“Religion” OR “Judaism” (Writing Over Universal)

Let’s make a deal, when I want to say something about Judaism, I’ll call it “religion,” because it’s a big world out there, and I don’t don’t don’t want to be parochial. Just understand that what I say about “religion” comes from “Judaism,” because that’s the small place I inhabit.  In this, maybe we can try to insinuate Judaism into a more universal frame, unless I really do mean something more particular to Judaism, in which case I will try to stay name specific. The Christians get to do this all the time, which is the privilege of anonymity allowed by hegemony, to say “religion” when they mean “Christianity.” And I think “they” are right to do so. By having to always name Judaism, we only serve to marginalize it vis-à-vis the larger world. The word “religion” throws a larger communicative net for Jewish philosophy, which is a good thing, as long as we are clear about what we’re doing. I started playing with this with Buber and Rosenzweig in The Shape of Revelation,  writing “religion” and “religious” over “Judaism” and “Jewish” and found it pretty useful. I think this kind of substitution can help get Judaism and Jewish philosophy out into the world.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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3 Responses to “Religion” OR “Judaism” (Writing Over Universal)

  1. It’s a nice idea, but people won’t understand what you’re writing.

    • zjb says:

      Thanks, Oona, Alas I fear you might be right, but my guess is that if you mix and match the terms, it might actually work. Don’t you ever get sick of using the word “Jewish” over and over again?

  2. hayyim rothman says:

    i prefer smaller words to bigger ones. i would much prefer that christians refer to christianity than that terms like “religion” get thrown around by everyone. i say: leave the term “religion” to the social sciences and encourage the use of nuanced particulars in the humanities.

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