The Chosen People in America
American Jewish Theology and the Meaning of American Democracy
Professor Leora Batnitzky
THURSDAY March 22nd, 2018 7:00 in the evening
GAINES THEATRE at the Freeman Center
Located in: Christopher Newport University, 1 University Pl, Newport News, VA 23606
Free and Open to the Public Refreshments to follow the talk
Leora Batnitzky is Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at Princeton University.
About the Lecture: Jews have historically understood themselves to be God’s “treasured nation” (Exodus 19:5 and Deuteronomy 7:6) as well “a light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:1-8). Drawing on these biblical texts, along with Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount that “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14), Americans, from the Puritan John Winthrop to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, have similarly imagined themselves as a unique nation singled out by history to be a moral exemplar for the rest of the world. This paper considers how three twentieth-century Jewish thinkers—Mordecai Kaplan, Leo Strauss, and Joseph Soloveitchik—rethought Jewish chosenness in the context of American views of America’s special status. The paper argues that these thinkers’ respective claims about the meanings of Jewish chosenness in America tell us much about the history of American Jewish thought as well as about ongoing debates over the nature of American democracy and America’s role in today’s international order. The paper concludes by asking what any of these Jewish arguments might mean for thinking about the continually vexed question of whether America is or should be a Christian nation.
The Sue-Anne and Bill Bangel
Endowed Annual Lecture Series on American Judaism Hosted by the Department of Philosophy & Religion CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT UNIVERSITY
Graham M. Schweig, Professor & Director of Studies in Religion