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Ronald Schechter

This article argues that the term “holy” (saint/sainte) was a key word in the French revolutionary lexicon during the Terror. Its use was comparable in frequency to the terms “glorious” and “useful”. Among the many things revolutionaries regarded as “holy”—for example, liberty, equality, the constitution, the laws, and the revolution itself—by far the most often cited was the “Mountain”. Historians have assumed that “Montagne” simply referred to the deputies who occupied the upper benches in the National Convention, but an analysis of the term “holy Mountain” shows that the real significance of the name came from its analogy to Mount Sinai. Revolutionaries venerated the Mountain as a source of divine laws and as a force with the godlike capacity to punish “impious” enemies. The concept indicates an authentic religiosity among the revolutionaries, who are otherwise seen as heirs to the Enlightenment, and therefore questions the traditional opposition between Enlightenment and religion.

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From Villainous Letch and Sinful Outcast, to “Especially Beloved of God”

Complicating the Medieval Leper through Gender and Social Status

Christina Welch and Rohan Brown

This article explores the socio-religious construction of the medieval “ideal” leper; a male pedagogical symbol of social and moral status and a figure in a physical and spiritual state of liminality, where their physical decay was a sign of their moral corruption. It argues that within vernacular literature, and theology, the medieval male leper was typically perceived as an outcast experiencing social death before succumbing to the slow degeneration of the disease. Typically conceived, and represented as lusty and carnal, the “ideal” male leper wore his own sin as physical deformity as a result of the close theological interpretation of the body and the soul. However, once his spiritual and physical contagion was contained within a leprosaria (a leper hospital), he could be perceived as a semi-holy figure, living out his purgatorial punishment on earth. Living out his purgation and segregated from his former communities, the article contests that the once frightening and sinful medieval male leper could transform his social status, becoming “especially beloved by God.”

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Johannes Pause

Holy Motors, France and Germany, 2012, Pierre Grise Productions, directed and written by Leos Carax, starring Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue, and Michel Piccoli.

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Yvonne Friedman and Shulamit Furstenberg-Levi

Based on pilgrimage diaries (Itineraria), this article investigates the roles of historical and contemporary Holy Land guides, looking at how the historical documents, both descriptive and prescriptive, can be viewed as embodying the seeds of the comprehensive roles assumed by current live pilgrimage guides. Our study charted a shift over the centuries from minimal collaboration among separate guides who fulfilled the functions of pathfinder and mentor to closer collaboration among them. In contemporary Catholic pilgrimages, this process has led to a single priest-guide who combines several functions.

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A Holy War and Revenge for Kishinev

Austrian Rabbis Justify the First World War

Marsha L. Rozenblit

During the First World War Austrian rabbis played a major role in constructing a meaningful justification for the war that enabled both soldiers and those on the home front to endure the bloody conflict. Because Austria's main enemy in the first two years of the war was Russia, the 'evil empire' that persecuted its Jews, Austrian Jews, and rabbis in particular, saw the war as a just and holy war to liberate the Jews of Austrian Galicia, occupied by the Russian army at the beginning of the war, and also those of Russia itself. The war thus was a war of revenge for Kishinev; that is, for the pogroms in Russia. Such a definition of the war meant that Jews could fight both as loyal, patriotic citizens of Austria and also for a specific Jewish cause at the same time. In their sermons and writings, rabbis cogently expressed this wartime ideology, which persisted even after the Central Powers defeated Russia. Then rabbis, indeed Jewish spokesmen in general, understood the war in terms of guaranteeing the survival of the Habsburg Monarchy which protected the Jews from anti-Semitism and the dangers of nationalism.

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Holy People, Holy Place

Images of the Synagogue and its Leadership in Progressive Judaism

Barry Palmer

The purpose of this paper is to enable rabbis, honorary and paid officers of synagogues, and those who train and support them, to gain a clearer understanding of the demands upon synagogue leaders. No leadership role can be understood without an understanding of the institution or organisation which is led. The demands of running a school or a theatre or a government department or the proverbial whelk stall are different, because the aims, ethos, scale and context of each enterprise is different; though they all include certain generic skills like planning, budgeting and holding intelligent conversations. The paper therefore sets out to explore how can we most usefully describe progressive synagogues as institutions.

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Black Hats and Holy Tongues

Language and Culture among British Haredim

Simeon D. Baumel

The term haredi literally means ‘fearful’ with the reference being to fear of the Almighty. Appearing in the Bible in the phrase ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble [haredim] at his word’ (Isaiah 66:5), the haredim – along with the poor and the contrite in spirit – are those to whom the Lord will pay heed. Although the term is biblical, its contemporary use began only during the latter half of the twentieth century. Initially utilised by speakers of Hebrew to denote any Jew who was punctilious about his religious practice, the term gradually came to designate those Jews whose style of life, worldview, ethos and beliefs went beyond what many people seemed to understand by ‘Orthodox’. In English speaking countries the term ‘ultra-Orthodox’ served as a marker, but as it was foreign to the Jewish experience it did not precisely capture the essentials of the group it was meant to signify. Consequently, the term ‘haredi’ came into use (Heilman and Friedman 1991).

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Frans Ciappara

This article discusses the corpi santi, or whole skeletons of saints, which were brought to Malta from the catacombs of Rome in the eighteenth century. Here they had a diff erent meaning than they had in northern Europe. Malta was not aff ected by the Thirty Years’ War and therefore did not have to replace relics destroyed by the Protestants. The Maltese church also had no need to emphasize its connection with Rome. These saints were honored in Malta because they were heroes, having died for Christ as martyrs. Parishioners also perceived corpi santi as patrons, explaining why they were fully integrated within the parish. They rendered the churches in which they were exhibited centers of local devotion, thereby according prestige to the parish and intensifying rivalry between parishes. The saints also gave identity to the parish, so that parents even named children after them.

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Kacper Pobłocki

This article describes why the Polish government has pushed for an invocation to Christian traditions in the European Union Constitution. It is argued that this is a rather 'unfortunate' outcome of the political alliance between the Catholic Church and the Polish left, especially between President Aleksander Kwaśniewski and the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). This alliance allowed the SLD to legitimize their rule in the post-socialist Poland, and it was a result of a political competition between them and the post-Solidarność elites. As a result, John Paul II became the central integrative metaphor for the Polish society at large, which brought back in the marginalized as well as allowed the transition establishment to win the EU accession referendum in 2003. The article (which was written when Leszek Miller was still Prime Minister) demonstrates how this alliance crystallized and presents various elements of the cult of the Pope in Poland that followed. Finally, it argues that the worship of the Pope is not an example of nationalism, but of populism, understood not as a peripheral but as a central political force, and advocates for more research on the 'politics of emotions' at work in the centers and not in peripheries.

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Dan Jorgensen

One of Roy Wagner’s consistent positions is that meaning (or culture) does not simply exist as something out there in the world, but that it is elicited and created, something that people do and make. Anthropologists create culture as a more or less plausible account of what we think people are up to, and one of Wagner’s complaints is that the anthropologist’s success in this task often comes at the expense of recognizing the creativity of those we study. In our notions of culture-as-system we invent “rules” (conventions) and models of seamless wholes that leave precious little for people to do apart from being rule-abiding or occasionally deviant, when in fact they are improvising their way through life, making it up as they go along. Although this might sound a bit like Bourdieu’s practice theory, Wagner sees something else at work, a flow of innovation that leverages meaning out of the dialectic between the realm of the innate and the realm of human responsibility and action. Discontinuous but constantly impinging on one another, these realms provide the dynamic that moves culture along.