Page 72 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
glish and in a genre that once seemed to belong to non-
Orthodox thinkers seeking to demonstrate their Jewish validity.
Of particular significance in this regard has been the breadth
of this development, one not limited to Orthodox “centrists”
but one which embraces elements of the Orthodox right. The
centrists, believing in the Jewish authenticity of
halakhah
co­
existing with general culture, might have been expected to make
their case in the general culture’s terms. But the rightists are
normally suspicious of modernity, so their adopting the culture’s
forms to win Jews to their cause is a phenomenon worthy of
investigation. Even more so is the historically unprecedented
development that an impressive English literature has been pro­
duced for adherents of the Orthodox right who seek Jewish
authenticity via
laaz,
a foreign tongue.
The German forerunners of academically aspiring Jewish
writing in the realm of ideas took the form of studies in medieval
Jewish philosophy. In a culture where rationalism seemed the
indispensable standard of modernity and philosophy its noblest
exemplification, to show that Jews too had once been able ra­
tionalists, even influences on the development of the European
canon of ideas, validated the emancipation of the Jews. In
America, as philosophy departments began to overcome their
addiction to continental rationalism or British analysis, Jewish
students of philosophy found it possible to develop their inter­
ests beyond Saadia and Maimonides. Then as ethical questions
increasingly moved to the foreground of philosophic concern
and ethnicity and feminism cut the ground from under the old
assumptions about universal rationality, the possibilities for
philosophizing with a Jewish concern greatly expanded, as wit­
ness the current involvement with the thought of Emmanuel
Levinas.
A more fruitful area of Jewish writing has come from the
academic esteem of the history of ideas, a notion which has
increasingly reached beyond rationalistic conceptualization to
study non-rational forms of thought, mysticism being the out­
standing Jewish beneficiary. Gershom Scholem’s contributions
to our community cannot be limited to his having opened up
a relatively unexplored because undervalued realm of Jewish
cognition or even to his many publications, as valuable as these
remain. Rather, in raising up many disciples and setting high
standards for their future publications he made possible an on­