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What Are Jews For?History, Peoplehood, and Purpose$
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Adam Sutcliffe

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691188805

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691188805.001.0001

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Light unto the Nations

Light unto the Nations

Jews and National Purpose

(p.157) 4 Light unto the Nations
What Are Jews For?

Adam Sutcliffe

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on the purpose of the Jews in relation to the potential and meaning of nationhood, in both Zionist and non-Zionist contexts. It talks about Moses Hess, a writer in Germany in the 1860s, who linked a profoundly negative view of the Jews' diasporic role as arch-capitalists to his irenic view of the role of the Jews in his Zionist vision of the future. It explains how a Zionist grappling with the idea of Jewish exemplarity runs through the twentieth-century history of the movement. This chapter also highlights the cultural Zionism of Ahad Ha'am and the political rhetoric of David Ben-Gurion, who repeatedly invoked Isaiah's “light unto the nations” as his vision for the Jewish state. It analyzes the relationship of Jewish exemplarity and purpose to the broader political life of the nation state that became a rich and complicated seam of debate within twentieth century thought.

Keywords:   Jews, nationhood, non-Zionist contexts, Moses Hess, arch-capitalists, Jewish exemplarity, Ahad Ha'am, David Ben-Gurion

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