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The First Modern JewSpinoza and the History of an Image$
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Daniel B. Schwartz

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691142913

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691142913.001.0001

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Spinoza’s Jewish Modernities

Spinoza’s Jewish Modernities

(p.1) Introduction Spinoza’s Jewish Modernities
The First Modern Jew

Daniel B. Schwartz

Princeton University Press

This introductory chapter considers why the hallmark of modern Jewish identity is its resistance to—and, at the same time, obsession with—definition. Like battles over national identity in the modern state, clashes over the nature and limits of Jewishness have frequently taken the shape of controversies over the status—and stature—of marginal Jews past and present. The Jewish rehabilitation of historical heretics and apostates with a vexed relationship to Judaism has become so much a part of contemporary discourse that it is difficult to imagine secular Jewish culture without it. Yet this tendency has a beginning as well as a template in modern Jewish history, which the chapter introduces in the figure of Baruch (or Benedictus) Spinoza (1632–1677)—“the first great culture-hero of modern secular Jews,” and still the most oft-mentioned candidate for the title of first modern secular Jew.

Keywords:   modern Jewish identity, modern secular Jews, national identity, Jewishness, secular Jewish culture, modern Jewish history, Baruch Spinoza, Jewish modernity

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