Foto: Matthias Friel
Today’s crisis in Israel regarding judicial reform and the nature of Israeli democracy brings into stark view questions regarding the understanding of politics held by Judaism traditionally and by modern leaders and thinkers across the denominations. As is true in the West in general, right-wing political and religious forces have spawned to dangerous effect in Israel and throughout the Jewish world, though the features differ somewhat. In this course we will seek to understand this phenomenon from historical, religious, and sociological perspectives.
Do Jews have a particular obligation to combat political parties and movements that push authoritarian, anti-democratic, ethno-supremacist values, methods and policies? (Part of our course will be devoted to defining right-wing politics.) Does Germany / do Germans have a particular obligation to warn Israel/Israelis of the cost of right-wing politics? In what ways is the right-wing understanding of Judaism, with its Jewish supremacism, selective, distorted, and mendacious? What resources do Judaism and Jewish history offer those of us struggling against right-wing Jewish/Israeli politics?
What are effective arguments and strategies against right-wing ideology? What are Jews in and outside of Israel to do about Israeli authoritarianism? What is the connection, if there is one, between neoliberalism and the rise of right-wing nationalism? Are current failures of democracy also a cause of the rise of the right? Why is it important to acknowledge the anxieties many Jews have regarding antisemitism and/or Arab/Muslim threats to Israel or Jews in general? Why do we need to admit that Jewish supremacism and anti-democratic authoritarianism in Israel is hardly new, but actually comprised much of political Zionism and Israeli policy toward Palestinians? Is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the root cause of Jewish/Israeli authoritarianism? Is antisemitism a cause or effect of Jewish/Israeli authoritarianism (or both)?
The struggle against antidemocratic and authoritarian movements is not merely a political one. The political unconscious must be addressed, which is inescapably intertwined with theology, psychology, notions of tradition, culture, and community, and the like. It is imperative not to fall into facile binarisms, to demonize the other, or to exempt ourselves from critical scrutiny. Ultimately, it may be the basic skills of emotional intelligence, listening with empathy, respectful communication, and self-awareness that help us move forward politically.
This Ringvorlesung (lecture series) will feature multiple guest lecturers from Europe, the United States, and Israel. The lineup so far includes Avrum Burg, Prof. Dr. Rachel Z. Feldman, Ofra Leibowitz-Goldberg, Prof. Dr. Menachem Lorberbaum, Prof. Dr. Shaul Magid, Rabbi Micha Odenheimer, Prof. Dr. Atalia Omer, Prof. Dr. Marcia Paley, Tovah Sheleg, Prof. Dr. Adam Stern
Requirements for credit points: A final project that will take the form of a research paper, short film or video, graphic work (comic), PowerPoint presentation, etc. (7.000 characters min.), on a topic chosen by the student in coordination with the instructor. Regardless of format, the presentation must have both a descriptive and analytical component.
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