Political Hebraism: Jewish Sources in the History of Political Thought

Conference in Jerusalem, Israel, December 26-29, 2006

Hebraic texts were frequently consulted and cited between the first and seventeenth centuries by major political theorists and leaders who interacted with Jewish scholarship, contemporary and historical, in developing their own political doctrines. The Enlightenment’s denigration of religion in the name of reason may be seen as one of the causes of the decline of the political Hebraism that had reached a peak in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. And yet this understanding does not account for the fact that prior to the Enlightenment, Judaism was seen not only as a significant religion, but, perhaps, even more as a fundamental source of ideas and political wisdom. The Enlightenment’s faith in reason entailed not only the rejection of religion but, ultimately, the rejection of historical models and ancient wisdom as well, such as those that the Greek and Roman civilizations had provided to the political thinkers of Humanist Europe.

The decline of Hebraism, following the prominence of the "Republic of the Hebrews" so widely employed by early modern political theorists, begs to be considered as caused not only by the rational rejection of religion but, as well, by the rejection of historical models and ancient wisdom. From the perspective of self-conscious Enlightenment modernizing, the Israelite model and Jewish wisdom were as suspect as those of Greece and Rome.

The 2006 conference on political Hebraism invites proposals that reevaluate ideas of political import in the Jewish tradition itself or the ways this tradition was borrowed from and appropriated by political thinkers throughout the history of ideas. Borrowings and appropriations of the Hebraic political tradition by Jewish, Christian, Muslim and unaffiliated scholars from the first century to the twenty-first will all be explored and discussed with the hope of shedding light on the various modes and manners in which political Hebraism has been engaged in the history of the modern West, and its contribution to political discourse.

While other submissions will be considered, we are especially keen to receive proposals that deal with the following topics:

i. The political thought of the Hebrew Bible.

ii. Legal and political theory in the writings of the sages.

iii. The interaction between Jewish sources and Christian and Muslim political thought in the Middle Ages.

iv. Christian Hebraism in political theology and political philosophy

v. The Bible and Hebrew in the foundations of American political thought.

vi. Hebrew learning and Enlightenment politics and political thought.

vii. Twentieth-century borrowings and appropriations of Jewish sources in political thought and action.

viii. Jerusalem and Athens Revisited.

ix. Images of Israel and Jerusalem in the making of the modern world

Proposals of 300-500 words should be sent by e-mail to meiravj@shalem.org.il no later than May 12, 2006. The full texts of papers accepted for presentation should be submitted by October 31.

Scholars and students whose papers are accepted for presentation, or who are invited to participate as discussants or panel chairs, will be offered financial support that will allow their participation. Acceptance of this support will entail a commitment to participate in the entire conference.

For more information contact:
Meirav Jones
Associate Editor, Hebraic Political Studies
Coordinator, Project in Political Hebraism
The Shalem Center
meiravj@shalem.org.il
972-2-560-5555