Membership, Community, Diversity

How do Jews view Judaism’s relationships to other traditions?

Even the earliest biblical texts that describe the formative years of Judaism as a faith tradition show a vivid, if largely disapproving, awareness of the religious practices and beliefs of other peoples. Jews were to be a people of faith who would distinguish themselves by their faithful response to divine initiative. Biblical Judaism defined itself in the context of various Canaanite pagan cults, which often exercised an unholy fascination on Jews of wavering faith. Most Jews are, of course, keenly aware of their tradition’s complex relationship to Christianity, which claims to be a fulfillment of an ancient messianic expectation. From the Jewish perspective, Christianity was just another of many false movements of its kind. Many have also been puzzled and hurt by ongoing Christian condemnations of Jews as “Christ-killers,” a hateful epithet only recently repudiated by the pope.

Throughout medieval times in Europe, Jews often suffered cruelly as a result of severely prejudicial Christian decrees as to how Jews should live and even what they should wear in public. Most of all, many Jews simply do not understand why so many Christians have harbored such a virulent animosity toward Jews. Judaism has also had an important connection to Islam over the centuries. Jews have generally fared better under Muslim regimes throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain than under Christian authority. From a strictly religious perspective, however, Judaism is strikingly close to Islam in many respects, both in practice and belief: from an uncompromising monotheism to dietary concerns to an egalitarian style of worship and view of authority.


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