Jews & Non-Jews 101

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Some modern Jewish thinkers have reinterpreted chosenness to temper its perceived vision of Jewish superiority, while others--such as Mordecai Kaplan, the father of Reconstructionist Judaism--have rejected the doctrine outright.

Attitudes Toward Non-Jews

The biblical and rabbinic attitudes toward non-Jews reflect the presumption that non-Jews are idolaters, and that idolatry is associated with moral deviance. Nonetheless, this general attitude wasn't directed at individual gentiles. According to the authoritative talmudic position, a righteous gentile has a share in the World to Come.

In the Middle Ages, Jewish authorities debated whether Christianity and Islam were considered idolatrous, and this affected their views of these religions. Some authorities accepted that Christianity and Islam had some value, while others considered them repugnant and false. The end of the twentieth century saw a flurry of Jewish-Christian dialogue, with many liberal theologians--both Jews and Christians--gravitating toward more accepting positions. Similar Jewish-Muslim dialogue has yet to occur.

Until recently, there was very little contact between Jews and Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Though many aspects of these religions are reminiscent (in the eyes of traditionalists) of ancient Near Eastern idolatry, some contemporary Jews have developed an affinity for them, and members of the Jewish Renewal movement have incorporated a number of Eastern practices--e.g. Zen meditation--into their prayers and practices.

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