture kept very much alive by Jewish religious practices and traditions. As discussed earlier, any Jewish rite and circumcision in particular is a marker of the Jewish nationalism. As Rabbi Kaplan stated to the effect, “He who does not serve the army is not a soldier, and he who does not belong to the Jewish nation is not a Jew,” [18] each and every one of the Jewish people, though different in many aspects, undoubtedly serves as a torchbearer of the united Jewish culture.

Over a long period of time since their entry into the Diaspora Era, the Jewish people had become three major categories – the Ashkenazim from Europe and America and their descendents, the Sephardim who lived in Spain and Portugal until they were dispersed to countries along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the 15th century and their descendents, and the Oriental Jews living in the Near East and the Middle East. These categories do not suffice for a complete identification of the Jewish people due to a fact that, biologically, the Jewish “race” continues to expand with the dispersions lengthened over time and in space and with assimilation as in the case with K’ai-feng Jews of China. From a sociological perspective, however, the term ethnic group is so defined that the Jewish people undoubtedly fall into one single ethnic group for their national heritage well preserved and passed down by most of the members.

2.  “Who’s a Jew?”

”Who’s a Jew” was once a heatedly debated question in Israel. From a religious standpoint, a Jew is anyone who observes Judaism, whatever ethnic group or ancestry he or she may be in. Reversely, anyone who converted to gentile is not accepted as Jewish, regardless of his or her maternal Jewish birth and later upbringing in a Jewish environment. In denial of all of the “Jewish” racial traits, this narrowly identified religion-oriented notion is not at all a proper definition of Jews even for the reason that Judaism serves as a major binding force in the community. It is impossible to use Judaism as the measurement on account of its division into a great number of sects. Furthermore, there have been Jewish converts to gentiles throughout history, which adds to the complexity of the matter. More importantly, there have been Jews who, like Karl Marx and Elbert Einstein, came out as intrigued by atheism. In this modern world and particularly in the United States – a country that has the largest Jewish population, it would be unbelievably impractical to define Jews only with a purely religious attitude.

Secularists, on the contrary, believe that people who consider themselves Jews are accepted as such. They stand on the basis of an understanding that it would mean the defiance of human rights to define Jews in any way personally disagreeable, for Judaism is not in a global position to invite gentiles to claim to be Jewish (a few, if any, exceptions excluded). Anyone born into a Jewish family, whether maternally or paternally, has the right to decide whether to accept Judaism without affecting the Jewish lineage. Apparently, this secularist view takes on the racial side.

In an effort to avoid the collision between those two attitudes, Israeli politicians tried hard to find a common ground. In a 1970 amendment to the Law of Return, anyone is subjected to three definitions as follows:

       Anyone whose father is a Jew is not accepted as Jewish, unless he/she or his/her mother converts to Judaism;

       Anyone whose mother is a Jew is accepted as Jewish – regardless of the paternal lineage, unless he/she converts;

       Anyone who observes Judaism is accepted as Jewish.

Thus we now have the legislation as such to tell who can be defined as a Jew. [19]

To sum up, from the Jewish culture arise unity and diversity, the two conflicting features which interact in an interdependent and yet contradictory way. On the one hand, most of the credit goes to the cohesion by which the Jewish culture remains alive and united to this day after the loss of its territory most needed for maintaining a united nation. As a fundamental element for integration, unification, and coordination of the Israeli society, Judaism plays a significant role in restricting and influencing its followers in every such aspect as of politics, economics, legislation, morality, ethics, lifestyles, social behavior, organizational discipline, folkways, and values. [20]  On the other hand, throughout its entire course of development, the Jewish culture has unfolded its unified and diversified nature through both conflict and coexistence with gentiles.

Furthermore, destructive as it could have been to the Jewish tendency and process towards acculturation, the anti-Semitism, nevertheless, served as a “positive force” to pull the Jewish people together in times of incompatibility and conflict, thus preserving their culture as what it is today. This is so because the Jews, while in harmony with gentile cultures, could easily lose their cultural identity in part or even in whole. As revealed by the “unity of opposites” principle, two conflicting sides cannot keep the contradiction when separated from each other. If the opposites were completely balanced, the result would be stasis. One side depends on its opposing counterpart to grow stronger. The similar result can be found in the Jewish culture, which depended on the opposition of gentile communities to retain its distinctive identity of Judaism.



[1] The Middle East and North Africa, thirty-fourth edition, Europa Publications Limited, 1988, P.452.

[2] Facts about Israel, Israel Information Center (Israel Foreign Ministry), 1992, P11   

[3] The Chinese Version of the Encyclopedia of William L. Langer’s World History (Ancient and Medieval Part), SDX Joint Publishing Company, 1981, P. 73

 

[4] Transliterated from Hebrew; also known as the Feast of Lights

[5] Liu Hongyi, Essentials of Jewish Culture, Commercial Press, July 2004, P.63

[6] Xie Guangyun, The World History of Culture, Anhui University Press, January 2004, PP. 12 – 13

[7] The word "ghetto" comes from the word "getto" or "gheto", and refers to a quarter of a city set apart as a legally enforced residence area for Jews.

[8]  Feng Wei, The Chinese translation of Chaim Bermant’s The Jews, Shanghai Joint Publishing Company, 1991, P.273

[9]  Xu Xin, An Insight into Anti-Semitism, Shanghai Joint Publishing Company, June 1996, P.252

[10] Copyright©1994-2002 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.

[11] Copyright©1994-2002 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.

[12] Copyright©1994-2002 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.

[13] Copyright©1994-2002 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.

[14] Huang Lingyu, Judaism, Contemporary World Press, June 2000, PP. 271 – 278

[15] Zhang Qianhong, Hardship and Renaissance, Jiangsu People’s Press, January 2003, PP.14-15

[16] Phoenicia is an ancient region along the coast of Syria, adjoining the Mediterranean in the west, Mount Lebanon in the east, Asia Minor in the north, and Palestine in the south.  Positioned as a marine and land traffic hub, Phoenicia was exceptionally advanced in maritime and commercial undertakings.  It rose to the climax in the early 12th century A.C..  The Phoenicians produced an alphabetic script of 22 letters, the genesis of all the modern European alphabets as well as of the alphabetic systems used by peoples such as Aramaeans, Hebrews, Arabians, Indians, and Uyghurs.    As shown in the ancient Egyptian records, Phoenicia was called Phoiníkē.  Phoenicia is a Greek word meaning “the State of Crimson.”

[17] Shi Mozhuang, An Introduction to Human Races, Ethnic Publishing House, December 1984, P.38

[18] Richard C. Hertz, The American Jew in Search of Himself, Bloch Publishing Company, 1962, P.273.

[20] Zhang Qianhong, Hardship and Renaissance, Jiangsu People’s Press, January 2003, P.2


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