Another Modernity: Elia Benamozegh’s Jewish Universalism
By: Clémence Boulouque
Another Modernity is a rich study of the life and thought of Elia Benamozegh, a nineteenth-century rabbi and philosopher whose work profoundly influenced Christian-Jewish dialogue in twentieth-century Europe. Benamozegh, a Livornese rabbi of Moroccan descent, was a prolific writer and transnational thinker who corresponded widely with religious and intellectual figures in France, the Maghreb, and the Middle East. This idiosyncratic figure, who argued for the universalism of Judaism and for interreligious engagement, came to influence a spectrum of religious thinkers so varied that it includes proponents of the ecumenical Second Vatican Council, American evangelists, and right-wing Zionists in Israel.
What Benamozegh proposed was unprecedented: that the Jewish tradition presented a solution to the religious crisis of modernity. According to Benamozegh, the defining features of Judaism were universalism, a capacity to foster interreligious engagement, and the political power and mythical allure of its theosophical tradition, Kabbalah—all of which made the Jewish tradition uniquely equipped to assuage the post-Enlightenment tensions between religion and reason. In this book, Clémence Boulouque presents a wide-ranging and nuanced investigation of Benamozegh's published and unpublished work and his continuing legacy, considering his impact on Christian-Jewish dialogue as well as on far-right Christians and right-wing religious Zionists.
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About the Author:
Clémence Boulouque is the Carl and Bernice Witten Assistant Professor in Jewish and Israel studies at Columbia University. Clémence Boulouque was a literary and movie critic in Paris. She is a published novelist and essayist in her native France.
About the Speakers:
Eliyahu Stern is Associate Professor of Modern Jewish Intellectual and Cultural History in the Departments of Religious Studies and History at Yale University. He is the author of the award-winning, The Genius: Elijah of Vilna and the Making of Modern Judaism (Yale University Press in 2012). His second monograph Jewish Materialism: The Intellectual Revolution of the 1870s (Yale University Press, 2018) details the ideological background to Jews’ involvement in Zionism, Capitalism, and Communism.
Gil Anidjar is Professor in the Departments of Religion and the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS) at Columbia University. He is the author of Semites: Race, Religion, Literature (Stanford UP, 2008) and Blood: a Critique of Christianity (Columbia UP, 2014), among others.
Beth Berkowitz is Professor and Ingeborg Rennert Chair of Jewish Studies at Barnard College. She is the author of Execution and Invention: Death Penalty Discourse in Early Rabbinic and Christian Cultures (Oxford University Press, 2006); Defining Jewish Difference: From Antiquity to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2012); and Animals and Animality in the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).
Josef Sorett is Professor of Religion and African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University, where he is also chair of the Department of Religion and directs the Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice. His first book, Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, 2016) illumines how religion has figured in debates about black art and culture across the 20th century. A second book, The Holy Holy Black: The Ironies of an American Secular, is forthcoming with Oxford UP.
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