Judaism has become a global religion, though some might say that it is the only religion of the three Abrahamic faiths to become global unwillingly and against its nature. While Christianity and Islam expanded their boundaries from their humble beginnings to mighty empires and from a restricted locale to worldwide expansion, Judaism was forcefully expelled from its place of origin, dispersed to all four corners of the world by the Roman conquerors of Judea, and reluctantly turned into a wide-reaching universal religion. Judaism was cultivated and maintained wherever Jewish exiles settled and made their home. Their religion went with them wherever they wandered in their global quest for autonomy and tranquility to practice their own community life. Unlike the proselytizing and missionary character of Christianity and Islam, Judaism characteristically is an exclusive faith that does not seek converts and does not aspire for endless expansion. Its rules of admitting new believers (the process of giyur) are deliberately strict and unattractive to repel prospective disciples from joining. If permitted, conversion must be for its own sake or due to a genuine change of beliefs and not out of convenience.
Judaism and The Jewish Diaspora
The enforced dispersion of the Jews after the botched insurrection against the Romans and the burning of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple in 70 CE, entailed many enormous changes for the expelled survivors. One major ramification was the imposed transformation of the character of the Jewish community in exile with regard to members’ affiliation and the basis of attachment to the collective. Due to the termination of Jewish independence or self-rule, Jews were compelled to follow the directives of the local authorities within each location they settled. Instead of natural and, later, voluntary communities in which Jews cultivated their religious and cultural unique identity from birth and then continued and perpetuated their association by free choice, in the Diaspora, the belonging to the community became enforced and compulsory. The rulers of ancient Mesopotamia, Catholic Spain, or Medieval Ukraine, as examples of large concentrations of exiled Jewry, had a similar political preference: to designate and isolate “their” Jews in separate and segregated social enclaves amenable to rigorous control and manipulation. This situation meant that the Jew as an individual citizen did not exist and his or her sole reality was expressed as a component of the community. The personal identity was submerged and taken over by the collective identity. Furthermore, since out of expediency, the hosting authorities usually empowered the Jewish governance to levy taxes on their people, these local community elites accumulated a tremendous amount of power and command over their constituencies, rendering the Jewish community all-inclusive and self-sustaining in every possible walk of life. Hence, while the globalization of Christianity and Islam meant dispatching individual believers to personally expand the horizons of their religion and encounter new worlds and faiths to be subdued, the globalization of Judaism was a humbling experience with introverted and reclusive consequences that made the Jewish communities ever more pestilent and alien in the eyes of their host nations.
However, these dismal conditions of loss of political sovereignty and jurisdiction and total economic dependency created the necessity to adjust and generated new types of Jewish community life, institutions, and leadership. Adaptation yielded innovative approaches and an emphasis on community building and self-sustenance. Due to the absence of a unified political center and a single hierarchical system, decentralization of authority and multiplicity of autonomous communities became the central feature of Jewish reorganization and readjustment to the postexilic world. First, still in Palestine and its immediate vicinity, Syria, Egypt, Babylon, and Mesopotamia, next in expanding concentric circles to the Near East and the Mediterranean, and then with the Islamic expansion between the 7th and 12th centuries to North Africa and Spain, these structures and principles of Jewish existence prevailed. After the expulsion from Spain in 1492, the contours of the Jewish Diaspora were extended even further to central and eastern Europe. Yet through these tribulations, and perhaps because of them, Jewish communities managed to preserve and cultivate their updated exilic existence, which was composed of four unique and newfound main tenets: (1) communal organizations and communal bases of power, (2) spiritual and educational leadership, (3) an emphasis on oral law, and (4) Messianic dreams of redemption. The communal structure was an inevitability spawned by the historical developments that pulverized the Jewish commonwealth into small and underprivileged entities reliant on the mercy of local authorities. Under such circumstances, Jewish collective existence became reticent, introverted, and inwardly oriented. Assimilation with the host population was unfeasible, impractical, and undesired, while assuming sovereignty and political independence was also a far-fetched and deceptive dream. Hence, the only plausible option left to maintain their unity and unique identity was for Jews to invest their energy and skills in regrouping and upholding their distinct way of life from within. Since political and economic existence was totally dependent on external powers, building an internal infrastructure of subsistence and retaining their inimitable character really meant concentrating on education and spiritual conservation. Communal leadership committees such as the Council of the Four Lands (Vaad Arba Aratzot) in Poland, Lithuania, and other eastern European territories of the 16th and 17th centuries were typical examples of such local leadership arrangements. The leaders of such bodies managed and supervised the administrative affairs of their respective communities in addition to being the liaisons between their societies and the state authorities. This crucial responsibility of mediating between the official government of the land and the Jewish constituency was mainly expressed in the assessment and collection of taxes for the central establishment.
Leadership in Diaspora Communities
Alongside the clerical and administrative leadership, another category of leaders gained legitimacy and respectability among the Diaspora communities: the spiritual leadership of rabbis, sages, and mystics. The spiritual and clerical elites found themselves frequently at odds with one another as they were vying for ascendancy and influence among their Kahal (Hebrew for “audience” or “potential followers”). The spiritual leadership was in charge of religious, judicial, and educational issues. In the crystallization of the exilic Jewish identity devoid of political, economic, military, industrial, or commercial viability, the spiritual type of leadership quickly gained prominence, and managing religious practices including the application of religious law and education became the centerpiece of being Jewish in exile. In the times of Jewish independence in Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel), prior to the enforced dispersion and globalization of Judaism, three foci of power coexisted in delicate balance: kings, priests, and rabbis. In the Diaspora, without a kingdom to lead or protect and without a holy temple to administer and maintain, the first two elites were unnecessary, while the third achieved an unprecedented status of reverence and prestige. Unlike the managerial and secretarial elites, the rabbis and sages were admired, and they inspired loyalty and devotion in their adherents. They were also the main stimulation and driving force behind the preeminence and popularity of the oral law of Judaism, the Halakha, as opposed to the written law or the scriptures. According to the rabbinic tradition, when in Israel, the Torah (Bible) was transmitted from generation to generation by word of mouth and memorizing techniques. The Holy Scripture, the original written law bequeathed by Moses to the people of Israel, was too sacred to be added on or amended. Thus, the only way to ensure continuity and heritage was to verbally pass the ideas and values of the Torah to the new generation of believers. This tradition was feasible as long as the Jews lived together, free and independent, in their own land. When that reality was shattered and the remnants of the Jewish nation were scattered all over the globe, an urgent and genuine need to document and record the oral law had emerged. Rabbis and sages promptly began the daunting task of writing the spoken tradition, a task that was finally completed according to tradition by Rabbi Yehuda haNasi, the head of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish parliament. His work was called Mishnah (“repetition”), and it contained a redaction of all oral traditions. Through the years, it was coalesced together with three centuries’ compilation of commentaries and interpretations on the Mishnah, termed Gemara (“culmination”). Together, the Mishnah and Gemara created the Talmud (“learning”), the ultimate anthology of Jewish oral law.
Written and Oral Law in Judaism
In the postexilic situation, when Jewish communities were under constant pressure of despotic and oppressive regimes and ever-present hostile public moods, occasional outbursts of violence, and impending threats of deportation and banishment, faithfulness to the written law or the original unchanged version of the Torah limited and inhibited the attempts to survive under such conditions of uncertainty and imminent calamity. For these precarious and volatile circumstances, flexibility, adaptability, and creativity were of an essence to carry on and endure the overbearing angst of insecurity. By emphasizing and encouraging the oral law (or in the original Hebrew Torah, She-beal pe), the religious leaders were accommodating the concerns and fears of their followers that rigid and unyielding interpretation of the Bible would cripple their ability to tolerate and cope with the woes of exile. Being attentive to their audiences’ distress, the rabbis in many dispersed Jewish communities without coordination or collaboration promoted the use of the memorized tradition, the repeated storytelling, and a broader, pluralistic, and forbearing perception of the scripture. This resilience and accommodativeness helped in attenuating and smoothening the transition from the previous state of affairs, whereby sovereignty, independence, and self-determination guaranteed familiar and secured compliance with an invariable written law, to the current situation in which Jews lived under tentative and unstable conditions, where maneuvering and improvisation became prerequisites for survival and inventiveness the key for perseverance. Oral law, with its emphasis on interpretation and analysis, granted that essential space or leeway for such creativeness to get by. Consequently, it can be said that the gradual and excruciating transformation of Judaism into its globalized form bore some constructive consequences as well by rendering it relatively more tolerant and open-minded, at least in the initial difficult period of adjustment to an itinerant and disjointed existence.
Messianism in Judaism
A fourth new distinguishing feature to emerge since Judaism turned unwillingly global was the messianic dimension, a strong expectation of metaphysical or miraculous salvation. As long as they lived in their own land and under their own king, free to practice their religion and secure in their independence, Jews felt no need to seek redemption or to anticipate a liberating messiah. The eschatological element in their life was tenable and accessible: The holy temple existed; the Davidic line of kings was right there, functioning and thriving; and the end-of-days was waiting unabated and assured in the ultimate future. It wasn’t a fantasy or a hallucination but a natural and forthcoming evolution provided that the believers remain pious and observing of their religious commitments. The brutal abolition of the Jewish kingdom, the destruction of the temple, and the heartbreaking, seemingly unbounded, and infinite exile wreaked havoc on the protected and solid continuity of existence of the Jews. To survive their new insufferable fortune and to get by with their unbearable affliction, a growing number of believers in various communities at different and remote locations began to develop a profound and overwhelmingly consuming inclination toward the mystical, supernatural, and numinous. The distance from the land of Israel and the remoteness from their promised inheritance produced a split between the immediate, realistic level of being and the imagined, out-of-this-world level of being. While in the former, many Jews carried on experiencing their predicament in the Diaspora in a passive, docile, and acquiescent fashion, in the latter, they became active, enthusiastic, and vigorously involved. Eschatological redemption became, for many Jews, destitute and desperate to make sense of their catastrophe, an escape hatch or a magical getaway for an all-embracing alternative reality. This vacillation between daily concrete anxieties and the eschatological option of breaking away became commonplace among Jewish expatriates wherever they dwelled. Since the messianic trend was proven to be an effective and powerful therapeutic approach and a consequential salutary procedure, many took after the new penchant, consolidating and invigorating the messianic facet of postexilic Judaism to a considerable size. The hopes and expectations of messianic redemption caught like fire among Jewish refugees all over the world and awarded them with at least some consolation and support.
The idea of guaranteed redemption, regardless of how long it should take, presented the Diaspora as an impermanent phase, a transient calamity that eventually will be overcome. Unlike a score of other minorities forcefully dispersed by conquerors of the ancient world, Jews never accepted their new locations of domicile as normative. Consistently and adamantly, exile is portrayed as negative, harmful, and debilitating. In many prayers and religious verses, the stay in the Diaspora is described as an extended punishment for moral sins and unfaithfulness. The eschatological orientation reaffirmed the spiritual nexus Jews kept with their legacy and homeland. Distinct from other vanquished nations, which have accepted their defeat and deportation and for the most part availed themselves of a new beginning either by convergence or by assimilation with their immediate surroundings, the Jewish communities remained defiant and apart from the hosting milieu, hoping that the warranted deliverance would justify their voluntary insulation and reward them for their long-term sacrifice. Messianism, the belief in a messiah from the House of David who would salvage his people and lead them back home, was accompanied by another escapist concept that prospered in the initial harsh days of the Diaspora, the idea of martyrdom or dying for the sanctification of God’s name (Kiddush Hashem). This ritual of self-immolation in times of persecutions and pogroms or forced conversion and imposed apostasy demonstrated the absolute commitment of Jews to their faith. Favoring death to the renunciation of their faith was an inspirational choice that glorified those who took it and made them hallowed role models to the following generations. It also underlined Jewish solidarity and feelings of shared destiny, which further stimulated their closing of ranks and insulated commonality in the face of external challenges and threats.
Both orientations, the unearthly salvation and the deliberate and willing sacrifice for the preservation of one’s faith, underlined the attitude to the Diaspora as temporary and provisional. It stressed the belief that the entire exilic experience is a test of will for the chosen people to endure and to purify themselves in order to be ready and qualified for regeneration in their primordial land. This widespread frame of mind among Jews in their scattered Diaspora communities made them apolitical and ahistorical: They did not participate in politics and refrained from shaping or contributing to the world around them. They lived in quiet desperation, observing their religious precepts in their secluded and familiar surroundings, with only the shimmering anticipation of a messiah to help them carry on through their daily hardships and ephemeral existence. These transhistorical tendencies fraught with millenary and utopian undertones further alienated Jews from their host societies, and it was a major concern for sages and community leaders that such a detachment from the here-and-now might be disadvantageous to the endeavor of community building and the protracted and Sisyphean process of revitalizing the Jewish way of life in their diverse places of sojourn. In short, an immanent conflict was fermenting between responsible and realistic leaders, civil and religious, who feared false expectations and antinomian outbursts against the constraining Halakha laws, and escapist visionaries or selfproclaimed redeemers, who insisted on intermittently rekindling a surge of hope for messianic redemption. Such surges of aspirations typically erupted in the wake of persecutions, turmoil, and distress. Some of them, namely, the Molkhonian and Sabbatean movements, were immensely popular and intensely challenging to the rabbinical institutional hierarchy.
Diversity and Heterodoxy in Judaism
Beyond these intermittent flares of power confrontations, various lifestyles, priorities, and interpretations of the Jewish experience in exile coexisted in relative tranquility. The heterogeneity within Jewish communities in the Diaspora was another consequence of a globalized religion that had lost its territorial and jurisdictional concentration. Under a central commanding hierarchy, which operates within a coherent, single political setting, goals, regulations, and main concerns are clearly defined and effectively implemented. The volatile and capricious circumstances in exile did not approximate the provisions of organized control and effective administration attained in sovereignty and independence. Consequently, the mainstream rabbinic tradition had to ultimately tolerate factions and movements it knew little about and hence found difficult to cope with at first. Mystical, escapist, and ascetic propensities shared the Jewish communities’ public space and members’ commitment with the leading predisposition of unrelenting and devoted religious and legal study. Rabbis and legal scholars vied with mystics, shamans, and seers for the attention and approbation of the crowds. This benevolent disparateness was born out of the necessity to maintain Jewish subsistence and survival under any situation. For that sacred cause and with the passage of time, any eccentric or unconventional denomination within the Jewish postexilic world became endurable due to the vital duty of keeping the community integrated and protected. Leaders of Jewish communities in their disparate locations equally endeavored not to supply their host governments with incentives to intervene in their internal affairs. Interior divisions and intrafactional strife would have been an excellent occasion for the authorities to intercede and devastate the community’s spirit of solidarity and unity. Accordingly, the impending peril of an injurious intrusion to their carefully preserved universe steadily transformed the Jewish communal and political ethos in their disseminated global existence into a more pluralistic and considerate form than it ever was when they were concentrated in their ancient homeland.
Until the modern era, this heterodoxy within the rabbinic preeminence did not overwhelmingly shake the fundamentals of the internal traditional order. There were challenges and controversies that kept the guardians of the faith vigilant and concerned, but there was no irrevocable impairment of the close-knit community. Even the harshest times, both externally and internally, that Jewish communities in exile went through did not manage to destroy their long-established spiritual legacy or to rupture their strong bond to their cultural and religious heritage. But modernity, especially from the 16th century onward, rocked the foundations of Jewish communities and threatened for the first time to sever significant portions of Jews from their long-standing identity and venerable inheritance. The new era ushered in copious incentives and stimuli from the outside world that could not be bluntly and manifestly staved off as in previous generations. It became more arduous to preserve distinctiveness and unity in the face of such abundant challenges. Every traditional society was put to the test by emerging ideas and concepts of association and commitment, let alone secluded and ahistorical social groupings such as Jewish Diasporas, in which leaders attempted to shield their adherents from any possible vicissitude and safeguard them from the outside world until the arrival of the messiah. The most daring challenge to the viability and survivability of Judaism since the beginning of its transnational state arrived with the wake of the Sabbatean movement in the 17th century. A self-proclaimed redeemer called Sabbatai Zevi, a rabbi and a Kabbalist from the city of Smyrna in Anatolia, announced that he was the long-awaited Jewish messiah. The Jewish masses from the Balkan region and then the Mediterranean, who were craving redemption, were inundated by millenarian dreams prevalent around the significant year of 1666. They heeded his call as part of the global anticipation of religious awakening and founded the Sabbatean movement to promulgate Sabbatai’s messages and to publicize his arrival. This heartrending experience tore apart the Jewish exilic world with unprecedented intensities and passions. It also set a model for later movements and groups to openly defy customary rules of the Jewish way of life and to claim alternatives. More and more factions got accustomed to disobeying or contravening the habitual Jewish religious and cultural routine and lifestyle, and the global facet of Jewish existence grew more cumbersome and more intricate to keep together.
Yet what kept the Jewish tradition and indeed Judaism as a distinct and unique religion or culture despite all the dire ordeals and adversities along history was the continuous viability and adaptable ingenuity of the Jewish oral law, the Halakha. Across borders and eras, the capacity of the halakhic norms, values, and regulations to maintain common bounds and supply a framework for all Jews regardless of their location and disconnected mundane realities, was absolutely stupendous. The Halakha became the backbone that sustained the Jewish people in their separate places of exile as one coherent entity with a shared worldwide identity and its rabbis, the implementers and protectors of this spiritual and symbolic unity. The nature of the Halakha as an evolving and accumulative text, which was constantly and relentlessly enriched and cultivated by ongoing events, developments, and crises, played a decisive role in the resilience and pliability of Judaism away from its homeland. The spiritual leaders endeavored to weave their religious creeds and practices into the fabric of daily life so that Jews would be able to live and savor in their culture. Only through tolerance and compassion for other views could the Jewish Law accommodate such strange and frequently antagonistic bedfellows as the legalistic tradition and the learning tradition, the ritualistic mystics and the erudite philosophers, the scholars and the prayers, and Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. Paradoxically, the abnormal and shattering exilic experience had consolidated the Jewish faith and enhanced its durability. Against all odds and in the face of perennial feebleness, the Jews struggled to remain a part of the family of man, participating in and contributing to the cultural progress of human civilization around them. Despite the willful seclusion of their communities, they nevertheless continued to be cognizant of their environment and keep abreast with contemporary development. Although, in most cases, Jews were politically and economically inactive and disobliging, they resisted their pariah status by playing a part, at times a major part, in the world’s cultural and intellectual discourse, enriching and edifying their immediate vicinities as well as more remote regions in numerous ways. From this all-encompassing perspective, the 2,000 years of exile were certainly not a waste.
Jewish Contributions to Culture
The Jewish influence among the nations owing to their historical dispersion has been recognized and appreciated in many fields. This influence was promulgated in implicit and explicit ways, through direct interactions between Jews and Gentiles and by osmotic or diffuse circulation of ideas and values. Some Jewish contributions to Western culture were never properly credited, while others were endorsed and emulated as such. Some influence was disseminated through literature, other through people. Had Judaism been eradicated with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, Jewish literature would have left a mark on global culture, but since the Jews survived, in addition to the power of Hebrew scriptures, the actual existence of Jewish communities among their Muslim and Christian hosts facilitated and expedited the spread of knowledge and the dissemination of values and ideas in a direct, unabated fashion. Overall, the impact of Jewish presence on the host nations and cultures East and West cannot be denied or exaggerated: At some point around the ninth century, Jews had become known as the intellectual intermediaries of the world or, as the famous French historian Ernest Renan called them, “the traveling salesmen of philosophy.” This honorable title was conferred not only symbolically, as bridging the ancient and the modern, but literally as well since many translators of classic texts from their original Arabic to Latin and other European languages were Jews. Another way Jews gained their special position as intermediaries between cultures or spheres of influence in medieval times was as merchants and traders in the trans-Eurasian path from East to West. Carrying with them not only artifacts and material goods but also customs, beliefs, norms, ideas, habits, fables, folk stories, and poetry, Jews constantly nurtured and enticed the communities that absorbed them. Such a fortuitous status rendered itself possible to Jews because they were allowed to move about and travel back and forth in both the Islamic and the Christian spheres of influence. Due to their condition as deportees, itinerants, and perpetual travelers, the Arab rulers who aspired to disseminate westward their heritage and what they deemed as their superior culture, including Greek classicism, preserved and translated into Arabic, saw the wandering Jews as the ultimate transporters for that mission. Jews were also instrumental in the expansion of Arab domination westward via North Africa and into Spain as they were the assistants and advisors to the great Islamic spiritual leaders such as Ibn Bajjah and Ibn Rushd, who were aided by their Jewish wasirs Ibn Chaprout and Ibn Nagdela, respectively. However, the most salient impact on Christian thought in medieval Europe was imprinted by the poet Ibn Gabirol, or Avicebron in Christian references, and the philosopher Moses ben Maimon, or Maimonides. They both had a widespread and profound effect on philosophical thought in general and on the chief Christian scholastics of the 13th century, including Thomas Aquinas, who mentions both Maimonides and Avicebron several times in his writings, especially in his popular Commentary on the Sentences. Similar influences, perhaps in lesser degrees of scope and volume, were felt in the fields of medicine, astronomy, mathematics, theology, and poetry by erudite scholars and translators such as Tibbonides, Kalonymus, Immanuel of Rome, and Jacob Anatoli, who have all enjoyed the privilege of being able to purvey knowledge and wisdom from one world to another or from one epoch to a new one. It is intriguing to wonder about whether Maimonides and the other Jewish thinkers and scholars in the Diaspora would have achieved such a worldwide influence and recognition had they been confined geographically and geopolitically to the boundaries of old Eretz Israel or Judea and had Jews never been deported from their homeland.
There is one domain that stands apart from all others with regard to Jewish influence on their host, especially European, countries. Though politically and socially Jews were generally totally dispossessed of rights, treated as outcasts, and loathed, they still fulfilled an indispensible role in all the sociopolitical systems around them: They were the seismographs or the indicators of political tolerance in general and the attitude toward minorities and dissenters in particular. It is historically well documented that surges in violent riots against Jews were instigated and sometimes organized and sponsored by authorities in times of internal disarray and political turmoil. The age-old mechanism of distraction or scapegoating, whereby attention and dissatisfaction from policies or policymakers is diverted elsewhere, preferably toward foreigners, came into full force during times of persecutions and pogroms. In times of political leniency and social forbearance, the political atmosphere in relation to minorities, and Jews specifically, became bearable. However, once circumstances changed and intolerance returned, it was accompanied by bigotry, prejudice, and fanaticism. Jews, who were notoriously nonconformist with a built-in aversion to authority and a long history of rebellious mavericks, were chosen as instant and convenient culprits of political disobedience and dissidence, which together with social eccentricity and an oddball culture and religion rendered them the eternal victims. This inclination became even more conspicuous when reform movements rose against the obduracy and conservatism of mainstream Christianity. At times of broad political reforms, such as those launched in southern France by the Languedoc rulers, the host societies had a positive, even cordial, outlook toward Jews, and some of them even took on themselves to promote the political and economic situation of their Jewish communities. But once they secured power or their reforms were endorsed and implemented, their attitude would change again to being hostile and antagonistic. Consequently, Jews found themselves oscillating tumultuously between political acceptance and discrimination, between being cajoled and being harassed. As such, the Jewish existence as an estranged political constituency within a Gentile sociopolitical establishment became an acid test for the open-mindedness and patience of the regime.
In light of these ongoing reciprocal influences and mutual interaction between the Jewish communities in exile and their immediate surroundings, the achievement of Jewish survival and perseverance through persecutions, pogroms, expulsions, and conversions through the ages is even more remarkable than if Jews had successfully maintained total segregation and avoided any contact with the outside world. Protecting their particular nature and group cohesion while allowing selective communication with external stimuli was a prudent and delicate balancing act masterminded by sensible and farsighted leadership. The achievement was even greater as it wasn’t just a question of survival but of winning respect, admiration, and even converts from other religions. Through the dissemination of knowledge and wisdom, Jewish sages and erudite scholars reached out to and touched people’s lives in the non-Jewish world, a corollary that would probably have been farfetched had history taken another course and Judaism not transformed to a globalized religion. The most obvious indication of these outstanding developments was the harsh reaction by leaders of the Christian church. Alarmed and anxious that Jewish heresy would take root and lure true believers away, they resorted to papal bulls and religious decrees of church councils to initiate and promote pretexts for hounding and harrying Jews wherever they resided.
The advent of modernity—which some analysts place in the year 1700, others in the latter half of that century, or, more accurately, the years of the American and French revolutions, and yet others in the middle of the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment—was the threshold with regard to Jewish existence in exile. The global aspect of Judaism was about to transform again from inferior and shadowy to autonomous and proud. The two revolutions ushered in fresh and novel ideas such as liberalism, democracy, and human and civil rights. These along with the quest for emancipation— the political empowerment of the disenfranchised— have liberated Jews from discriminatory and subjugated laws and allowed them to become equal citizens. Consequently, at least in the countries that experienced the democratic turn and the ascendancy of citizenship, alien lands became new homelands for many Jews, and the meaning of exile was altered forever from enforced to one of choice.
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