Arendt and Deutscher on heresy and identity

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This article addresses the constitutive role of heresy in Jewish modernity. Heresy – defined here in terms of assimilation – is commonly considered destructive to Jewish tradition. I, however, examine Hannah Arendt’s works on the model of the Jewish pariah and Isaac Deutscher’s notion of the non-Jewish Jew to identify a model in which heresy gives structure to a new, modern Jewish tradition. In Deutscher, the analysis shows, this tradition of heresy suggests a universal world-view that eventually empties Judaism of any particular content. Arendt, on the other hand, connects the possibility of Jewish particularity in the present with her ideal of the pariah-as-heretic. Heresy reflects neither assimilation nor rejection of Judaism but rather offers a new foundation for Jewish particularity. The argument shows how the heresy of the pariah is also foundational to early formulations of Arendt’s politics of plurality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-426
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Jewish Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
COPYRIGHT © Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, 2022.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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