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Jonathan Magonet

There are two aspects of this proposition. The first one depends on our understanding of the pluralist nature of European Jewry. The Jewish community of Europe is de facto pluralist, as any attempt to define the basis of our identity makes clear. Jews consider themselves as Jewish on religious, cultural, intellectual, ethnic or political grounds, and any combination of the above. That very diversity seems to be the only uniting factor that can hold together such a disparate group of people. Moreover Jews are also deeply influenced by the different national and cultural characteristics of the societies to which they belong. The classic basis for Jewish unity in Halakhah, Jewish law, has been seriously undermined by the fact of emancipation. What was formerly a total system encompassing all aspects of life, has effectively been reduced to only two areas where power remains with religious authorities, matters of status, who is a Jew and who may marry whom, and the particular form of religious practice they adopt.

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Jonathan Magonet

That all happened many years ago. To my surprise, and regret, I am the one still here to tell the story. Ruth was younger than me by so many years, but the hand of God works in its own mysterious way. There are those who still say that her death was my punishment for marrying someone like her, from an enemy people and a godless society. So I feel it is up to me to set the record straight. To tell Ruth's story as she might have told it herself. I will do my best and I hope to do justice to an extraordinary woman., who in a brief moment changed my prejudice and fear into acceptance and love. Who gave me a new life. When Oved comes of age he can learn from her own words the story of his true mother.

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Bible Week

The Author's Esther – A Sermon

Jonathan Magonet

If Esther is a secular work of fiction, what can we say about the author’s attitude to his characters? A whimsical sermon.

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Jonathan Magonet

This article is based on a public lecture, given on the occasion of the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the International Jewish–Christian–Muslim Student Conference (JCM), and is a personal reflection on its prehistory and early development. Certain key experiences of the author and other rabbinic graduates of Leo Baeck College helped shape the principles and unique emphasis of this early attempt to address the changing religious geography of post-war Europe.

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Jonathan Magonet

At the time of writing this editorial Londoners are still coming to terms with the terrorist bomb attacks in July. Jewish communities have been put on special alert as potential targets. A backlash against the Muslim community has been one inevitable result and Jewish voices have been strong in condemning such a response. The long term commitment to interfaith dialogue, often expressed in the pages of this journal, is one of the essential elements in challenging ideologies that foster the murderous violence of the bombers, and the crude brutalities of those who target Muslims in response.

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Jonathan Magonet

Abstract

The radical changes in attitudes of the Catholic Church to the Jewish people brought about by Nostra Aetate can only be welcomed. This latest document, ‘The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable’, continues the process but raises questions as to how far Jews can recognize themselves in these attempts at a new theological interpretation of Judaism. For example, the document argues that for Christians the ‘New Covenant’ ‘can only be understood as the affirmation and fulfilment of the “Old”‘. Yet by defining the ‘Old’ as the ‘Abrahamic Covenant’ alone, it fails to recognize that it is the ‘Sinai Covenant’ that is an essential part of Jewish self-understanding. The document indicates how much further the process of mutual understanding needs to be explored by both partners in this dialogue.

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Jonathan Magonet

Abstract

Already in 1946 Rabbi Dr Leo Baeck advocated that alongside the rebuilding of congregations in post-war Europe, what he termed ‘little Judaism’, there was a need for a ‘greater Judaism’ – Jewish engagement with the wider issues of society: ‘We are Jews also for the sake of humanity’. In 1949 he also expressed the need for a dialogue with Islam. A variety of events and activities represent early attempts to meet these dual concerns. In 1997 at the first post-war, full-scale conference of the European Board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Germany, in Munich, Diana Pinto noted that despite long-standing fears that the European diaspora was doomed to disappear, changes in a European self-understanding had helped create an ‘ever more vibrant Jewish space’. Almost twenty years on from then, particularly with the rise of anti-Semitism and terrorist attacks, the mood amongst European Jews has become less optimistic.

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Jonathan Magonet

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Jonathan Magonet

There is an ongoing political debate as to whether or to what extent the United Kingdom is a part of ‘Europe’. Clearly a journal published in the UK that seeks to explore the dimensions of Jewish life throughout Europe has, from its inception, celebrated this broader aspect of British Jewish identity. But by focusing on continental Europe we have sometimes neglected aspects of Jewish life in Britain itself. This was brought home to the editor when he attended a conference in London organized by Sue Vice and Axel Stähler called: ‘Writing Jews in Contemporary Britain’. When invited to publish the proceedings in the journal the organizers readily agreed and expanded the initial list of contributors. So it is with gratitude and pleasure that I hand over the editorial task to them for the bulk of this issue.

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Jonathan Magonet

Having devoted an entire issue of the journal (and some overflow into the following one) to the current state of Yiddish, there was an obvious logic in attempting to do the same for the state of Ladino. But whereas the sound of Yiddish, albeit in a vulgarized form, is familiar, and access to texts and scholars working in the field is relatively easy, Ladino presents an entirely different set of problems. It has no obvious speakers to promote it today in Anglo-Saxon countries, and the subject belongs more to the realm of specialized studies. So the Editorial Board was delighted when Hilary Pomeroy agreed to help us in suggesting possible contributors. Hilary Pomeroy teaches courses on the culture and history of Sephardi Jewry in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London, and has chaired the British Conference on Judeo-Spanish Studies, an international scholarly resource, since 1995. Once the list began to come together, it became obvious that it needed particular expertise to edit the issue effectively, and Hilary generously accepted the invitation to take on this task.