8 Pages

Introduction: Judaism and Jewish Communities in the Contemporary World

WithDaniel J. Elazar

The Jewish polity has undergone many changes since its inception somewhere in the Sinai Desert but none have been more decisive than those that have affected it in the past three centuries. For the Jewish people, the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel provided the pair of decisive events that marked the crossing of the watershed into the postmodern world. Central to the reconstitution was the reestablishment of a politically independent Jewish commonwealth in Israel. At the end of the 1940s the centers of Jewish life had shifted decisively away from Europe to Israel and North America. The Jewish world had been willy-nilly thrown back to a pioneering stage. The State of Israel and its various organs have a strong claim to preeminence in fields that touch on every aspect of Jewish communal life. The Israeli leadership have argued consistently that Israel is qualitatively different from the diaspora and hence its centrality must be acknowledged.