Introduction: The Politics of Religion

  • Sheila A. Spector


We are only now beginning to recognize the full ramifications of the relationship between Christians and Jews during the European Romantic Movement.1 Before the Enlightenment, the Jews were a despised, though protected, minority in Europe.2 As the purported Christ killers, the Jews were condemned, so Christians believed, to wander throughout the world bearing witness to the new dispensation. Yet, because a cornerstone of much Christian eschatology was the conversion of the Jews, who were prophesied first to be dispersed throughout the four corners of the universe, Europeans permitted small Jewish communities to survive in their midst, though as separate nations within the larger geographical entities that comprised the Continent.3 As a result of Enlightenment rationality, however, Europeans were compelled to reconsider the morality, not to mention practicality, of retaining separate, though decidedly unequal communities within their nominal bounds. As the West grew progressively more secularized, with Christians defining themselves primarily as moral and rational creatures, it became less and less acceptable to maintain separate ethnic communities whose members were tolerated, though denied the rights of citizenship. Instead, as part of the process by which the modern nation-states were consolidated, Europeans were forced to reconfigure their own self-identities, very often by contrasting themselves with the others who presumably threw into relief those characteristics by which each group defined itself.


Jewish Community Giant Killer Reform Movement Romantic Period Dominant Community 
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© Sheila A. Spector 2005

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  • Sheila A. Spector

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