Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Daniel Elazar Papers Index

Jewish Political Thought

World Jewry as a Polity

Daniel J. Elazar

This paper is devoted to understanding the Jewish community as a polity, as a commonwealth that transcends, at it were, space, in the same way that, as a people, Jews have transcended time. As an organized people, Jews partake of an exceptional kind of political life, which if still unusual today, may well be a form to which the world in general is moving. If Marshall MacLuhan is correct, the world is undergoing some retribalization. In many respects, the Jews are the modern tribe par excellence, the tribe that has kept pace with the movement of civilization without sacrificing its kinship structure while still managing to create a commonwealth that transcends territorial limits.

The Greeks, as usual, had a word for it. The Hellenistic world coined the term politeuma to describe phenomena such as the worldwide Jewish polity of that age, in which Jews simultaneously maintained strong political links, including citizenship, with their territorial polities, the Hellenistic cities, and with one another across lands and seas. A politeuma was an autonomous polity located within another polity but not federated with it. Baron defines a politeuma as "an organization of men of the same political status outside their native habitat..." and indicates that the term was also applied to the Greek, Idumean, Cretan, and Phyrygian diaspora communities.1

The characteristic form of political organization in the modern epoch was the territorial nation-state, politically sovereign within clear boundaries, encompassing a territory over which complete authority was exercised by a particular government ostensibly in the name of the single nation that inhabited that territory. This is not the place to go into this theory of national territorial sovereignty and its consequences. At its best it was a founding and sustaining myth for states that were far from homogeneous despite their striving for homogeneity, often at the price of earlier identities, loyalties, and cultures. At its worst, it became a vehicle for unprecedented barbarism in the name of national unity and ethnic or racial purity.2

The Jews were caught in the middle of the struggle for modern statehood, particularly in Europe. First they lost their communal autonomy to the new nation-states and only after a struggle were they able to gain civil rights and citizenship in the new states in recompense. In the process, the Jewish people almost lost its polity. But the realities of Jewish existence were such that, even as emancipation of Jews as individuals was spreading throughout the world, new devices for Jewish corporate organization in the diaspora e;merged, based on the exercise of necessary functions in the limited sphere that remained open for collective Jewish activity. In the postmodern epoch, these functions coalesced into activity spheres in which voluntary collective Jewish action was considered acceptable.

This development is simply a more blatant example of a general reality that has resurfaced in the postmodern epoch. If the modern epoch was characterized by a relentless pursuit of the territorial nation-state, the postmodern epoch is one in which humanity is trying to come to grips with an ineluctable pluralism that has prevented all by 10 percent of the world's states from having even a chance to become homogeneous. As Ivo Duchacek pointed out, the other 90 percent of the world's politically sovereign states have substantial minorities, which must be accommodated. Even many of the remaining 10 percent have links to members of their nation who constitute minorities in surrounding states. As a consequence, simple territorial arrangements are increasingly being supplemented by nonterritorial ones to accommodate these minorities.3 The Jews are both pioneers and beneficiaries of the new situation.

The study of the Jewish people as a polity is a proper, if neglected, element in the corpus of Jewish studies and a worthy subject of political research generally.4

The Jewish people has the distinction of being the longest lasting and most wide-spread "organization" in the history of the world. Its closest rival is the Roman Catholic Church, half its age. Curiously -- and perhaps significantly -- the two are organized on radically opposed principles. The Catholic Church is built on hierarchical principles from first to last and gains its survival power by their careful and intelligent manipulation.5 The Jewish people is organized on federal principles from first to last and enhances its survival power by applying them almost instinctively in changing situations. The contrasting characteristics of these two modes of organization are intrinsically worthy of political and social investigation. So, too, is the role of the Jewish polity in the development and extension of federal principles, institutions, and processes.6

The Jewish polity emerges out of two sources: kinship -- Jews are born Jews and, as such, are members of the tribe -- and consent -- they agree to be bound by their transcendent covenant. Most Jews cannot choose the ties of kinship. However, what Jews do with those ties is a matter of choice. Individually, every Jew in every age has consented to be Jewish -- has voluntarily assumed the ties of citizenship, not simply the ties of kinship. This combination of kinship and consent lies at the very basis of the Jewish polity.

In modern times, the option not to consent expanded considerably in every respect. Today, it stands at what is probably the all-time high, even though modest counterpressures have begun to reemerge. Although modern civilization has influenced Jews to the extent that "being Jewish" is no longer an all-embracing way of life for most members of the Jewish community, the concept of and behavior involved in "being Jewish" remains far more broad-gauged in its scope and reach than the concepts of and behavior involved in being a member of a religious group only, hence its political dimension.

Consequently, the maintenance of Jewish life can be understood as a matter of familial solidarity, but it must also be understood in the light of the active will of individual Jews to function as a community. The "Jewish community" in the largest sense is defined as all those people born Jews or who have consciously and formally embraced Judaism though born outside the Jewish fold. At the same time, Jews can be fully understood only when they are linked by a shared destiny and a common communications network whose essential community of interest and purpose is reflected through an at times bewildering panoply of organizations.

In the end, though associational activity provides the motive thrust for the maintenance and continuation of Jewish life, the organic ties persist and are strengthened when the survival of the community seems to be at stake. Jews, even marginal ones, have a "sixth sense" about threats to their security and survival as Jews. Since the Holocaust of World War II, when the Jewish people lost one-third of its total number, that "sense" has been sharpened considerably.

What follows is a discussion of how the contemporary Jewish community has responded to the problems of transforming the passive bonds of kinship into active associational ties based on the bonds of consent; how its responses have been stimulated by the "sixth sense" mentioned above; and how the responses themselves relate to traditional patterns of Jewish organization. Organizationally, contemporary Jewry has made great strides in the past forty years, and progress on that front seems to be continuing. Nevertheless, the organizational progress of the Jewish polity must be viewed in the context of the crisis of Jewish survival now besetting world Jewry. At times the gap between the organized life of the community and most of the Jews in it seems to be growing to unmanageable proportions. The community's organizational success may obscure its failure to mobilize most Jews to take their Jewishness with utmost seriousness. It should be borne in mind that the following discussion is presented with the knowledge that organization alone cannot solve that problem.

In this paper, we are concerned with the foundations of the world Jewish polity and its reemergence as an active force on the world scene in our time, the reconstitution of the countrywide and local communities within it, which constitute that polity, the spheres of activity through which that polity carries out its functions, the domains into which those activities are organized, and the institutions, dimensions, and tasks of the renewed Jewish polity. We touch on the new Jewish public that has emerged in the postmodern epoch as citizens of that polity. We do not focus on the individual countrywide communities, which together constitute the Jewish polity: beginning with Israel as a Jewish state and focusing in turn on the Jewish communities of the Western Hemisphere and the British Commonwealth, Europe, the Muslim world, and the far-flung diasporas of Africa and Asia. We need to examine the institutions of each Jewish community and its organizational dynamics in the context of its overall Jewish condition. The paper concludes with an examination of the problem of building citizenship in the Jewish polity now that it has been renewed under postmodern conditions.

The Foundations of the Jewish Polity7

Jews can be fully understood only when they are recognized as members of a polity -- a covenantal community linked by a shared destiny, a promised land, and a common pattern of communications whose essential community of interest and purpose and whose ability to consent together in matters of common interest have been repeatedly demonstrated. In traditional terms, Judaism is essentially a theopolitical phenomenon, a means of seeking salvation by constructing God's polity, the proverbial "city upon a hill" through which the covenantal community takes on meaning and fulfills its purpose in the divine scheme of things.8 Jewish peoplehood has been the motivating force for communal life and creativity throughout the long history of the Jewish people. The power of this force has certainly been demonstrated in our own time with the restoration of the State of Israel.

The Jewish polity has some special characteristics. It is worldwide in scope but only territorial in a limited sense. It is not a state, although a state is an essential part of it.9 It is authoritative but only for those who accept citizenship within it. It does not demand the exclusive loyalty of those attached to it, because many of its members share multiple loyalties.10 And, finally, it exists by virtue of a mystique, an orientation toward a future that looks to the redemption of mankind.

Preeminently, the Jewish polity survives because of the Jews' will to carve out an area of autonomous existence amid polities that would absorb or eliminate them.11 As it turns out, this is as true of Israel in its own way, as it has been of the diaspora Jewish communities, just as it was true of all the earlier Jewish commonwealths. The seeds of whatever Jews are today were planted at the very birth of the Jewish people. Certain key characteristics visible then and deriving from those original conditions have persisted over time despite all the subsequent changes in the Jewish situation.

The Jewish polity is a product of a unique blend of kinship and consent. The blend is already reflected in the biblical account of its origins: a family of tribes that becomes a nation by consenting to God's covenant.12 The term federal is derived from the Latin foedus meaning covenant.13 That Jews were born Jewish puts them in a special position to begin with, one which more often than not forced them together for their self-protection. Yet sufficient opportunities for conversion, assimilation, or the adoption of a posture of simple apathy toward any active effort to maintain Jewish life were almost always available as options. The survival of organized Jewish life, then, can only be understood in the light of the active will of many Jews to function as a community, in itself a form of consent ratified by repeated consensual acts over the millennia.

Beyond the sheer fact of communal survival, consent has remained the normal basis for organizing of the Jewish polity. Jews in different localities consented (and consent) together to form congregations and communities -- in Hebrew the terms are synonymous.14 They did (and do) this formally through articles of agreement, charters, covenants, and constitutions. The traditional Sephardi term for such articles of congregational-communal agreement, askamot, conveys this meaning exactly. The local communities were (and are) then tied together by additional consensual arrangements, ranging from formal federations to the tacit recognition of a particular halakhic authority, shtadlan, or supralocal body as authoritative.15 When conditions were propitious, the de facto confederation of Jewish communities extended to wherever Jews lived. When this level of political existence was impossible, the binding force of Jewish law served to keep the federal bonds from being severed.

Covenantal Foundations

Jews have traditionally organized their communities into coherent bodies politic on a constitutional basis. In Jewish law, every Jewish community is a partnership of its members. Legally, communities do not exist apart from their members. There is no such thing as "the state" existing independently of the people in halakhah, or Jewish tradition. The ultimate constitutional basis of that partnership is the original covenant establishing the Jewish people, the covenant that tradition records as having been made between God and the twelve tribes of Israel at Sinai. From that covenant came the Torah, the traditional constitution of the Jewish people.

Until modern times, nobody disputed the traditional constitution. Jews accepted the Torah. They may have argued over its interpretation, but they accepted it. And out of that acceptance the Jewish polity was given constitutional form.

A covenant is a morally informed agreement or pact between parties having an independent and sufficiently equal status based on voluntary consent and established by mutual oaths or promises involving or witnessed by a transcendent authority. A covenant provides for joint action to achieve defined ends, limited or comprehensive, under conditions of mutual respect in a way that protects the respective integrities of all the parties to it. Every covenant involves consenting, promising, and agreeing. Most are meant to be of unlimited duration, if not perpetual. Covenants can bind any number of partners for a variety of purposes, but in essence they are political in that their bonds are used principally to create relationships best understood in political terms.

As much as covenant is a theological and a political concept, it is also informed by a moral or ethical perspective that treats political relationships in the classical manner. That is, it links power and justice -- the two faces of politics -- and preserves the classic and ancient links between ethics and politics. Again, the emphasis is on relationships rather than structures as the key to political justice. Structures are always important, but ultimately, no matter how finely tuned the structures, they come alive (or fail to) only through the human relationships that inform and shape them.

Covenant is tied in an ambiguous relationship to two related terms, compact and contract. On one hand, both compacts and contracts are closely related to covenant, and sometimes the terms are even used interchangeably. Moreover, covenantal societies tend to emphasize contractual arrangements at every level of human affairs. However, there are real differences between the three terms. Covenants and compacts differ from contracts in that the first two are constitutional or public and the last private. As such, covenantal or compactual obligation is broadly reciprocal. Those bound by one or the other are obligated to respond to one another beyond the letter of the law rather than to limit their obligations to the narrowest contractual requirements. Hence, covenants and compacts are inherently designed to be flexible in some respects and firm in others. As expressions of private law, contracts tend to be interpreted as narrowly as possible as to what the contract explicitly mandates.

A covenant differs from a compact in that its morally binding dimension takes precedence over its legal dimension. In its heart of hearts, a covenant is an agreement in which a higher moral force, traditionally God, is either a direct party to or guarantor of a particular relationship. A compact, based as it is on mutual pledges rather than guarantees by or before a higher authority, rests more heavily on legal as well as moral grounding for its politics. In other words, compact is a secular phenomenon.

This is historically verifiable by examining the shift in terminology that took place in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Although those who saw the hand of God in political affairs as a rule continued to use the term covenant, those who sought a secular grounding for politics turned to the term compact. Though the distinction was not always used with strict clarity, it does appear consistently. The issue was further complicated by Fousseau and his followers, who talk about social contract, a highly secularized concept, which, even when applied for public purposes, never develops the same moral obligation as either covenant or compact.

In its original biblical form, covenant embodies the idea that relationships between God and humans are based on morally sustained compacts of mutual promise and obligation. God's covenant with Noah (Genesis 9), which comes after Noah had hearkened fully to God's commands in what was, to say the least, an extremely difficult situation, is the first of many examples. In its political form, covenant expresses the idea that people can freely create communities and politics, peoples and publics, and civil society itself through such morally grounded and sustained compacts (whether religious or otherwise in impetus), establishing thereby enduring partnerships.16

The covenantal approach is clearly connected with constitutionalism. A covenant is the constitutionalization of a set of relationships of a particular kind. As such, it provides the basis for the institutionalization of those relationships; but it would be wrong to confuse the order of precedence. Again, the biblical model whereby a covenant provides the basis for constitutional government by first establishing a people or civil society which then proceeds to adopt a constitution of government for itself, is paradigmatic. Here the constitution involves the translation of a prior covenant into an actual frame or structure of government. Sometimes the constitution includes the covenant within it, serving both purposes simultaneously.

Covenant theory emphasizes human freedom because only free people can enter into agreements with one another. It also presupposes the need for government and the need to organize civil society on principles that assure the maintenance of those rights and the exercise of power in a cooperative or partnershiplike way.

Covenantal (or federal) liberty, however, is not simply the right to do as one pleases within broad boundaries. Federal liberty emphasizes liberty to pursue the moral purposes for which the covenant was made. This latter kind of liberty requires that moral distinctions be drawn and that human actions be judged according to the terms of the covenant. This does not preclude changes in social norms, but the principles of judgment remain constant. Consequently, covenantal societies, founded as they are on covenantal choice, emphasize constitutional design and choice as a continuing process.

The Edah as a Classic Republic

The Jewish polity has followed the covenant model since its inception, adapting it to variegated circumstances in which Jews have found themselves over the millennia -- as a tribal federation, a federal monarchy, a state with a diaspora, a congress of covenantal communities, a network of regional federations or confederations, or a set of voluntary associations.

The classic Hebrew name for this kind of polity is edah. the edah is the assembly of all the people constituted as a body politic. Edah is often translated as congregation; that term has a religious connotation today that it did not have when introduced in sixteenth-and seventeenth-century biblical translations. Then it had a civil meaning as well. It was a "congregation" -- an institutionalized gathering of people who congregate (come together) that meets at regular times or frequently for common action and decision making.17

In Mosaic times edah became the Hebrew equivalent of "commonwealth" or "republic", with strong democratic overtones. The idea of the Jewish people as an edah has persisted ever since and the term has been used to describe the Jewish body politic in every period to the present. In this respect, the term parallels (and historically precedes) similar phenomena such as the landesgemeinde in Switzerland, the Icelandic althing, and the town meeting in the United States.

The characteristics of the original edah can be summarized as follows:

  1. The Torah is the constitution of the edah.

  2. All members of the edah, men, women, and children,participate in some appropriate way in constitutional decisions.

  3. Political quality exists for those capable of taking full responsibility for Jewish survival.

  4. Decisions are made by an assembly that determines its own leaders within parameters of divine mandate.

  5. The edah is portable and transcends geography.

  6. Nevertheless, for it to function completely, the edah needs Eretz Israel.

These basic characteristics have been preserved with such modifications as were necessary over the centuries. Thus, in biblical times, taking full responsibility for Jewish survival meant being able to bear arms. Subsequently, the arms-bearing measure of political equality gave way to one of Torah study. Today the diaspora measure is contributing to the support of Israel, while arms-bearing is again the measure in Israel. The principles of assembly, leadership, and decision making have remained the same although modes of assembling, leadership recruitment, and leaders' roles and responsibilities have changed from time to time. The portability of the desert-born edah is as notable a characteristic as is its attachment to Zion. The Torah has persisted as the edah's constitution albeit with changing interpretations.

The regime most common in Jewish experience has been the aristocratic republic, in the classic sense of the term -- rule by a limited number who take upon themselves an obligation or conceive of themselves as having a special obligation to their people and to God. For Jews, this has been manifested in some combination of a perceived obligation by those of greater status or wealth to use their privileged position to help other Jews and by those learned in Torah who serve the will of God by serving the community.

Jewish republicanism is rooted in a democratic foundation based on the equality of all Jews as citizens of the Jewish people. All Jews must participate in the establishment and maintenance of their polity, as demonstrated in the Bible -- at Sinai, on the plains of Moab, before Schchem, and elsewhere -- in Sefer HaShtarot, and in many other sources. Nor is that foundation merely theoretical; even where power may not be exercised on a strictly democratic basis, it is generally exercised in light of democratic norms.

There are problems associated with the use of these terms, but they do help us understand that the Jewish polity often has been governed by a kind of trusteeship. It is a trusteeship because the community is republican, because it is a res publica, a public thing or a commonwealth -- a body politic that belongs to its members. The Jewish people is a res publica with a commitment to a teaching and law, which its members are not free simply to alter as they wish but must be maintained to be faithful to principles.

Still, an aristocratic republic always has a darker side in that it has a tendency to degenerate into oligarchy. The history of governance in the Jewish community has been one of swinging between the two poles of aristocratic republicanism and oligarchy. Though this is a perennial problem, the basic aristocratic republicanism of the Jewish polity has worked equally well to prevent absolutism or autocracy.

The Three Arenas of Jewish Political Organization

From earliest times, the Jewish polity has been organized in three arenas. Besides the edah, or national, arena, there are countrywide or regional, and local arenas of organization. The immediately local arena comprises local Jewish communities around the world of varying sizes, under varying forms of communal organization. The local community remains the basic cell of Jewish communal life. Here the institutions that serve the Jewish community are organized and function.

Beyond the local arena, there is a larger, countrywide arena in which the Jews in particular regions, countries, or states organize for common purposes. The organizational expressions of that arena have included such phenomena as the Resh Galuta (Exilarch) and Yeshivot of Babylonia, the Vaad Arba Aratzot (Council of the Four Lands) of late medieval Poland, the State of Israel, the Board of Deputies of British Jewry, and the congeries of "national" (meaning countrywide) organizations of American Jewry framed by the Council of Jewish Federations. Fund-raising for Israel, for example, depends on work in local communities but is generally organized in this second arena on a country-by-country basis.

Beyond the second arena, there is the third, that of the Jewish people as a whole: the edah. This arena was extremely weak for nearly a millennium but has been given new institutional form within the last century, most particularly in our time. The edah is the main focus of the reconstitution of the Jewish people in our time.

This threefold division into separate arenas of governance, once formulated in early Israelite history, has remained a permanent feature of Jewish political life. This is so despite frequent changes in the forms of organization of the several arenas and in the terminology used to describe them.

The Three Ketarim

Classically, leadership in the Jewish polity has been divided and shared among three domains known in Hebrew as the three ketarim (crowns); the keter torah, the domain of the Torah; the keter kehunah, the domain of the priesthood; and the keter malkhut, literally, the crown of kingship, but more correctly understood as the domain of governance. Each of these ketarim has functions it must perform if Jewish life is to be complete; hence, all are necessary for the survival and development of the edah.18 There has never been a time when the edah has not in some way functioned through some kind of division of authority and powers among the three ketarim. This is not separation of powers in the modern sense. The ketaric division is for comprehensive polities that embrace more than the organs of government in the modern sense. Hence it comes before the executive-legislative-judicial division. Each keter combines a range of functions, institutions, and roles within its domain.

The keter torah embraces those responsible for the maintenance and application of the Torah, its laws, principles, and spirit of the life of the Jewish people and governance of the edah. Its roots go back to Moses, the first navi (prophet) and, as such, the first to bear that keter. After the age of prophecy, it passed to the soferim (scribes) and then to the Sanhedrin with its hakhamim (sages) and rabbis. In the traditional Jewish polity, its bearers functioned primarily as teachers and judges.

The keter kehunah embraces those who are responsible for the ritual and sacerdotal expressions of Jewish being, designed to bring Jews closer to Heaven individually and collectively (and hence to each other as Jews). From a public perspective, the functions of this crown play a major role in determining the fact and character of citizenship in the edah. Originally granted in the Torah to Aaron and his heirs, it is principally identified with the cohanim, but after the destruction of the Second Temple, its functions passed to other religious functionaries, principally hazzanim and, more recently, congregational rabbis, and generally were confined to the most local arena of Jewish organization.

The keter malkhut embraces those who are responsible for conducting the civil business of the edah: to establish and manage its organized framework, its political and social institutions, to raise and expend the money needed for the functioning of the edah, and to handle its political and civic affairs. Although, like the others, it is bound by the Torah-as-constitution, this keter has existed as a separate source of authority since the beginning of the edah, with its own institutions, responsibilities, and tasks. It is the oldest of the ketarim, emerging out of the patriarchal leadership of the original Israelite families. Later, it passed to the nesi'im (magistrates), shofetim (judges), and zekenim (elders), and then to the melekh (king). After the end of Jewish political independence in Eretz Israel, it was carried on by the Nasi (patriarch) in Eretz Israel and the Resh Galuta (exilarch) in Babylonia, the negidim of Spain, and the parnassim of the kehillot.

This traditional pattern underwent many changes in the modern epoch but continued to be the basic model for the edah and its kehillot, if only out of necessity because the classic division persisted in new forms. In the nineteenth century, the institutions of the keter kehunah became stronger at the expense of the others as Jewish life was redefined under modernity to be primarily "religious," even as Jews ceased to rely on the Torah as binding law. The synagogues became elaborate institutions and their rabbis the principal instrumentalities of the keter kehunah. Today, however, as we shall see, the Jewish polity is amid a resurgence of the keter malkhut. This is principally because of the reestablishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, but it also reflects changes in the orientation of Jews in the diaspora.

The increasing narrowness of approach of the traditional bearers of the keter torah, coupled with the growing secularization of Jews, which made that sphere and the sphere of keter kehunah less attractive to them, all contributed to this power shift. In the political world, the domain with the key to political power obviously had an advantage. In addition, as the other two domains were fragmented among different movements, each claiming to be authoritative, the keter malkut became the only domain in which all groups would meet together, at least for limited political purposes, further strengthening the latter's position in the edah.

These shifts in power are only several of many in the history of the edah, part of the continuing and dynamic tension among the ketarim.

Representative Government in the Edah

Representative government in the edah subsequent to the biblical period represents, in many respects, a continuing effort to maintain ancient forms of participation in new guises, forms that have disappeared in other modern polities and are only now beginning to change for the edah. The basis of governance in the original edah (ca. 1280-1000 B.C.E.) was the assembly of all its citizens for covenanting and other fundamental constitutional questions, all adult males for deciding basic policy questions (such as declarations of constitutionally permitted wars), and the tribally selected nesi'im on an ad hoc basis for special tasks and a permanent basis for continuing ones. Governance between edah-like assemblies was in the hands of notables designated apparently by some form of consensus, based on the recognition of some families as leading ones. By the time of the institution of kingship (1000-722 B.C.E.), it was already apparent that the edah no longer attempted to assemble as a whole, although there were still assemblies of notables drawn from all the functioning tribes to play the role of the assembly of the whole. This system may have persisted in Judah after the fall of the northern kingdom (ca. 721-440 B.C.E.) -- evidence is scanty -- with assemblies of the Am Ha-aretz, consisting of local notables replacing assemblies of tribal leaders.

When Ezra and Nehemiah reconstituted the Jewish polity (ca. 440 B.C.E.), most of world Jewry continued to live outside Eretz Israel; hence assembly of the entire edah was impossible even in theory. It was then that a system of virtual representation was formally introduced through the establishment of the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah, which assembled in Jerusalem. This new body comprised 120 members symbolically representing a minyan (quorum of ten) from each of the twelve tribes, and, hence, the edah as a whole, a sign that virtual representation was the intent behind its formation. It was really composed of people who lived in Judah plus one or two members from the communities of the exile who came to settle in Judah and could be added to the body, who spoke for the rest of the edah. The transportation technology at the time made any other system impossible.

This system of virtual representation continued through the next nine hundred years of Jewish history, even after the diaspora Jewish communities developed fully articulated governing institutions of their own. The only changes were that in some periods there was regularized representation from the diaspora in the edah's sitting decision-making body, located in Jerusalem until 70 C.E., and subsequently in other parts of Eretz Israel. It ended only with the abolition of the Nesiut (patriarchate) by the Romans, ca. 429 C.E.

The yeshivot in Babylonia continued this pattern when power was passed to them. They became the virtual representatives of the edah in its rule-making and adjudication functions, paralleling the Rosh HaGolah (exilarch), who was the edah's chief magistrate. The yeshivot continued the tradition of bringing in people from around the Jewish world to the extent possible on a voluntary, personal choice basis, consisting of those who decided to come, study, and stay. This arrangement persisted for six hundred years, until the system was disrupted by the abolition of the office of Rosh HaGolah in 1042 C.E.

After that, the edah was unable to sustain equivalent common institutions, surviving as a communications network for halakhic decision making through correspondence rather than an assembly. Political organization was confined to local, countrywide, or, in rare cases, multicountry regions. Hence the system of virtual representation existed in principle rather than practice. The structure of the edah changed during the next nine hundred years, being expressed through a handful of notable halakhic figures whose decisions gained edah-wide acceptance or a handful of shtadlanim whose influential services were recognized edah-wide.

The problems of transportation and communication encountered by Ezra and Nehemiah in the fifth century B.C.E. remained unchanged until well into the nineteenth century C.E. At times, deterioration of conditions made the problems even greater. Not until the development of the steamboat, railroad, and telegraph did new technology make continental and intercontinental links feasible.

It was not until the World Zionist Congress in 1897 that an effort was made to establish a body representative of the edah in modern terms: through constituency elections of delegates to a worldwide congress in which all communities were potentially if not actually to be represented. Since that time, there has been a striving to establish such institutions. The WZO was and is a membership organization. It became worldwide in scope but never embraced a majority of the edah as members. The World Jewish Congress, established in 1936, tried to overcome that problem by being based on country affiliates, the major representative bodies from each countrywide Jewish community. However, its strength was and is concentrated in Europe and Latin America with no real presence in the world's largest Jewish communities -- the United States, Israel, the Soviet Union and France.

Framing organizations were established in the local and countrywide arenas by the end of the modern epoch or during the first generation of the postmodern epoch as a culmination of the modernization process. They were accompanied by a general revolution in transportation and communications based on air travel and the airwaves. Jews are now engaged in the reestablishment of effective, continuing edah-wide framing institutions, principally through the reconstitution of the Jewish Agency and the WZO. Because transportation and communication technologies now permit this, it is likely that something serious will come out of the effort. Nevertheless, this will not be the whole story, for there are structural limitations to the degree to which formal representatives of all segments of the edah can assemble on a regular basis. Thus we are returning to the situation of ancient Israel but on a worldwide scale. Leading figures representing the elements of the edah come together at regular intervals and are involved in consultations in between; but the day-to-day business is still conducted by virtual representatives, including people co-opted into the governing circles who might not be formally chosen through the standard process because of their proximity or wealth.

It should be noted that the effort to reconstitute the Jewish Agency as an edah-wide instrument was not initiated without a struggle. Initially, the reestablished State of Israel was viewed by many, especially Israelis, as the sole institutional embodiment of the edah. Hence the Israeli Knesset was established with 120 members in imitation of Anshei Knesset HaGedolah and with the clear intention of being the virtual representative of all world Jewry because of its constituent position as the center of authority in the Jewish state. This did not happen because the diaspora would not -- could not -- accept the Israeli legislative body as its spokesman; hence there was the need to go back to the WZO/Jewish Agency to develop a more broadly representative body, though one in which Israel would play the leading role.

Jewish Communities in the Modern World

The Jewish polity has undergone many changes since its inception somewhere in the Sinai Desert, but none have been more decisive than those that have affected it in the past three centuries.19 The inauguration of the modern epoch, born out of the revolution in science, technology, politics, economics, and religion that caused the Western world to take a radical turn in the mid-seventeenth century, initiated a process of decorporatization of Jewish communal life that gained momentum for the following two centuries.20 Jewish corporate autonomy, a feature of diaspora existence in one way or another since the Babylonian exile, never even took hold in the New World, whose Jewish settlements are all products of the modern epoch. World War I brought down the last remnants of that kind of autonomy in Europe, where it had been on the wane for two centuries. Only in certain of the Muslim countries did the old forms persist until the nationalist revolutions of the period after World War II eliminated them.

Decorporatization -- perhaps denationalization is a better term -- brought with it efforts to redefine Jewish life in Protestant religious terms in western Europe and North America and socialist secular ones in eastern Europe and, somewhat later, in Latin America. In Europe the process was promoted form within the Jewish community and without by Jews seeking wider economic and social opportunities as individuals and by newly nationalistic regimes seeking to establish the state as the primary force in the life of all residents within its boundaries. In the Americas, it came automatically as individual Jews found themselves in the same position as other migrants to the New World.

Out of decorporatization came new forms of Jewish communal organization in the countrywide and local arenas: (1) the consistoire of postrevolutionary France, which spread to the other countries within the French sphere of influence in Europe and the Mediterranean basin -- an attempt to create a Jewish "church" structure parahe Catholic Church; (2) the nineteenth-century Central European kehillah or kultesgemeinde, essentially a religious and social agency chartered and regulated by the secular government to provide an official framework for all Jews lparallel to the frameworks binding Christians to the state; (3) the united congregational pattern of Britain and its overseas settlements by which Jews voluntarily banded together to create a board of notables ("deputies") to represent Jewish interests to the government of the host country; (4) the radically individualistic "congregational" pattern of the United States by which individual Jews voluntarily banded together, principally in the local arena, to create whatever kinds of Jewish associations they wished without any kind of supralocal umbrella organization even for external representations; and (5) separate communal associations based on the landsmannschaft (country of origin society) principle, which became the basis for voluntary affiliation of the Jewish immigrants to Latin America. The common denominator of all these different forms was their limited scope and increasingly voluntary character.

While these organizational changes were taking place, a two-pronged demographic shift of great importance began: the live birth and survival rate among Jews rose rapidly, causing the number of Jews in the world to soar, and the Jews began to migrate at an accelerating rate to the lands of the Western world's great frontier (the Western Hemisphere, southern Africa, and Australia in particular but also in smaller numbers to east Asia), thus initiating a shift in the balance of Jewish settlement in the world.21

Finally, the modern epoch saw Jewish resettlement in the Land of Israel. The first settlers to come as founders of new settlements began to arrive in the seventeenth century and continued regularly thereafter, pioneering new communities of a traditional character within the framework of the Ottoman Empire's millet system.22 They were followed by the Zionist pioneers who, beginning in the last decades of the nineteenth century, created new forms of communal life as part of the latest stage in the transformation of the Jewish people.23

Beginning a New Epoch

World War II marked the culmination of all the trends and tendencies of the modern epoch and the end of the epoch itself for all peoples. Sometime between 1946 and 1949 the postmodern epoch began. For the Jewish people, the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel provided the pair of decisive events that marked the crossing of the watershed into the postmodern world. In the process, the entire basis of the Jewish polity was radically changed, the locus of Jewish life shifted, and virtually every organized Jewish community was reconstituted in some way.

Central to the reconstitution was the reestablishment of a politically independent Jewish commonwealth in Israel. The restoration of the Jewish state added a new factor to the edah, creating a new focus of Jewish energy and concern precisely at the moment when the older foci had reached the end of their ability to attract most Jews. As the 1967 crisis demonstrated decisively, Israel was not simply another Jewish community in the constellation but the center of the world for Jews.

The Jewry that greeted the new state was no longer an expanding one that was gaining population even in the face of attrition of intermarriage and assimilation. On the contrary, it was a decimated one (even worse, for decimated means the loss of one in ten; the Jews lost one in three); a Jewry whose very physical survival had been in grave jeopardy. Moreover, the traditional strongholds of Jewish communal life in Europe (which were also areas with a high Jewish reproduction rate) were those that had been wiped out.

At the end of the 1940s the centers of Jewish life had shifted decisively away from Europe to Israel and North America. By then, continental Europe ranked behind Latin America, North Africa, and Great Britain, as a force in Jewish life. Its Jews were almost entirely dependent on financial and technical assistance from the United States and Israel. Except for those in the Moslem countries that were soon virtually to disappear, the major functioning Jewish communities all had acquired sufficient size to become significant factors on the Jewish scene only within the previous two generations. In many cases, the original shapers of those communities were still alive, and many were still the actual community leaders. The Jewish world had been willy-nilly thrown back to a pioneering stage.

This new epoch is still in its early years, hardly more than a single generation old; hence, its characters is still in its formative stages. Nevertheless, with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Jewish polity began a constitutional change of revolutionary proportions, inaugurating a new epoch in Jewish constitutional history. For the first time in almost two millenia, the Jewish people were presented with the opportunity to attain citizenship in their own state. Israel's very first law (Hok Ha-Shevut, the Law of Return) specified that every Jew had a right to settle in Israel and automatically acquire Israeli citizenship.

To date, only part of the edah has taken advantage of Israel's availability. Most continue to live in the lands of the diaspora of their own free will. Hence the dominant structural characteristic of the edah continues to be the absence of a binding, all-embracing political framework, although it now has a focus. The State of Israel and its various organs have a strong claim to preeminence in fields that touch on every aspect of Jewish communal life. The Israeli leadership have argued consistently that Israel is qualitatively different from the diaspora and hence its centrality must be acknowledged. The American Jewish leadership, in particular, have taken the position that Israel is no more than first among equals. Nevertheless, the reestablishment of a Jewish state has crystallized the edah as a polity, restoring a sense of political involvement among Jews and shaping a new institutional framework in which the business of the edah is conducted.

The diffusion of authority and influence that continues to characterize the structure of the edah and its components has taken various forms in the new epoch. The keter malkhut has been transformed into a network of single and multipurpose functional authorities, most of which do not aspire to do more than serve their particular functions, but all of which acknowledge the place of the State of Israel at the fulcrum of the network. The keter kehunah has become a conglomeration of synagogue movements and their rabbinates, who are mainly responsible for ritual and pastoral functions. Each manages -- independently -- various ritual functions in a manner it deems appropriate to its own traditions, perspectives, and environment. That each of these movements has established a framework with worldwide aspirations, such as the World Union for Progressive Judaism and the World Council of Synagogues, merely underlines the new organizational character of the edah.

Sectoral segmentation is most pronounced in the keter torah. Contemporary Jews take their cues in this domain from a kaleidoscopic spectrum of authorities. Their range stretches from the Jewish professors and scholars who influence contemporary Jews' understanding of what is expected of them as Jews to the rabbinical leadership of the Conservative and Reform camps, who may use the traditional devices for ruling on matters of Torah but often in untraditional ways, to the heads of very traditional yeshivot and the rebbes of various emigre Hassidic communities who have reestablished themselves in the principal cities of Israel and the United States from which they have developed multicountry networks.

The fragmentation of the keter torah is both a reflection and an expession of the absence yet of a clear-cut, commonly accepted constitutional basis for the entire edah. The tendency toward a wide variety of interpretations of the Torah, which emerged during the modern epoch, has now become exacerbated. It is a sign of the times that if the Torah is to be included in the definition of the constitution, it has to be reinterpreted for the Jews. The reality is that the norms by which Jews live their lives are interpreted through various prisms, of which the traditional prism is now only one. Still, it seems that most Jews perceive the Torah to be a constitutional referent in some way.

This fragmentation is further reflected in the mulitplicity of camps and parties that exert influence on the life of the edah and its constituents. Broadly speaking, the principal camps can be termed: the Orthodox, the Masorati (traditional), who see themselves as continuing the ways of the Pharisees, the Liberal religious, and the Neo-Sadducees. The last includes Israelis seeking to express their Judaism through Israeli Jewry's emerging civil religion -- Zionists -- and those diaspora Jews who find their best means of Jewish expression in the communal institutions. These camps are separate but not mutually exclusive. Presented diagrammatically, they ought to be viewed as a triangle, a device that stresses their points of overlap as well as their distinctiveness. The Mizrahi Party, for instance, straddles the Zionist and the Orthodox camps, viewing its Zionism as one expression of its Orthodoxy. Increasingly, too, do the Conservative (Masorati) and Reform (Liberal) movements find themselves linked with Zionism. At the same time, the Neturei Karta, the secular Zionists, and the surviving classical Reform elements remain separated in their respective camps.

Whatever its form of organization, the primary fact of Jewish communal life today is its voluntary character. Although there are differences form country to country in degree of actual freedom to be Jewish or not, the virtual disappearance of the remaining legal and even social or cultural barriers to individual free choice in all but a handful of countries has made free association the dominant characteristic of Jewish life in the postmodern era. Consequently, the first task of each Jewish community is to learn to deal with this freedom. This task is a major factor in determining the direction of the reconstitution of Jewish life in this generation.

The new voluntarism also extends into the internal life of the Jewish community, generating pluralism even in previously free but relatively homogeneous or monolithic community structures. This pluralism is increased by the breakdown of the traditional reasons for being Jewish and the rise of new incentives for Jewish association. This pluralistic Jewish polity can best be described as a communications network of interacting institutions, each of which, while preserving its own structural integrity and fillings its own functional role, is connected to the others in a variety of ways. The boundaries of the polity, insofar as it is bounded, are revealed only when the pattern of the network is uncovered. The pattern stands revealed only when both its components are: its institutions and organizations with their respective roles and the way in which communications are passed between them.

The pattern is inevitably dynamic. There is rarely a fixed division of authority and influence but, instead, one that varies from time to time and often from issue to issue, with different entities in the network taking on different "loadings" at different times and relative to different issues. Because the polity is voluntary, persuasion rather than compulsion, influence rather than power, are the only tools available for making and executing policies. This, too, works to strengthen its character as a communications network because the character, quality and relevance of what is communicated and the way in which it is communicated frequently determine the extent of the authority and influence of the parties to the communication.

The reconstitution of the edah is only in its beginning stages; its final form for this epoch cannot yet be foreseen. At this writing, the Jewish people is in the buildup period of the second generation of the postmodern epoch and is actively engaged in trying to work through a new constitutional synthesis, both political and religious. It is likely that the constitution for the new epoch will find its source in the traditional Torah as understood and interpreted in traditional and nontraditional ways. The continued reliance on the Torah as a constitutional anchor could not have been forecase during the first generation of the new epoch, when the late modern trend of secularization was still alive. But it is now fair to conclude that for most Jews, the Torah continues to serve as a constitutional foundation even though they no longer feel bound by its commandments as traditionally understood.

A second element in the new constitutional framework is the commitment to Jewish unity and peoplehood as embodied in the network of institutions serving the edah. This commitment is basically founded on a people-wide consensus. However, it is also acquiring a documentary base through congeries of quasi-covenantal constitutional documents generated in the new institutions of the edah. These may develop into a comprehensive postmodern constitutional supplement to the edah's historic constitution, following the pattern of earlier epochs.

Postwar Reconstitution

Jews are know to live in 121 countries, 82 of which have permanent communities. At least 3 and perhaps as may as 12 others are remnant communities where a relative handful of Jews has custody of the few institutions that have survived in the wake of the emigration of most of the Jewish population. Fourteen more are transient communities where American or Israeli Jews temporarily stationed in some Asian or African country have created such basic Jewish institutions (for example, religious services and schools) as they need. Only 21 countries with known Jewish residents have no organized Jewish life.

The eleven largest countrywide communities contain more than 90 percent of world Jewry.

For nearly two decades after World War II, the reconstruction and reconstitution of existing communities and the founding of new ones were the order of the day throughout the Jewish world. The Jewish communities of continental Europe underwent a period of reconstruction in the wake of their wartime losses, changes in the formal status of religious communities in their host countries, immigration to Israel, internal European migrations, and the introduction of new, especially Communist, regimes.

The Jewish communities of the Moslem countries were transformed in response to the convergence of two factors: the establishment of Israel and the anticolonial revolutions in Asia and Africa. The greater portion of the Jewish population in those countries immigrated to Israel, and organized Jewish life beyond the maintenance of local congregations virtually ended in all of them except Iran, Morocco and Tunisia.

The English-speaking Jewries and, to a lesser extent, those of Latin America, were faced with the more complex task of adapting their organizational structures to three new purposes: to assume responsibilities passed to them as a result of the destruction of European Jewry, to play a major role in supporting Israel, and to accommodate internal changes in communities still in the process of acculturation.

Many of the transient Jewish communities in Asia and Africa were founded or given organized form in this period while others, founded earlier by Jews who followed the European colonial powers into Africa, transient merchants, and refugees were abandoned.

At first, the patterns of countrywide Jewish communal organization followed those of the previous epoch with some modifications. But as the postmodern epoch begins to plant its own iprint on the edah, the differences in status and structure are diminishing. A common organizational pattern is emerging, consisting of several basic elements, including:

Governmentlike institutions, whether "roof" organizations, framing institutions, or separate organizations serving discrete functions, that play roles and provide services on all planes (countrywide, local, and intermediate), which, under other conditions, would be played, provided, or controlled -- predominantly or exclusively -- by governmental authorities. They are responsible for tasks such as external relations, defense, education, social welfare, and public (communal) finance. They include:

  1. A more or less comprehensive fund-raising and social planning body.

  2. A representative body for external relations.
  3. A Jewish education service agency.
  4. A vehicle or vehicles for assisting Israel and other Jewish communities.
  5. Various comprehensive religious, health and welfare institutions.

Localistic institutions and organizations that provide a means for attaching individual Jews to Jewish life on the basis of their most immediate and personal interests and needs. They include:

  1. Congregations organized into one or more synagogue unions, federations, or confederations.

  2. Local cultural and recreational centers, often federated or confederated with one another.

General purpose mass-based organizations, operating countrywide on all planes, that function to (a) articulate community values, attitudes, and policies, (b) provide the energy and motive force for crystallizing the communal consensus that grows out of those values, attitudes, and policies, and (c) maintain institutionalized channels of communication between the community's leaders and "actives" ("cosmopolitans") and the broad base of the affiliated Jewish population ("locals") for dealing with the problems and tasks facing the community in the light of the consensus. They include a Zionist federation and its constituent organizations and fraternal organizations.

Special interest organizations, which, by serving specialized interests in the community on all planes, function to mobilize concern and support for the programs conducted by the community and to apply pressure for their expansion, modification, and improvement.

The first two of these types are embodies in the institutions that form the structural foundations of the community and the last two in organizations that function to activate the institutional structure and give it life. Institutions of the first type are easily identifiable in most communities. They include the boards of deputies founded by Anglo-Jewish communities, the American Jewish community federations and Council of Federations, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Fonds Social Juif Unifie in France, and the like. The most important localistic institutions are the synagogues, which, by their very nature, are geared to be relatively intimate associations of compatible people. Even the very large American synagogues that lose their sense of intimacy are localistic institutions in this sense, in the overall community context.

The most important localistic organizations are family clubs, landsmanschaften, and other similar groups. In the United States, B'nai B'rith and Hadassah come closest to performing these functions, with a number of smaller countrywide organizations sharing in the task; in South Africa and much of Latin America the Zionist federations have assumed that role. The special-interest organizations are also readily identifiable in the various communities.24

In the smaller countrywide communities, the four kinds of roles may be compressed with fewer institutions and be filled incompletely as a consequence. However it is done, the functions must be institutionalized for an organized community to exist. The mapping of the community's organizational structure along the lines of this typology reveals many of the more permanent channels into which the community's communications network is set and also exposes the ways in which the channels are used.

Israel and the diaspora communities have retained or restored the tripartite structure of the three ketarim. For most, functions in each domain are now fulfilled by a variety of institutions, headed by formally elected officers and staffed by a professional civil service. Those institutions can be grouped into five activity spheres

The government-like institutions are almost invariably associated with the keter malkhut. Until World War II those of the consistorial communities may have had to be classified under the keter kehunah but since then, with one or two exceptions (Romania, for example, where the Communist regime has insisted on preserving the principle that being Jewish is exclusively a matter of religion), other institutions associated with the keter malkhut have superseded them in this capacity. Only in the case of Agudath Israel can one find an example of such institutions growing out of the keter torah.

The localistic organizations and institutions are primarily connected with the keter kehunah, secondarily with keter torah, and only occasionally with keter malkhut. That is because most of them are synagogues, schools, and yeshivot. Localistic bodies like landsmanschaften, which were strong in the days of the great Jewish migrations, have lost much of their role as Jews have settled into their new places of residence. Today even Jewish emigrants are more likely to seek ties with peers through synagogues and schools than through secular country-of-origin societies, in part because of the decline of secularism as a motivating force in Jewish life and in part because mutual aid societies are less needed in the era of the welfare state. The few secular localistic bodies that remain may fall in the domain of the keter malkhut to the extent that they serve public purposes.

The general purpose mass-based organizations also fall principally within the keter malkhut, although some, like the Hassidic groups, are more appropriately classified under the keter kehunah and others like Agudath Israel fall into the keter torah. Special-interest organizations are to be found in all three domains by their very nature.

Local communities, or kehillot, are organized in a manner suitable to each country following regional patterns. Usually they are organized as federations of local organizations or institutions. Increasingly, they share a basic tripartite structure based on (1) synagogues, (2) communal-welfare institutions, and (3) representative or Zionist institutions, but the emphasis is different in different lands. Some of the more prominent variations include: (1) formal municipal governments functioning according to laws of the state (Israel); (2) Jewish community federations that link functional agencies for fund-raising and community planning (United States, Canada); (3) single congregations (for example, New Zealand); (4) congregations linked through community boards (for example, Stockholm); (5) federations of congregations (for example, Istanbul); and (6) federations or associations of social, political, and welfare institutions (for example, Buenos Aires).

First Steps Toward Jewish Polity in Modern Times

A primary characteristic of the Emancipation era was the effort of Jews in the Western world to redefine themselves politically as citizens of their states, though of a different religious persuasion. With that came the effort by many to detach themselves from the common fate of fellow Jews. Nevertheless, the Jews were at least ambibalent about this aspect of their search for emancipation and citizenship as individuals. No longer comfortable speaking about their brethren as members of a common nation, English-speaking Jews in the nineteenth century coined the term coreligionists, a philological barbarism designed to reflect the persistance of ties but on a limited and careful basis.25

A change in name did not change reality, however; the common interests of Jews the world over did not disappear. Those interests intensified during the nineteenth century. Significantly, the attitude of the European nation-states, new or old, where most Jews lived, did not shift either. Despite their demands that "their" Jews become citizens or subjects on an individual basis, they still viewed the Jews as separate group. Thus, the Congress of Vienna in 1815 addressed the "Jewish question" as part of its agenda; since then hardly any important international meeting has been without some Jewish issue before it.26

At first, the Jewish question was addressed without direct involvement of the Jews themselves. This was not a situation that the Jews could tolerate. Even under conditions of emancipation and denationalization, they were not prepared to allow others the exclusive right to determine their interests and destiny. Moreover, not even all emancipated Jews had abandoned the sense of nationhood. It was precisely in the United Kingdom and the United States, where Jews were most free to become citizens on an individual basis, that many felt least constrained to abandon the sense that a Jewish nation existed. Early in the twentieth century, the term peoplehood came into use to provide a more acceptable expression of that sentiment.

The first Jewish political responses (as distinct from philanthropic ones) to transtate Jewish problems were made through individual notables working quietly behind the scenes on behalf of Jewish interests -- a revival in new form of shtadlanut, which had prevailed in medieval Europe. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Board of Deputies of British Jews made representations to the British and foreign governments about the situation of Jews in other lands, but they were more symbolic than real until the shtadlanim began acting with the board's blessing. The greates Jewish shtadlan of the nineteenth century was Sir Moses Montefiore, but he was by no means the only one.

By and large, these shtadlanim were activated on behalf of Jewish brethren in lands not yet touched by emancipation or where promises of emancipation were not fulfilled, chiefly in Eastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, plus North Africa. The first intervention to attract worldwide attention came in 1840 in the case of the Damascus blood libel. It was undertaken strictly by individual shtadlanim, but, significantly, the shtadlanim from the major western European countries found it in in their interest to coordinate their work in what was perhaps the first modern edah-wide expression of Jewish political activity. The construction of the first housing outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem was a classic example of this trend. Montefiore of Great Britain was entrusted with money bequeathed by Judah Touro of the United States to be used for the Jewish porr of Eretz Israel. The result: Mishkenot Sha'ananim.

As the western European great powers became increasingly involved in the internal affairs of the Ottoman Empire, the Jewish notables capitalized on their positions in their respective powers (particularly Austria, France, Great Britain, and later, Germany) to intervene on behalf of their brethren. Similarly, the Board of Deputies of American Israelites, founded in 1859, included among its purposes the defense of Jewish interests overseas. Nevertheless, even though it was the first countrywide Jewish body organized on democratic principles, its efforts were made meaningful (as much as they were) by quasi-shtadlanic methods. The offices of the United States government were used to obtain consular or ministerial appointments for American Jewish notables in countries where they had an interest in working for the improvement of the condition of the Jews. Thus armed with American government credentials, the notables could enhance their shtadlanic roles.27

Between the 1840s and the 1870s the number of problems requiring such joint action grew, or, at least, the concern of the western Jewish communities with those problems expanded. As involvement increased and a pattern of response emerged, more institutionalized methods of handling the increased work load were introduced in the form of shtadlanic organizations. They also found it advantageous to cooperate with one another. In this way, interventions were regularly carried out in Russia, in Romania, the Ottoman Empire, and North Africa and in other countries as needed.

Shtadlanut was able to hold its own as long as the large body of Jews was not awakened politically. The emergence of the Zionist movement changed all that. Theodor Herzl's convening of the first Zionist Congress in 1897 marked a turning point in worldwide Jewish organization. Herzl transformed the basis of Jewish contacts with foreign powers and the character of the demands Jews made by the establishment of the World Zionist Organization. One of the principles of the Basel program was "the organization and uniting of the whole of Jewry, by means of appropriate institutions, both local and international," thus serving notice that the Jews were prepared to act as a body, organized democratically on a worldwide basis to achieve their political goals.

The Zionists were opposed by the notables and their organizations as much for ideological reasons as for any others. The notables were committed amancipationists and bitterly opposed to the revival of Jewish nationalism. For the remainder of that generation, the struggle between the two approaches continued, culminating in the victory of the Zionists during World War I in the course of the struggle over the Balfour Declaration.28 After the end of that war, shtadlanut, even in its institutionalized form, receded into the background, and the field of worldwide Jewish activity was taken over by multicountry organizations with avowedly, if not exclusively, political goals. The basis for a worldwide Jewish polity was now in place.

In the interim, the first worldwide Jewish fraternal organization had also emerged, significantly, an American Jewish creation. The B'nai B'rith was founded in New york in 1843 as a modern expression of the Jewish desire to maintain communal bonds in a secular age. It rapidly spread to every part of the United States where Jews lived. In 1882, the first overseas lodge was founded in Germany and, by the turn of the century, even Eretz Israel had a lodge. In the United States, B'nai B'rith was a broad-based organization; in Europe and the Middle East it became an elite group. Until the end of the nineteenth century, its leaders also played local roles as shtadlanim. In some countries they still do. Subsequently, the international leadership became active in the world Jewish arena.29

The victory of the Zionists meant far more than the ultimate establishment of a Jewish State. It marked the reestablishment of a Jewish political consciousness, either willingly or reluctantly, and the reestablishment of a sense of Jewish peoplehood with all that this implied. The form of the Jewish polity today is the direct product of the Zionist victory; Jewish responsibilities to contemporary events are based on the "facts" that the Zionists established among the Jews within the non-Jewish world.

The Forging of a New Jewish Polity in the Twentieth Century

While the beginnings of an institutionalized structure for world Jewry were developing, massive demographic changes were taking place in the Jewish world. The world Jewish population grew geometrically as the conditions under which the Jews lived improved. From an estimated 2.5 million in 1800, the number of Jews in the world increased to 10.5 million a century later and to 16.5 million in 1939.30

The Jews also began to evacuate what had been the major centers of Jewish life in the Old World and to establish new centers in the New World of the great European frontier, North and South America, South Africa and Australia, or in France and Great Britain -- areas utterly peripheral to Jewish life for centuries. This process, which had become a flood by the end of the nineteenth century, was given additonal impetus by World War I and the Russian Revolution. It received its final aspects as a result of World War II, the Holocaust, and the establishment of the State of Israel.

By the middle of the twentieth century, not a single Jewish area of settlement that had been prominent at the time of the American and French revolutions remained in the forefront of Jewish life, and hardly a single Jewish community remained undisturbed anywhere in the world. The eastern European Jewish centers were destroyed, either physically or socially. Even in the Soviet Union, most Jews were no longer located in the areas of traditional Jewish settlement. The establishment of the State of Israel effectively ended organized Jewish life in the Arab lands. Even the centers that had emerged in continental Europe in the nineteenth century were either physically destroyed or so reduced in numbers and morale as a result of the Holocaust that they were unable to play their earlier role. The United States had emerged as the largest Jewish community functioning as a unit under one government in all Jewish history. Most Jews of the world lived in English-speaking countries and had adopted English as their native language. Hebrew, the language of Israel and Israelis, had been restored to its premier place in Jewish civilization. Yiddish, Ladino, and other diaspora Jewish languages survived as remnants, primarily in Latin America, Canada, and (paradoxically enough) Israel, rather than in the lands of their origin.

While this process was going on, new organizations had emerged to serve world Jewry.31 The Americans contributed to the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). In 1929 the Jewish Agency was organized to unite world Jewry in the effort to rebuild Eretz Israel. In 1936 the World Jewish Congress (WJC) was organized, mostly by the Jewries of Europe, to try to protect Jewish rights in an age of growing Fascist anti-Semitisim. From the beginning, these organizations developed areas of functional specialization, the first two by design and the last by virtue of its situation.

Crowning the creation of new centers and new organizations was the renewal of indpendent Jewish national existence in Eretz Israel within a politically sovereign state. As a state, Israel transformed all previous relationships among Jewish communities. A state, possessing political sovereignty with the powers and responsibilities that go with it, could not be treated simply as another Jewish community on the world scene. At the same time, because it had a relatively small percentage of the total number of Jews in the world (only in the 1970s did it become the second largest Jewish community, today approximately four fifths the size of the largest), it could not become the sole voice of the Jewish people, either internally or externally, much as its leaders would have liked it to. Thus the blessings of statehood brought a new set of political problems for the Jewish people -- good problems but problems nevertheless.

The first formal effort to define the role of the state as the spokesman for the Jewish people took the form of an exchange of letters between David Ben-Gurion, the Israel's prime minister, and Jacob Blaustein, then president of the American Jewish Committee, in 1950. The committee was at that time the leading shtadlanic organization in the United States and was known as non-Zionist. Following a modified version of the emancipationist ideology, Blaustein wanted to make it clear to the world and to the Israelis that Jews of the diaspora were citizens of their respective countries, owed no political allegiance to Israel, and did not see Israel as their political spokesman in Jewish affairs. Ben-Gurion, interested in strengthening Israel's alliance with the Jewish notables in the United States and not eager to start a war with them, more or less accepted Blaustein's terms and limited Israeli claims along those lines.

A generation later their correspondence reads like an anachronism, but it must be remembered that the first generation of leaders to face these problems was a product of the last generation of the nineteenth century when the struggle between the Zionists and the shtadlanim was at its height. Thus the understanding and assumptions they brought with them were those of a much earlier age. The Ben-Gurion-Blaustein agreement reflects the effort of two men of good will trying to come to grips with a new situation, but bound by their own experience and even the phraseology of an earlier age.32

What characterized the first two generations of the twentieth century, when this new Jewish polity was being forged, was growing collective political action on a wide variety of fronts, coupled with strenuous denials of its being political. Only now, in the second generation of Jewish statehood and postwar reconstitution, has a generation of Jewish leaders emerged whose formative experiences have taken place in this new context and who are able and willing to face up to it and its implications. This new generation is not afraid to talk about Jewish political interests and to make Israel the major subject on their political agenda.

The Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War six and a half years later did much to end this dichotomy. If anything, the Jewish people in their numbers demonstrated how open they were to recognizing the political realities of the State of Israel and their attachment to it. Jews who in no overt way differed from their neighbors in their private lives were prepared to go into the streets in frankly political demonstrations for Israel. This marked a reversal of the emancipationist dictim of Haskalah poet Y. L. Gordon, "Be a Jew in your home and a man in the street"'; Jews who no longer knew how to be Jews in their homes went into the streets to demonstrate their Jewish attachments.33

New Structures and Relationships

During and after World War II, other Israeli and American Jewish organizations and institutions also became involved in the world Jewish scene. The American Jewish Committee undertook to develop an international program of some scope after World War II. The B'nai B'rith and ADL expanded their operations outside the United States. The three American synagogue movements established worldwide associations. Israel, in the meantime, was busy establishing offices or tributary organizations to raise money to assist in the rebuilding of the land or to provide support in other ways. Thus, in the years between 1945 and 1955, a subsidiary network of worldwide organizations was developed, focusing either on the United States or Israel, but also involving Jewries in many other countries.34

The multiplication of organizations led to a concern for restructuring the institutional framework of the emerging Jewish polity to limit duplication and promote coordination. Some bodies, new and old, were working at cross purposes with one another, some in the pursuit of different goals, but many in the pursuit of the same ones. In a manner familiar to American Jews, the community relations organizations presented the biggest problem. The number of defenders of Jewish interests that came forward was such that, at times, the efforts at defense were jeopardized. For example, once the Jewish-Catholic rapprochement began, it became difficult for the Vatican to decide which among the many Jewish claimants to talk to. In time, a coordinating body was established to speak with a harmonious set of voices, if not a single voice.

In the aid-to-Israel sphere, the multiplicity of organizations seeking to assist the Jewish state also led to demands for coordination. As Israel began trying to assist the diaspora in strengthening Jewish life, it initially did so in a manner that paid little attention to the established framework within the various diaspora communities. The Israelis were called to task and demands for coordination were raised.

One possible focal point for coordination might have been the World Jewish Congress, but the Holocaust had destroyed whatever base it had be reducing the European Jewish communities to secondary or tertiary status on the Jewish map. Nahum Goldmann, the founder and leader of the WJC, remained the preeminent political figure in the diaspora. He was successful in coordinating the efforts to secure German reparations through the World Conference on Material Claims against Germany (1951). Among its other activities, it entered into partnership with the JDC to assist in the rebuilding of Israel. Goldmann, recognizing the new limits on the WJC, took the lead in trying to stimulate a coordinating agency for those Jewish organizations involved in multicountry activities, out of which emerged the now defunct World Congress of Jewish Organizations (COJO) in 1958. At the time, this move was welcomed by the Jewish Agency, which underwent reconstitution itself to include non-Zionist elements in 1970.35

At first, those advocating structural changes to reflect the new realities sought an overarching framework that would united all bodies serving the Jewish people. This dream has never been abandoned in theory, but in practice the Jewish people has come to make do with a far looser structure, a number of separate "authorities" with specialized areas of activity loosely tied together through coordinating councils. The Claims Conference, the JDC, and the Jewish Agency are examples of such authorities.

This situation has developed pragmatically on a de facto basis. It has never been formally recognized or given any formal legitimacy by participants in or commentators on the world Jewish scene. Now, however, it is fair to suggest that for the indefinite future, world Jewry will be united only through the formal mechanisms of coordinating councils and the more important informal mechanism of overlapping leadership. Apparently, the Jewish people does not seek a more comprehensive framework on a worldwide basis, particularly given the nature of contemporary Jewish life (most Jews are not even aware that the network exists, even if they are interested in Jewish survival), while Jewish leadership is extremely wary of anything that gives rise to thoughts of the "elders of Zion." Moreover, the religious and ideological differences that divide Jewry prevent unity on anything other than a loose confederative basis.

The authorities that do exist and their coordinating organizations are dominated by Israel and American Jewry, sometimes by the one, sometimes by the other, and sometimes on a shared basis, depending on which authority is involved. The structure of the authorities is such that other Jewish communities are represented and even well represented, and the representatives of the stronger among them can play important roles.

Perhaps the major problem facing multicountry Jewish bodies other than the functional authorities is not how to coordinate activities among themselves in a better way, but how to link themselves with the realities of Jewihs life in a world in which most Jewish activity is carried on locally in a large number of communities. Even the countrywide organizations and institutions of most Jewries are weak except insofar as they confine their activities to purposes that require the concentration of a critical mass (e.g., fund-raising for Israel, representation before the government, support of a seminary, or a placement service providing assistance to localities seeking professional personnel) or serve, for all intents and purposes, one very large local community. If the countrywide bodies tend to be weak, the worldwide ones are no more than forums where leaders in their respective communities can regularly meet to exchange views, almost totally outside the awareness of the communities they purport to lead and with minimal effect on the activities or the quality of life within them.

The Constitutional Structure of the Edah36

Today's world Jewish polity comprises a network of single and multipurpose functional authorities, no single onle of which encompasses the entire gamut of Jewish political interests, although several have attempted to do so. They include the following categories:

  1. National institutions -- for example, The Jewish Agency for Israel, World Zionist Organization, Jewish National Fund

  2. Multicountry associations -- for example, ORT, World Jewish Congress
  3. Education institutions under the auspices of the entire Jewish people -- for example, the universities in Israel
  4. Organizations under local sponsorship whose sphere of activity is multicountry -- for example, the Joint Distribution Committee

Ernest Stock has grouped the multicountry associations by their principal goals:

Principal Goal Characteristics Organization
Political -- general purpose World Zionist Organization (WZO) World Jewish Congress (WJC)
Political -- special purpose World Conference of Soviet Jewry
Distributive Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany
Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture
Services -- operational World ORT Union
Services -- coordinating European Council of Jewish Communities
Religious World Union for Progressive Judaism
World Council of Synagogues
Agudat Israel World Organization
Association -- fraternal B'nai B'rith International Council
Association -- special interest World Sephardi Federation
World Union of Jewish Students

Instruments of the Keter Malkhut

The most concrete manifestation of the shift to preeminence of the keter malkhut was the emergence of a coherent set of institutions for that domain on an edah-wide basis. Those institutions are increasingly tied together by a sense of common purpose, shared leadership, and programmatic collaboration. Most of them are outgrowths or continuations of the organizations that emerged toward the end of the previous generation, including such key or exemplary bodies as:

Jewish Agency for Israel. Originally established by the World Zionist Organization and selected non-Zionist community leaders in 1929 to represent world Jewry in mandated Palestine, the Jewish Agency (JAFI) became the principal body of the Jewish "state within a state" before 1948. With the establishment of the state, many of its original functions and most of its key people were transferred to the new government. For a while, it seemed as if the very existence of the agency as a separate organization was in doubt. It survived because of the convergence of two needs. Those who remained with the WZO wanted to keep it as their vehicle for political participation, and the United States tax laws required a nongovernment vehicle for channeling American moeny into Israeli development.

Its status as the arm of world Jewry was reaffirmed in 1952 through a covenant between the WZO and the State of Israel affirmed in a constitutional act of the Israeli Knesset. Its principal responsibility under the covenant was to handle the immigration and settlement of Jews into Israel.

Because it also remained entirely in the hands of the WZO, the agency's position was ambiguous to say the least. According to the Zionist theory, the WZO spoke for the Jewish people, but in reality Zionist organizations in most diaspora communities were then already losing power and influence, thus making it impossible for them to speak for their communities. This was particularly true in the United States where the Zionist movement never achieved a power position that came close to the Zionist model and after 1948 rapidly lost whatever influence it had.

During the next fifteen years, the agency became rooted-in as part of the system of governance of the Jewish state while at the same time becoming more and more an arm of the state as its independence diminished. This led to dissatisfaction on the part of the diaspora contributors to the UJA and Keren Hayesod, which, in turn, stimulated the constitution of 1969-70 under the leadership of the late Louis Pincus and of Max Fisher. They saw the need to overcome the agency's problematic position and to give it a proper one in the contellation of the world Jewish polity as well as the State of Israel.

The reconstitution separated the WZO and the agency and restructured the agency's governing organs so that the "non-Zionist" representatives of the diaspora communities through their fund-raising arms were included in them as equal partners. The change was formally marked by a second covenant between the agency and the state. The agency that emerged this time was not simply an instrumentality of the Israeli government, designed to achieve limited political and institutional ends; it was, at least potentially, an instrumentality of the Jewish people and a key element in the reemerging world Jewish polity.37

A new structure emerged from the reorganization. The Jewish Agency Assembly of more than four hundred members was established to be the basic sounding board and policy-making body, the Board of Governors of more than sixty members became the principal governing body, and the Executive the body handling day-to-day matters. As is always the case in parliamentary systems, the Executive became the body with the real power. The Board of Governors struggles valiantly to find a governance role for itself, inasmuch as its members were scattered over the world and could meet only a few times a year for brief periods. The assembly at best briefly reviewed policy matters but did not really find an effective role, something that generated much frustration for many diaspora members who wanted their participation in the assembly to be meaningful, especially because it came at substantial personal expense.

The Jewish Agency functions in education, housing, immigration, settlement and urban rehabilitation, and provides social services. It remains closely tied to the WZO, which is, in many respects, its alter ego for work in the diaspora. More recently, the assembly has found its voice, the Board of Governors has found ways to effectively assert its authority, and the Executive has become more responsive to both.38

Because the Jewish Agency has become the principal forum for diaspora Jewry to participate in edah-wide activities and especially the common tasks of the Jewish people in Eretz Israel, its status and importance have risen rapidly since its reconstitution. It has become the major arena for the internal politics of the edah and has attracted many talented and effective diaspora leaders who come to it through a network of organizations -- Zionist, fund-raising and communal-welfare -- of which it is rapidly becoming the nexus for edah-wide business. The expansion of its mandate in the early 1980s to include work in the diaspora to promote Jewish education and Aliya has been paralleled by the increase in diaspora community interest in its workings, which strengthens it further.

World Zionist Organization.39 The WZO was founded at the first Zionist Congress (1897) to attain a "legally secured, publicly recognized national home for the Jewish people." That goal was reached when the Balfour Declaration became part of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (1922). Britain acknowledged the WZO as the "Jewish agency" charged with representing the world Jewish interest in the implementation of the Mandate. It transferred that status to the separately constituted Jewish Agency in 1929. The two merged again in the 1940s after the withdrawal of the non-Zionists from the Agency over the question of Jewish statehood. In 1971, when the Jewish Agency was reconstituted, the WZO resumed its independent status. The WZO retains a 50 percent partnership in the Jewish Agency, thereby preserving for itself a key -- some would say dominant -- role in the agency's work.

Today the WZO is charged with implementing the "Jerusalem Program" of 1968, which defines the aims of Zionism as "the unity of the Jewish people and the centrality of Israel in Jewish life;...the preservation of the identity of the Jewish people through the fostering of Jewish and Hebrew education and of Jewish spiritual and cultural values; (and) the protection of Jewish rights everywhere." This makes explicit the new role of the WZO as a diaspora-oriented body, though its original purpose had been to harness efforts of world Jewry for the Yishuv. In part, its functions are those that cannot be subsumed under the headings for which tax-exempt philanthropic money in the United States and elsewhere is contributed. For example, although agricultural settlement money for new immigrants is the domain of the Jewish Agency, the WZO finances and administers agricultural projects in the administered territories, because it is understood that the United States Internal Revenue Service does not want tax-exempt money to be used across the 1949 armistice lines.

Structurally, the WZO is a federation of ideological movements. Most of these constituent bodies have been linked with an Israeli counterpart since the development of the prestate Zionist party system. Increasingly, however, they imperfectly reflect the changes that have occurred in the Israeli party system. The World Confederation of General Zionists, for example, retains nomenclature that ceased to exist in Israel in the 1960s and is often referred to as the "nonparty party." In addition, there is a second tier of nonparty member organizations including the Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO), the three worldwide synagogue movements, the World Maccabi Union, and the World Sephardi Federation, which have limited voting rights.

The WZO is governed by the World Zionist Congress, which, in theory, is an elected parliament. The more than six hundred seats in the congress, which meets every four years, are allocated geographically in the following proportions: 38 percent for Israel, 29 percent for the United States, and 33 percent for the other diaspora countries. In Israel, delegates are allocated to the Zionist political parties (that is, all except the Communist and exclusively Arab parties) in proportion to their representation in the Knesset. Each party then designates its delegates accordingly. The voting outside Israel is largely by party lists. In recent years, the parties in the various countries have negotiated the division of their country delegations roughly in proportion to their respective memberships, to avoid holding elections. This led to serious problems of credibility so, in 1986 the Zionist General Council voted to require actual elections as provided by the WZO constitution. Accordingly, elections were held for the 1987 Congress.

The Congress elects the Executive, in which the major parties are represented, and the General Council. The General Council meets once a twice a year between congresses. Governance of the WZO is in the hands of a wall-to-wall coalition on the principle that Zionist work is above party wars, with the chairmanship of the Executive and the Congress normally in the hands of the party at the head of the Israeli government at the time or a party in coalition with it.

The party composition of the Zionist movement long antedates the establishment of the state. Almost from its inception, the congresses were assemblies of parties as well as of delegates. Despite a widespread desire for structural changes after 1948, the WZO found it impossible to transcend the party structure, which undoubtedly reduced its effectiveness as a mass movement in the diaspora.

The WZO, as an edah instrumentality, never functioned as a representative body in Eretz Israel. After 1917, democratically elected parliamentary bodies were introduced to speak for the Jewish Yishuv. The Zionist parties contested with one another for seats in those bodies.

Periodically, attempts have been made to dilute the political character of the WZO by permitting individuals to affiliate directly with countrywide Zionist federations without first joining political groups and through the affiliations of the nonpolitical groups mentioned above as associate members. Full membership, however, remains reserved for the political groups while offices and rewards are distributed according to a modified party key.

In the federated structure that is the WZO, the influence of the Israeli center is greater than the sum of its parts. This is because the center represents Israel to the diaspora bodies: it originates programs, has a highly articulated bureaucracy, and allocates the financial resources. The status of the WZO in the diaspora is weakened by the lack of clarity about its tasks in the era of statehood. The effect of the late David Ben-Gurion's openly critical attitude toward the WZO has not yet worn off. The aims of the WZO are broad enough, and its apparatus wide-ranging enough, for it to assume the character of a conglomerate among multicountry Jewish organizations; but its party political structure sets limits to its acceptance on a broad popular basis.

World Jewish Congress.40 The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has as its main purpose the defense of Jewish rights, and to that end it aims to be representative of the widest possible spectrum of world Jewry. It is an avowedly diaspora-oriented organization. Its specific activities in recent years have included intervention on behalf of Jews in Arab countries; pressure for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals and for indemnification payments to their victims; contacts with Christian church bodies on questions of Israel and anti-Semitism; cultural assistance to small Jewish communities; relations with international organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Organization of American States, and the Council of Europe; espousal of the cause of Soviet Jewry; maintaining Jewish contacts with the Third World; and support of Israel in its diplomatic struggles.

Like the WZO, the World Jewish Congress has a federative structure. In theory it is a confederation of countrywide representative community bodies, with the general body deliberately limiting itself in scope. The members -- independent community organizations -- are free to determine their own policies locally. The WJC's constitution prohibits it from operating or speaking in a country unless its local constituents agree, except where no organized community exists or where a community cannot freely express it will.

On the other hand, the WJC may set up branches in countries without representative organizations or where the leading groups are unwilling to participate. Thus, when the Board of Deputies of British Jews refused to affiliate, the WJC established a British Section. In the United States, the American Jewish Congress initially functioned as the American arm of the WJC. When differences arose between the two groups, the WJC established a North American Section, which has recently begun to enroll rabbinical and congregational associations as affiliates. Conversely, the Canadian Jewish Congress and DAIA (the representative organization of Argentine Jewry) are, as representative organizations, directly affiliated with the WJC.

The WJC Executive works through four regional branches, each with its constitution -- in North America, South America, Europe, and Israel -- that mediate between the parent body and affiliates. The European branch, which operates primarily in western Europe, also maintains ties with community organizations in the Communist bloc. The Israeli branch does not have constituent organizations. Composed in keeping with the ubiquitous party key, its eighteen members are drawn from the spectrum of parliamentary parties.

Because its members are organizations, the number of individuals actually associated with the WJC is small. Some 400 or 500 delegates attend the quadrennial assemblies. Between assemblies, an executive committee of 120 meets annually, to which every member organization sends at least one delegate. There are also a governing council of 35, a secretary-general in Geneva, and a director-general in New York, since 1981 the center of its governance. Its cultural department is headquartered in Israel, its political department in Paris, and its policy research institute is in London. Among the members of the governing council is a strong contingent of prominent rabbis and diaspora Zionist leaders.

The WJC has complemented the WZO in areas where the latter could not operate, but it has also been the WZO's potential rival. For this reason, the Zionist leadership's attitude toward the WJC has always been one of ambivalence. In the 1930s, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, as the WZO president, stayed away from the founding assembly of the WJC, persisting in his resolve to avoid diaspora Jewish politics. Although most of the Zionist Congress voted to designate the WJC as the most suitable instrument for the protection of Jewish rights, thereby ensuring WZO representation in (and in recent years subsidization of) the WJC, the concern that diaspora interests might compete with those of the Yishuv was never far submerged and has surfaced again in the era of the state. The notion of an organization representing world Jewry which might hold a position independent of Israel has little appeal to the state's policymakers.

A second, equally substantial element in the inability of the WJC to become the representative organization of world Jewry was the unwillingness of the major Jewish organizations in the United States and Britain to become part of the WJC structure. The real bases of the WJC are in Latin America and Europe. It may well be the dominant regional Jewish organization in Latin America, but that region is not strong enough on the world Jewish scene to be a real power base. The diminution of Europe's strength after the Holocaust, coupled with the emergence of the European Council of Jewish Community Services as an increasingly important regional force, has weakened the role of the WJC on that continent. Finally, the dominance of the WJC by Nahum Goldmann and his coterie of supporters for the entire postwar generation weakened the organization internally by discouraging new leadership and externally by making Goldmann's agenda -- and quarrels -- its own.

Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.41 The Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (Claims Conference) is a model of an effective, special purpose, multicountry association. It was formed to undertake two tasks: to press (in conjunction with the government of Israel) Jewish claims against Germany and to distribute the funds received among eligible beneficiaries. The conference was established in 1951 on the initiative of the Israeli government and the WZO-Jewish Agency and with the assistance of the WJC. Twenty-two organizations from the United States, England, Canada, Australia, South Africa, France and Argentina participated. Protracted negotiations led to separate agreements by the German Federal Republic with Israel and with the Claims Conference.

In its distributive phase there was remarkable consensus among the many divergent organizational interests represented -- this despite strong ideological opposition to the idea of accepting payments from Germany, which only gradually receded. The success of the Claims Conference in both its diplomatic and distributive tasks can be attributed to the following factors:

  1. Its representative character.

  2. Its clearly delimited.
  3. The challenge of bona fide diplomatic activity with two sovereign states in place of the lobbying and shadowboxing that is normally the lot of nonsovereign entities.
  4. The opportunity to be a full-fledged partner of Israel in the negotiations.
  5. The high caliber of the negotiators.
  6. The early agreement on criteria and priorities for the distribution of money.
  7. The utilization of established facilities rather than becoming an operating agency or creating new instrumentalities.

The Claims Conference ended its active role in 1965 with the fulfillment of its goal. Its formal existence is maintained for the performance of certain limited, ongoing tasks. Among these are monitoring the implementation of German legislation on restitution; pressing for further legislation, especially in East Germany; administering a fund for former community leaders; and supporting non-Jews who had helped rescue Jews and who are in financial difficulty.

By 1965 the Claims Conference had allocated $110 million, of which three-fourths was applied to the relief, rehabilitation, and resettlement of Nazi victims outside Israel and the rest used mainly for cultural and educational reconstruction. Grants were made to some 250 Jewish communities and institutions in thirty countries, primarily in Europe, and for research and publications by authors who were Nazi victims. Institutions for the commemoration of the Holocaust were also beneficiaries.

Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.42 In 1964 the Claims Conference established the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture to serve as a living memorial to the six million who perished in the Holocaust and transferred to it the funds that had remained after German payments ceased. This base endowment of about 10$ million was augmented by additional amounts in subsequent years, so that the foundation has been able to distribute about $1.25 million annually. The Memorial Foundation maintains quite an elaborate apparatus for the implementation of a financially modest program. It has forty-seven member organizations, each of which sends three representatives to the board of directors. Eighteen organizations are of the multicountry type (thirteen have "World" in their names) and twenty-nine are territorial, the latter including five academic and cultural groups in Israel. Thus the Memorial Foundation is even more inclusive than the Claims Conference. Like the latter, it has a small professional staff, whose job consists mainly of sifting applications for support (these amount to several times the available financing) and making recommendations for allocations to the board and the 25-member executive committee.

World ORT Union.43 The World ORT Union is a service agency that is multicountry in all aspects: functional, administrative and financial. ORT now trains Jews and others in sophisticated technological specialties. Operations are conducted in twenty-four countries, and more than 100,000 students are enrolled in vocational training courses of a wide variety, making ORT the largest nongovernmental system of vocational education in the world. ORT also conducts training programs in Third World countries, sponsored and financed by the United States foreign aid program, the Swiss foreign ministry, and by various international institutions, primarily the World Bank.

Its major center of activity is Israel, with an enrollment of some sixty thousand. Other programs are in Iran, Ethiopia, Morocco and India; in Argentina, Venezuela and Uruguay; in France, Italy and the United States.

The World ORT Union, seated in Geneva, is a federation of autonomous national organizations, constituted as an association according to the Swiss civil code. It provides its local affiliates with financial subsidies, training of personnel and overall planning. The union is governed by a congress meeting every six years, to which member organizations send elected delegates. A central committee of 150 meets between congresses; it elects an executive committee of twenty to forty members, which convenes biennially. The president of the World ORT Union is an American, as is its executive director; the executive chairman if French. In the lower administrative echelons, the staff is multinational.

The World ORT is an effective multicountry body because:

  1. It is a single-purpose organization that has been able to adapt its program to changing circumstances and requirements.

  2. Its nonpolitical nature has assured its entry and acceptance in nonwestern countries, especially in the Moslem world. (Operations in eastern Europe, which continued in the postwar period, have since been phased out.)

  3. Its major emphasis has shifted to Israel, making a substantial contribution to filling that country's need for technically trained people.

  4. In its training program, ORT has maintained professional standards that have given it international recognition.

  5. In its financing, it has combined local support for local programs, inter-edah allocations (in the United States through the JDC), and non-Jewish financing.

  6. It accomplished a shift in leadership from eastern Europe to the United States and by that succeeded in selling the ORT idea to the American public and becoming a beneficiary of federated fund-raising in the United States.

  7. Its federal structure makes possible participation by representatives from all its multicountry membership and provides a forum for bridging differences in approach.

Joint Distribution Committee.44 A major share of multicountry activity in education, welfare, and community organization is performed by organizations sponsored by individual countrywide communities. Outstanding among them is the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the chief overseas welfare agency of American Jewry and one of the two partners in the United Jewish Appeal. Although sponsored and governed by American Jews, its staff is multicountry and its range of operations is probably greater than that of any other Jewish body.

The JDC organizes and finances rescue, relief, and rehabilitation programs for imperiled and needy Jews throughout the world; conducts a wide range of health, welfare, education and rehabilitation programs; and provides aid to cultural and religious institutions. It serves some 430,000 Jews in twenty-five countries, including Israel. It contributes financially to the support of many other Jewish organizations, and it works with most of the other edah bodies in the fulfillment of its mission. Its headquarters are in New York, with regional headquarters in Paris and Jerusalem.

The evolution of the JDC since its founding in 1914 reflects the transformations that have taken place in Jewish life din the twentieth century. Its beginnings were in ad hoc relief, an American Jewish response to World War I, the first of the great crises to bring disaster to Jews in the twentieth century. As such, it became the embodiment of Jewish unity when under siege, as American Jews from all the ideological camps -- Socialist, Orthodox and Progressive -- found a way to join with one another despite their great ideological differences to provide relief and rescue for fellow Jews.

After the war's end, the Russian Revolution and the various eastern European regional wars created new needs, and the JDC was institutionalized as a permanent instrument for American Jewish relief efforts. It became a classic emancipationist institution, committed to enabling and even encouraging Jews to find their way within the countries in which they were located. In part, this was an American Jewish response to the severe limitations place on immigration to the United States, but it is of great significance that effectively the response was anti-Zionist.

This orientation did not change until the impact of Nazism became apparent and the JDC had to reevaluate its stance. Even so, not until the takeover of the eastern European countries by Soviet-sponsored Communist regimes that sooner or later expelled the JDC, charging it with being a foreign agent, did the "Joint" truly shift its orientation. At approximately the same time, early in the 1950s, Ben-Gurion persuaded the JDC to undertake major responsibilities for the relief of the elderly and chronically ill refugees who had come to Israel as part of the mass immigration in the years immediately following the establishment of the state. This brought the "Joint" to Israel in a major way. Wince then, there has been a consistent expansion of the JDC role in the Jewish state, most recently moving from relief, rehabilitation, and institutional support to concerns such as the improvement of civic life ;and local government in Israel.

In the meantime, the major thrust of the JDC relief activities outside Israel was shifted to the remnant Jewish communities in the Islamic world. In addition, the JDC played a major role in rebuilding European Jewry in the aftermath of World War II and continues to play a significant, if reduced, role in encouraging European Jews to strengthen their Jewish institutions. The JDC also returned to eastern Europe during a thaw in the cold war and continues its work there in a low-key way.

The JDC is held in high respect within the Jewish world and has succeeded in penetrating into places where Jewish institutions are usually forbidden or severely limited. Its success stems from its constant striving to a professional rescue and relief organization, nonpolitical and dedicated to maintain as low a profile as needed to achieve its tasks.

Alliance Israelite Universelle.45 The France-based Alliance Israelite Universelle has an illustrious record of establishing educational institutions in the Moslem world. With the demise of Jewish communities in those countries and shift in the locus of Jewish life from the Francophone and Anglophone communities, it declined on the world scene although it continues to do important work in Israel.

By keeping a low profile, the Alliance has managed to maintain schools in those Arab and Islamic countries where Jews are severely restricted or even persecuted. In this it has no doubt enjoyed support from the French government, which tends to maintain close ties with those regimes. Most recently it has tried to stimulate an institutional revival through serving Jews from North Africa and western Asia who have settled in France, providing them with educational institutions and assistance for existing institutions, particularly through its teachers seminary.

Like the JDC, the Alliance is a living witness to the change that has taken place in Jewish thinking about emancipation and nationhood. Alliance schools were originally known for their emancipationist and assimilationist orientation. In many cases, their effect was to weaken Jewishness in the name of modernization.46 Now its major activities are in Israel where its most successful new project has been the sponsorship of a teachers seminary linked with the Hebrew University, designed to train teachers for Jewish subjects in Israeli nonreligious schools in such a way that the curriculum of those schools will be more Jewishly informed.

European Council of Jewish Community Services.47 The most recently established multicountry association of consequence is the European Council of Jewish Community Services, a regional body serving as a forum for European Jewry. Its membership includes some seventy communities in eighteen European countries. The council is the successor to the Standing Conference of European Jewish Communities, which was organized by the JDC in the 1950s. Its purpose was to stem the slow disintegration of Jewish life in postwar Europe and to help the communities transcend their local preoccupations in the search for common solutions. When the conference was transformed into the council, its offices were moved to Paris and a French communal worker was appointed as secretary general in place of a JDC staff member, completing the organization's "Europeanization." (As a sing of the times, English is the predominant language, and the council's publication, Exchange, is in English.)

The turning point in the council's role from a liaison body into a larger multicountry Jewish organization came in May 1972. At a meeting in Berlin, its governing assembly adopted a five-year program, which provided for commissions on fund-raising, young leadership training, and social services, and activated a Europe-wide community center association. In scope and functions, the European Council is similar to the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF) in the United States and maintains consultative contact with its American counterpart.

Government of Israel. The government of the State of Israel now acts as a principal defender of the physical welfare of the Jewish people under certain circumstances (for example, dealing with Nazi war criminals and terrorists) and maintains that it does so in the name of the edah. Thus, the security forces of Israel sometimes defend all Jews, the Knesset of Israel plays a major role in defining their status as Jews, and the prime minister or president sometimes speaks in their name.

Instruments of the Keter Torah and Keter Kehunah

Because the new pluralism in Jewish life has generated differing interpretations of the Torah-as-constitution, the keter torah is organized on clearly sectoral lines. Within it, older institutions ways. At the same time, others have changed and new institutions have emerged to serve other groups in new ways and to maintain traditional patterns.

Outstanding among the survivors from the previous epoch are a limited number of posekim (halakhic decisions) with edah-wide influence in their own camp and some similarly placed yeshivot. The chief posekim of the ultra-Orthodox are organized in the Moetzet Gedolei haTorah (Council of Torah Greats). Hassidic groups, whose centers are now transplanted wither to Israel or to the United States, also survive (although their principal officer is now usually a rebbe, not a tzaddik). Conspicuous among those groups are the Chabad (Lubavitcher) Hassidim, one of the few Hassidic sects that attempts to reach out to the edah. More recently, a Sephardic Moetzet Hakhmei haTorah (Council of Torah Sages) has emerged, comprising leading posekim in the Sephardic world.

Non-Orthodox representatives of this keter are found primarily in or around seminaries of their movements, reflecting the combination of rabbinical and professorial status that marks the effort of the non-Orthodox to combine modern and traditional form. Because the Reform movement is much less oriented to the concept of the keter torah than the Conservative, this phenomenon is more pronounced among the latter. In recent years, both movements have been given increasing emphasis to the rule of their rabbinical associations in deciding issues of Jewish law and custom.

Prominent among the new institutions in this keter are the professors of Jewish studies at Israeli and other universities who have acquired status as constitutional commentators and guides. These, and others drawn from the intellectual community, address themselves to Jewish concerns in an academic fashion; in so doing they lay the groundwork for new interpretations of the Torah-as-constitution.

The domain of the keter kehunah embraces various rabbinates and synagogue bodies that are occupied with ritual functions and their management. Some instruments of this keter have become more highly organized than at any time since the destruction of the Second Temple. The world synagogue movements and the organized rabbinates in the United Kingdom and Israel are outstanding examples. The rabbinates are important because they provide examples of how medinah-based instruments of this keter now attempt to perform and edah-wide function. For example, the Israeli chief rabbinate provides direct services for some small communities (e.g., Iran, India) as does the United Kingdom rabbinate of the United synagogue for some communities in countries that once were part of the British Empire. The World Council of Synagogues (Conservative, established 1957) and the World Union for Progressive Judaism (Reform, established 1926) are associations of countrywide congregational bodies.

Countrywide Communities within the Edah

As an independent state with a Jewish majority, where Jewish culture is dominant, Israel stands in a class by itself. In the diaspora, American Jewry is the only community which, along with Israel, can function fully as Jewish community, self-sufficient in its Jewish resources; more than that, it adds significantly to the sum of Jewish civilization in its own community and beyond. Without entering into the normative argument of Israel's centrality in Jewish life, empirically it must be understood that Israel and the American Jewish community are the strong centers of Jewish activity today. There are those who would argue that the six million Jews in the United States are not as culturally creative or as Jewishly aware as the three and a half million in Israel; however, nobody who knows the American Jewish community can deny that it plays a role in contemporary Jewish life and in Jewish history that goes far beyond simply sustaining Jewish existence.48

Ranking below Israel and American Jewry is a second category of diaspora communities. It comprises the communities that are potentially self-sufficient Jewishly but whose power to add to the sum total of Jewish civilization is limited to what they can do within their own borders except for periodic contributions by a few exceptional institutions or individuals. They can create and maintain institutions, even produce their own leaders, but their influence rarely extends beyond their own jurisdictions. These self-sufficient communities include the Jewries of France, Great Britain, Canada and perhaps South Africa and Argentina. As self-sufficient communities, they can contribute to the overall work of world Jewry and demand a voice in matters affecting world Jewry. (Argentina is included in this category although a combination of local circumstances had made it less than self-sufficient in the recent past.)

A third category comprises Jewish communities that, with some assistance from the outside (for example, they usually must import rabbis and Hebrew teachers), can maintain a viable Jewish life for their members. These communities may not be in danger of disappearing but are not likely to play significant roles on the world Jewish scene. There are many such communities. Typical of them are Australia, Brazil and Switzerland.

A fourth category comprises communities with small Jewish populations that, despite their organizational integrity, are in constant danger of disappearing because of assimilation or emigration. These communities possible have the means of those in the third category so far as they are sufficiently well organized to maintain their viability, but the combination of their small populations and the openness of the host environment works to reduce their chances of survival. The Scandinavian communities exemplify this group.

Most recently there has grown a fifth category comprising communities that may be termed protectorates of Israel and American Jewry. These communities maintain their internal institutions but are dependent on either one or both of the two great centers, not only for sustenance of their Jewish life but also for direct guidance and even programmatic activity to sustain them. The first four categories of communities can be found throughout Jewish history. It is unclear whether the fifth category is a new one or whether it simply represents the reemergence of a phenomenon that has existed in the Jewish past. For our purposes, however, it can be treated as a new phenomenon, a product of twentieth century upheavals with hardly an echo before World War I.

Postwar Iran was a classic example of such a protectorate,49 especially before the Khomeini revolution. Then a Jewish community of 80,000, it had the means, in principle, to be viable with a minimum of public assistance. The character of Iranian Jewry, however, led them to rely heavily on the Israeli ambassador to guide their internal decision-making, on Israeli teachers to provide Jewish education in their schools, and on the American Joint Distribution Committee and Otzar Hatorah and the Alliance to maintain the schools and the community's social welfare institutions and to provide organizational guidance for the community. Although the community was not always willing to acknowledge its protectorate status, it was reaffirmed well-nigh daily.

Protectorates are indigenous Jewish communities whose direction and principal activities have passed to outsiders from the major centers. Another category of community comprises colonies, planted by Jews from the major centers. Both Israeli and American Jewries have developed colonies in the postwar period, principally in Asia and Africa but also to a limited extent in the Caribbean. Israelis have done so primarily in connection with their missions for the Israeli government or private companies. Where they are present in sufficient numbers, they have created replicas of Israeli schools to serve their children's needs and other institutions on a modest scale to serve their own. American Jews have done so primarily as a result of American military activities in the aftermath of World War II. Where American forces have been stationed long enough to attract Jews with military and civilian occupations, they have created communities. The Jewish communities in Japan, Okinawa, and Thailand are examples. These communities are small, do not count for much on the world Jewish scene, and may well be temporary, as some have already proved to be.50

Finally, there is a category of communities in dissolution, generally outside the orbit of world Jewry for reasons peculiar to their internal situations. At best, they are protected from time to time by other Jewries, almost in the manner of the nineteenth century, through sporadic intervention often by way of third parties. These are primarily communities in eastern Europe and the Arab countries.

The Jewish Polity: Key Questions

It is in this framework, then, that the problem of the organization of the Jewish polity in today's voluntaristic environment must be explored. A number of key questions can be raised about every Jewish community, regardless of its place in the typology presented above. Among those needing investigation, questions of structure and function, affiliation and strength, legitimacy and authority, power and influence, leadership and representativenss, decision-making and conflict stand out.

The functions of the Jewish polity. What functions does the Jewish polity perform? How are they handled? What sets of priorities do they reflect? How well are they carried out? Obviously, the functions of every Jewish community revolve around the fundamental goal of Jewish collective and individual survival, both physical and cultural. In this respect, the Jewish polity is no different from any other. Accordingly, it may be hypothesized that, apart from the actual maintenance of the polity's institutions, its most important functions are defense and education.

In Israel, these two functions are handled in the manner of all states -- in army, a school system, appropriate ministries, and so forth. In the diaspora, defense, in particular, has taken different forms in this generation. In most Jewish communities, local action against anti-Semitism has been supplemented by efforts to assist Jews in subjugated communities and, overwhelmingly, by assistance to Israel. Diaspora Jewry's aid for Israel really must be considered a defense expenditure in the sense that diaspora Jews look upon Israel's survival as vital to their personal security and self-respect and hence are willing to pour out support for it on a scale unprecedented in the annals of Jewish communal life. An analysis of the tone of the campaigns to raise funds for Israel confirms this thesis, and the longtime unwillingness to invest in Israel, that is, to deal with Israel on a business basis, by the same people who give great sums to the cause is revealing.

Education is a more problematic function because it involves and exposes all the ambivalences of contemporary Jewish life. The desire for survival is in conflict with the desire for full integration with the general society, or perhaps more accurately, into the worldwide cosmopolitan culture so attractive to people in all walks of life, especially students and intellectuals. A study of the educational function in each community not only leads to an understanding of its content and its place in the community's scheme of things but also serves as an important means of gaining insight into the community's values and self-image.

Similar insights may be gained, though to a lesser degree, from an examination of the other domestic functions of each community. Simply cataloguing the range of these functions is useful in this regard, while tracing the expansion or contraction of the range is a good way of assessing changes in the community as a whole, whether in regard to its internal strength, the external pressures on it, or its members' interest in maintaining their communal integrity.

Problems of affiliation. The question of affiliation with the Jewish community is easily disposed of in those few countries that still maintain formal registration under government auspices for all those who identify themselves as Jews. It is more difficult in the vast majority of countries that lack that convenience, for in those countries, not only affiliation but the form it takes is self-determined by every individual Jew. In others, it is membership in certain core institutions (for example, synagogues) or organizations (for example, Zionist federations) which is demanded by the local value system for one to be considered part of the community. In yet other cases, the key to affiliation is contribution to the appropriate community fund.

Community strength. The measurement of the strength of any voluntary community is a difficult task. A study of the Jewish people as a polity is particularly useful in this regard because it suggests what is especially true in contemporary Jewish affairs: in an organized community, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Organization itself affects communal strength, intensifying communal life beyond what it might be if the aggregate Jewish behavior of individual Jews were to be the measure of Jewish strength. Thus, although individual Jews may or may not live intensely Jewish lives, the institutions and organizations in the community in which they may be involved make them more Jewish and thereby increase the overall strength of the whole and its parts.

Strength is a function of the actual exercise of influence that shapes action and, consequently, an organization that appears to have strength in the abstract may turn out to be relatively weak in specific situations or relative to particular issues. Organizations in the following categories are considered potentially strong:

  1. Organizations membership in which the community deems mandatory for all Jews in good standing in the community. Numerical strength is one indication of which organizations have that status.

  2. Organizations that furnish a high proportion of leaders for the community as a whole, whether as a result of democratic choice, for anachronistic reasons, or because they are themselves organizations of elites.

  3. Organizations that are called on to be spokesmen for the community, at least in the fields of their recognized competence.

None of these three categories is individually determinative. Most Jews in a given community may belong to synagogues yet desire to minimize the communitywide influence of the synagogue movements. Organizations of elites may find their members occupying key positions in the community but adopting different roles and stances more appropriate to the specific positions they occupy. And nothing is quite so obvious as the weakness of a "recognized spokesman" when the establishment for which he (or it) speaks no longer has the confidence of the community's larger public. Perhaps some "triangulation" of all three will produce at least a rough guide to the problem of strength.

In Israel, of course, this is an issue of a different order entirely. There, the formal institutions of the state are obviously the centers of both authority and power. Any other ranking is secondary, although it is important not to underestimate the power of public nongovernmental bodies such as the Histadrut or Agudath Israel. Furthermore, because Israel is a comprehensive, all-embracing Jewish society, it is necessary to include general economic and political as well as strictly Jewish measures to make any determination.

Patterns of Participation

The first task of every Jewish community is to learn to deal with the particular local manifestation of Jews' freedom to choose whether they wish to affiliate with it or not. This task is a major factor in determining the direction of the reconstitution of Jewish life in our time. It is increasingly true that diaspora Jews, if they feel Jewishly committed at all, feel that they are so by choice rather than simply by birth. Not that an organic tie does not underlie the fact of their choice, but birth alone is no longer sufficient to keep Jews within the fold in an environment as highly individualistic and pluralistic as the contemporary world. No one is more conscious of this than are the Jews themselves.

One result of that is that participation in Jewish life in the diaspora is exceptionally uneven. It was always true that some Jews participated in the life of their community more than others. What we know about humanity leads us to recognize that some people are more attuned to participation than others. Nevertheless, the intensely voluntaristic aspects of participation of all kinds in the contemporary would make the differences in willingness to participate even more important among diaspora Jewry.

Perhaps most important of all, participation actually defines the limits of the community. The Jewish communities in the diaspora are not communities of fixed boundaries within which all those born Jews find themselves and in which they are then moved to organize to meet their public needs, as in Israel. Instead, these communities consist of a series of concentric circles radiating outward from the hard core of committed Jews toward areas of semi-Jewishness on the other fringes where the community phases off into the general society.51

The hard core of the Jewish community consists of Jews whose Jewishness is a full-time concern that informs every aspect of their lives, whether from a traditionally religious point of view, as ethnic nationalists, or because of their involvement in Jewish life "every day in every way." They and their families are closely linked in their Jewishness internally and to others with similar ties, so that their Jewish existence is an intergenerational affair. Our best estimate is that between 5 and 10 percent of the Jewish population in the diaspora fall into this category.

Surrounding this hard core is a second group consisting of those Jews continuously involved in Jewish life and consistently active in Jewish affairs, but to whom living Jewishly is not a full-time matter. They are likely to be the mainstays of Jewish organizations of various kinds and make Judaism a major avocational interest. Ten percent is a fair estimate of such Jews in the diaspora today.

A third group, surrounding the participants, consists of those Jews affiliated with Jewish institutions or organizations in some concrete way but are not particularly active in them. These would include synagogue members whose membership does not involve them much beyond the periodic use of synagogue facilities, at least for the rites of passage or for the High Holy Days. Also included here would be members of some of the mass-based Jewish organizations such as Hadassah and B'nai B'rith or any of the other charitable groups that are identifiably Jewish, whose membership reflects primarily private social interests rather than a concern for the public purposes of Jewish life. This is a large category because it includes all those who recognize the necessity for some kind of associational commitment to Jewish life even if it is only for the sake of maintaining a proper front before the non-Jewish community. It is estimated to include 30 percent of the diaspora Jewish population.

Beyond that circle there is a fourth consisting of Jews who contribute money to Jewish causes and use the services of Jewish institutions periodically during their lifetimes, usually synagogues for the rites of passage. Perhaps another 30 percent of diaspora Jews fall into this category, some of whom have too-limited incomes to develop more formal or lasting attachments to Jewish life in an associational context that makes the payment of money a binding factor in the associational process.

Beyond the circle of contributors and consumers there is a circle of Jews who are recognizably Jewish in some way but completely uninvolved in Jewish life. Though they may be married to Jewish spouses and their children are unquestionably of Jewish descent, they have no desire even to use Jewish institutions for the rites of passage and insufficient interest even in such Jewish causes as Israel to contribute money. Perhaps 15 percent of diaspora Jewry fall into this category.

There is a small group of born Jews who actively reject their Jewishness. Once a significant group, it is a decreasing one, for the openness of society to Jews today has eliminated the necessity for active hostility on the part of those seeking to escape their Jewishness. Active rejection survives as a pathological syndrome among a handful of born Jews.

Finally, there is an unknown number of "quasi-Jews" who are neither inside the Jewish community nor entirely out of it. These are people who have intermarried but have not lost their own personal Jewish "label" or who have otherwise assimilated to a point where Jewish birth is incidental to them in every respect. We can assume that between 5 and 10 percent of the known Jewish population fall into this category, plus an unknown number who are simply not reckoned in the conventional statistics.

The boundaries between these categories as well as their membership is quite fluid. There is considerable movement in and out of all of them; more along the edges of each than across separated circles. Thus Jews in group two ("participants") are more likely to move into the hard core or out into more casual membership than to drop out altogether, while "peripherals" may move into the quasi-Jewish category with some ease or, under certain circumstances, will be easily brought into the category of "contributors and consumers."

Moreover, in times of crisis there will be general tightening of the circles. Thus the Six-Day War, the high point of Jewish identification in recent times, probably increased the extent and intensity of Jewish identification in all the circles, including the sixth, but only in relation to the prior stance of the individuals involved. Thus, "participants" may have become even more preoccupied with Jewish affairs during the period of the crisis and "peripherals" may have become contributors for the moment, but it was unlikely for peripherals to become participants. Such studies as we have indicate that even Jews who, at the time, were seen by their more committed fellows as "coming out of the woodwork" to identify and contribute were, in most cases, already passive synagogue members or at least on organizational lists as sometime supporters. Of course, we are speaking here about aggregates, not isolated cases.52

What this means is that the community is built on a fluid, if not on an eroding, base, with a high degree of self-selection involved in determining who is even a potential participant in the public life of the community. In all likelihood, only 20 percent of the Jewish population fall into that category and by no means all of them define their Jewish concerns as public ones. For many -- even the hard core (Hassidic Jews, for example) -- the concerns of the Jewish community are not their concerns. They are interested in leading private lives that are intensely Jewish but do not seek to channel their Jewishness into the realm of public affairs.

There is some evidence that the "bundle" of circles is getting looser and spreading out farther from the hard core. It is likely that a great gap is developing between circles four and five, so that the Jews who remain actively committed to Jewish life are growing closer to its center and those who are passively committed or less are drifting away. There were signs of this in 1967 and the phenomenon was clearly visible at the time of the Yom Kippur War. If this is so, the bases of Jewish communal life in the diagram are not only shifting but eroding, making the maintenance of a workable representative community an even more difficult problem for diaspora Jewry.

The implications of this for Jewish life are both important and frightening. It is clear that even the problem of defining who is in and who is out of the Jewish community at any given time becomes an increasingly difficult one. With the "intermarriage explosion" of recent years, the gray area of Jewishness has begun to reach into the more positively identified circles of Jews through family relationships. This is particularly problematic as we get a generation of semi-Jews who, in a world such as that of the United States, may associate with Jews and wish to marry Jews as often as they wish to marry non-Jews without having any real commitment to Jewish tradition or Jewish communal life.

As the most peripheral circles grow in size, we may find a startling decline in the number of Jews who can be identified as such. It is possible that several million present members of the Jewish community will simply disappear during the next generation or two because, although they may recall their Jewish ancestry, they will have moved so far into the gray area that they will be beyond reclamation by the community. Furthermore, if the circles grow apart as they seem to be, even among those who will remain there will be sharp divisions. The hard core who wish to preserve a Jewish way of life and those immediately surrounding it will, in natural response to their situation, tighten their own circles, and the more peripheral elements, in natural response to their situation, will be drawn ever farther into the gray area in which one generation will be Jewish and the next generation not.

The new voluntarism also extends into the internal life of the Jewish community, generating pluralism even in previously free but relatively homogeneous or monolithic community structures. This pluralism is increased by the breakdown of the traditional reasons for being Jewish and the rise of new incentives for Jewish association. The possibilities for organizing a pluralistic Jewish community have also been enhanced by these new incentives and the postmodern breakdown of the rigid ideologies that divided Jews in the last third of the modern era (mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries). Certainly, the creation of the state of Israel has given the Jewish people a new and compelling focus that enhances almost all Jews, and whose crucial role as a generator of Jewish ties, regardless of other differences, was decisively demonstrated at the time of the Six-Day War and in subsequent situations.53

Authority and Power

Legitimacy and authority. A major dimension of the modernization of the Jewish polity is the changing understanding of authority and legitimacy, which took on an entirely new look in the modern epoch and has undergone further changes in the postmodern epoch.54 Authority in premodern Jewish history was not based on any human or social institution or agency, but on the universally accepted Torah, which was the source of legitimacy for the organizational structure of every Jewish community. Even when hierarchical devices were sometimes used to implement the authority of the Torah, the legitimacy of that authority was based on distinctly nonhierarchical principles. Today, of course, the traditional authority of the Torah is no longer universally accepted, and the Jewish community has apparently created substitute forms of authority, which, though far weaker and much less visible, nevertheless function to hold the community together for some purposes and enable it to achieve common goals.

For the last century or more, the Jewish community was without any widely accepted authoritative force. The one thing that united almost all Jews in those years was their desire to become part of the open society. The touchstone of Jewish authority, to the extent that there was one, was a common commitment to modernism or liberalism. Leadership passed to Jews who had "made it," in the larger society precisely because they had.

The establishment of the State of Israel created a new source of authority for Jews. Certainly after 1967 Israel has become the primary authoritative factor, uniting virtually all Jews. All this is not to say that Jews are no longer interested in or accept the Torah, however they interpret it, or that the shift is without problems. But the people who now speak with the most authoritative voice in the community are the people who speak in some way with the voice of Israel.

The authoritative role of Israel functions in two ways. First, Israel is itself authoritative; what Israel wants is interpreted to be what the Jewish community should want, and even those who wish to dissent from any particular Israeli policy or demand must be circumspect when they do so. Those Jews who reject Israel's claims on them are more or less written off by the Jewish community. They are certainly excluded from any significant decision-making role in the community.

Furthermore, people who claim to speak in the name of Israel or for Israel gain a degree of authority that places them in advantageous positions when it comes to other areas of communal decision-making. This authoritative role has contributed as much to enhancing the Jewish community federations and their leadership as the sheer act of raising money. The two are closely interconnected. Even the synagogues, which are expected to be bastions of support for the Torah as the primary source of authority in the community, have come increasingly to rely on Israel and Israel-centered activities to legitimize their own positions. The shift in most American synagogues on Yom Kippur from fund-raising for synagogue needs to fund-raising for the sale of Israel bonds is an example.

Israel, however, is a human and secular source of authority, subject to all the weaknesses of all human and secular sources. Israel is the fulfillment of a messianic dream but it is not the coming of the Messiah because nothing human that we so far have seen is. So, though for the moment Jews have solved the problem of how to provide some measure of authoritative integration for the Jewish people, Israel does not solve the problem of restoring the kind of authority that will enable the Jewish polity to become the commonwealth that it properly should be.55

Power and structures. The question of authority, with its connotations of formality and legitimacy, leads naturally to the related question of influence in the community, with its connotations of informal power. Three basic forms of political control can be identified in the history of political systems: autocratic, oligarchic and polyarchic. (The terms are used here in the most neutral sense implied by their Greek roots.) The Jewish polity or its components have experienced all three at one time or another.56

Under the autocratic form, a single individual (for instance, a shtadlan) or an organization functioning as a corporate person (for instance, a chief rabbinate) by being decisively involved in every significant community decision exercises well-nigh complete control over the community. From the evidence available, this has been a rare phenomenon in Jewish history and never a legitimate one. The most visible example is Herod's usurpation of power in ancient Judea, with Roman support. It is virtually nonexistent in the contemporary Jewish world, surviving principally in the Hassidic world and perhaps in the smallest communities or in some of the traditional kehillot.57

Oligarchy is a form of political control in which a substantially closed group of individuals, or interests represented by individuals, enjoys a virtual monopoly of power by keeping decisive control over significant community decisions within its confines. Undoubtedly more prevalent in the Jewish world than autocracy, several forms of oligarchic control are discernible. The simplest involves rule by a single element in the community -- a small group with the same fundamental interests whose members are closely linked with one another through a network of interlocking relationships that hold power in its hands. To those who stand outside this kind of oligarchy, its rule seems no different from that of an autocracy. However, inside the controlling element itself, decision-making is collegial, if only because no individual is in a position to exercise control on his own.

The other two forms are more complex. A multiple-element oligarchy combines the leaders of a number of different elements in the community in the decision-making group, but the group remains self-selected and still stands in dominating relationship to the remainder of the community. Since each element in the coalition has its own sources of power, none can decisively influence community decision-making without the others. At the same time, the more elements represented in the oligarchy, the more open it becomes to various points of view in the community. A multiple-element oligarchy can be broadly based, quite responsive at least to the articulate publics in the community, and representative of the great majority (if not all) of its significant elements. In that case it can be considered a representative oligarchy or one which, in exercising its decisive influence over community decision-making, gives every legitimate interest a share, albeit a highly structured one, in the process. Oligarchy has long been a common pattern of organizing power in Jewish communities, at least since the crystallization of the idea of the Jewish polity as an aristocratic republic during the Second Commonwealth.

Polyarchic systems of political control are those in which no single individual, group, or element nor any exclusive combination of elements can monopolize power or be decisively involved in every significant community decision. They are characterized by their openness and fluidity, to the extent that power is not only widely diffused, but different issues or situations are likely to change the influence of different groups, giving them greater or lesser roles in the decision-making process depending on their salience. Moreover, the leadership of these groups is more likely to change with some frequency.

In an organized polyarchy the elements, groups, and individuals active in the community are mobilized in routinized ways and exercise their influence through recognized channels. Because their participation is expected, coordination among them is possible on a regular basis. Where power is even more widely diffused and the participants less easily coordinated, a fragmented polyarchy exists. In a fragmented polyarchy it is difficult for both participants and observers to determine who has the power potential to achieve their goals. It sufficiently fragmented, a polyarchy may become chaotic, but because chaotic polyarchy would signify a community in dissolution, it is a rare phenomenon and, when it exists, it is ephemeral.

Given the thrust of Jewish political tradition and the circumstances of Jewish existence as a polity by choice, some limits and opportunities in contemporary Jewish political organization should be apparent. Only in Israel is it possible to maintain formal mechanisms of governance associated with a clearly bounded political system. Diaspora Jews cannot expect to establish their communities on the same basis as modern democratic states, by the votes of the people, pure and simple. There may be voting and elections but they are limited for two reasons. One is technical -- the relatively low level of participation and turnout in a voluntary situation. The other is ideological -- to survive as a people, much less a holy commonwealth, Jews must maintain standards regarding what a Jewish commonwealth should be. The result is a tendency toward multiple element or representative oligarchy, based, in part, on the tripartite division among the ketarim and, in part, on the informal distribution of power among organizations, institutions and people.

Ideally, these oligarchic forms find expression in a kind of aristocratic republicanism, which leads to governance by what may be called a trusteeship, with a strong popular base and a higher legitimacy. The history of Jewish self-government can be understood as a continuing effort to maintain that trusteeship by combining its aristocratic and democratic bases. However, like every other form of government, aristocratic republicanism has its degenerative side. When aristocratic republics degenerate, they become oligarchies, in the narrower sense, or rule by a self-selected few for their private benefit. In any age and time, there is a continuing tension between the aristocratic republican ideal and the lower manifestations of reality. It is the problem of every generation to confront that tension and to seek to move the community in the direction of the higher, rather than the lower.

The existing evidence suggests that most of the larger countrywide Jewish communities fall somewhere between multiple-element oligarchies and fragmented polyarchies. The greater number are concentrated in the middle; most of the smaller ones are either multiple-element or single-element oligarchies, perhaps by default. At its best, oligarchic control is a decent approximation of the ideal Jewish republic within the limits imposed by human nature. In most down-to-earth terms, oligarchies frequently come into existence because there are power vacuums to be filled, and there are only a few people interested in filling them. This is particularly true in contemporary Jewish life.

Finally, the special nature of the Jewish polity -- its core of religious principles and behavior patterns that must be preserved if the community is to survive meaningfully, its lack of an all-embracing territorial base and the special problem that imposes, its dependence on a particular kind of dedicated leadership willing to assume grave burdens voluntarily -- makes oligarchy a reasonable solution to its problems of governance. At the same time, the community's reliance on the consent of its members to survive, the voluntarism that informs that consent, and the same religious tenets that make survival meaningful demand a degree of democratic participation that under most circumstances has kept oligarchies representative.

Apart from the influences indigenous to Jewish civilization, particular Jewish communities have always been influenced by the means of organizing power current in their host societies at any given time. In medieval Europe, this meant a strengthening of the hierarchical and autocratic elements in the community. Today this means democratization to a greater or lesser degree. The trend since World War II is that direction, within and relative to the communities' different structural patterns and external environments.

Decision-making and community conflicts. The substantive aspects of the decision-making process in Jewish communities lie outside the scope of this chapter. Nevertheless, it seems appropriate to set out what appear to be some general principles about decision-making and conflict in the contemporary Jewish world. First, the ideological struggles of the modern epoch, whether involving emancipation, secularism, socialism or Zionism, either have vanished or are vanishing from among the concerns of the decision-makers, surviving only as anachronisms where the leadership has nor changed. They have been replaced by essentially pragmatic concerns revolving around the great central principle of Jewish survival. In the aftermath of the Holocaust and in the turbulence of the contemporary world, the survival question has taken on the most crucial importance in the minds of almost all Jews, whether of concern for the survival of Israel, concern about outbreaks of anti-Semitism, or concern about preserving communal unity at all costs.

In effect, then, no issue is allowed to emerge as a matter of public controversy if it is felt that such a controversy would threaten the unity of the polity. Because of that, if at all possible, open community conflict is confined to marginal matters that are not threatening. "Extremists" such as the militant Orthodox, idealistic youth, or intellectuals, who challenge the survival consensus by raising "controversial" issues are disliked and even feared by the great "respectable" center that dominates most, if not all, organized Jewish communities. And it is very easy to acquire the label of "extremist" simply by questioning decisions arrived at through the established patterns of decision-making. By and large, these involve a quiet allocation of resources according to the hierarchy of interests of the community leaders with an emphasis on establishing and preserving an acceptable status quo.

Changes or innovations are introduced on an incremental basis only to raise as little controversy as possible. People working together over a long period of time learn how to satisfy each other's interests in this regard almost intuitively. Those who challenge this pattern and create "controversy" by doing so are likely to experience rejection even at the hands of those who agree with them in principle. In the end, serious conflicts that may occur in the community are likely to be personal rather than substantive in origin. The major exception to this picture is the conflict between the firmly Orthodox and most of the community over matters of religious law and practice.

The Federal Basis of the Polity

Federalism is the traditional way in which the Jewish people has maintained its unity in the face of the pressures of diversity.58 At any given time, a wide variety of federal arrangements are to be found in the organized Jewish communities of the world. The Jewish community adapts its traditional forms to the environment of the host country so that its structure reflects local conditions while making possible (as far as possible) the achievement of the main purposes of corporate Jewish life. The structure that almost always emerges from the adaptation is based on federal principles and uses federal forms.

The pluralistic federalism of the voluntary community substantially eliminates the neat pattern of communal organization usually held up as the model by those concerned with "rationalizing" Jewish community life. Though smaller communities in different cultural settings are not likely to go all the way in the same direction, more and more the seemingly anarchistic American pattern is revealed as the paradigm of their development if not the vision of their future.

Certainly the model of a hierarchical organizational structure does not offer an accurate picture of the distribution of powers and responsibilities in any Jewish community today. Even in the more formally structured communities of Central Europe and Latin America, the institution that appears to be at the top of the pyramid is really dependent on, and often manipulated by, the institutions and organizations that would be placed farther down on the structure in any hierarchical scheme. The local community that "should" be on the bottom is the real center of power. For communities like the United States, even the model as modified is useless. Nor is there a central governing agent in most communities that serves as the point at which authority, responsibility, and power converge. Even in the communities ostensibly dominated by a consistoire, the erstwhile central body has been shunted aside to become another specialized institution in an oligopoly, as in France where the Fonds Social Juif Unifie (FSJU) and the Comite Representatif des Israelites en France (CRIF) now play an equal or superior role.

What is needed, then, is a more appropriate model of Jewish communal organization that takes realities and trends into account. The structure of the contemporary countrywide Jewish community is best understood as a multidimensional matrix that takes the form of an even more intensive communications network that the edah. In it the interacting institutions are informed by shared patterns of culture as well as activated by a shared system of organizations and governed by shared leadership cadres.

The character of the matrix and its communications network varies from community to community. The network may be connected through a common center that serves as the major (but rarely, if ever, the exclusive) channel for communication or it may form a matrix without any real center, with the lines of communication crisscrossing in all directions. Always, however, the boundaries of the community are revealed only when the pattern of the network is uncovered. As with the edah, the pattern stands revealed only when both its components are, namely, its institutions and organizations with their respective roles and the way in which communications are passed between them. The pattern is a dynamic one, with the distribution of authority and influence varying according to the times, the issues, and the character, quality, relevance, and manner of what is communicated. This organizational matrix overlays the concentric circles into which the Jewish people is divided in our times. The matrix is firm enough, but the concentric circles are fluid. The result is the erection of a strong building on a foundation of shifting sands. That indeed describes the contemporary Jewish situation.59

Political Culture and Political Behavior

One of the major checks on the trusteeship is cultural. Jews approach the larger questions of governance with a moralistic outlook, expecting high standards of behavior, based on the principle that the polity must pursue justice and that those who lead it must do so as a public trust. The term, in talmudic times, for the elders of the city was tuvei ha'ir, the good men of the city. In reality, of course, they were not always good men, but what they were supposed to be was embodied in the concept. Any behavior that falls short of these standards has provoked sharp criticism from the days of the prophets to our own. One of the tasks of any Jew is to hold his leaders up to the measure of that criticism. In modern parlance, that is referred to as a "prophetic stance."

At the same time, Jews are individualistic in their personal behavior and demands, accepting the discipline of the community as binding only when they consent to it. Classical Hebrew has no word for obey. (It is true that a word has been created in modern Hebrew for military usage, but it has not caught on, even in the Israel Defense Forces, which is built, as much or more than any Israeli institution, on Jewish principles.) There is a word for command: tsavot -- mitzvot are commandments but the response to commandments is to hearken -- lishmoa in Hebrew. Implicit in the idea of hearkening is that every human being, as a free soul, must make a decision to respond, even to a commandment. He consents, or hearkens, to do what he hears. Ultimately, there is no way anybody can force somebody to do what he does not want to do. Ultimately, the individual makes the choice. Sometimes there is not much of a margin of choice. According to one Midrash, when God offered the Torah at Sinai, he held the mountain over the Jews and offered them the choice of accepting it or being buried. Even in that case there was a hearkening and there was the doing -- in short, a choice. Most of the time there are better options than that.

Jewish individualism tends to be assertive, as well. No more need be said about that; only consider what it means in connection with communal governance.

Balancing Jewish moralistic and individualistic tendencies is a strong sense of traditionalism, which serves as an anchor for both. Traditionalism is the source of conservatism in Jewish life. There is nobody as "orthodox" in his way as an old Jewish radical; whatever ideology Jews adopt is ultimately made into a tradition, forcing its adherents to live intensively according to customs rooted in its principles. Things must be done according to precedent and without rocking the boat, even though, with their moralistic tendencies, Jews tend to look constantly for improvements and reform and, with their individualistic ones, Jews tend to be liberal.

There is a tension in all Jewish communities between traditionalism, moralism and individualism. It is a tension that is not and cannot be definitively overcome. Instead, it is the kind of creative tension that helps define Jews as Jews. In every generation, Jews try to adjust to it as best they can.60

Finally, Jews always have messianic expectations, and approach political life with those expectations before them. Jews fight for messianic goals, hence their intense commitment to ideologies and causes. A messianic commitment can lead to fanaticism. There are no better fanatics than Jews. Why? Because to be messianic, one has to have passion and has to believe passionately. If one believes passionately that something is right, one will go to almost any lengths to achieve it. Fortunately, Jews have been taught so strongly by the Torah to minimize violence that even their worst fanatics tend to stop with the throwing of stones. But that comes right up to the edge.

Jews have messianic expectations of their leaders and institutions, magnifying their normal human failings because Jewish institutions are supposed to live up to the highest forms of aristocratic republicanism and to the highest manifestations of the teaching of the Torah. They are inevitably disappointed, because, being human, their leaders never do. In modern times, when the pull of a common law and a common way of life has been weakened, this has exacerbated divisions within Jewish life, at times to the point of self-destructive disunity.

Leadership and Representation

If the typology discussed above holds the key to the study of power and influence -- and hence decision-making -- in Jewish communities, it can also be of use in dealing with questions of leadership and representation. For the Jewish community, as a voluntary polity dependent for its functioning on the free choice of individuals willing to do their share to make it function, is ruled by a governing circle composed of the people who choose to make its tasks theirs, either as professionals or as volunteers. The character of that governing circle both reflects the character of the population it serves and contributes significantly to the shaping of the character of the community itself.

The sheer range of communal functions today requires such a variety of talents to fill its many leadership roles that the kind of simplistic exercises in the description of leadership patterns in the Jewish community frequent in the past have been made obsolete. In a system in which a basically complex leadership network is further complicated in the diaspora by the division between professionals an;d volunteers, special questions arise as to the relationship between leadership and decision-making. Still others involve problems of position and role, recruitment and training, and selection, mobility, and replacement of leaders of both types. The depth of our ignorance about such matters remains extraordinary.

The Community Constitution

Taken together, the structure and functions, means of affiliation and variations in strength, patterns of authority and distribution of influence, forms of leadership, representativeness and decision-making give shape to the constitution which every community creates for itself over time. Not simply -- or necessarily -- a written frame of government, a constitution in this sense combines the formal ordering of institutions, organizations, and offices with sociologically determined distribution of power and a conception of the good Jewish community that rationalizes the entire social and legal structure and provides the community with its principle of distributive justice.61 The identification of this broad constitution and its components takes us beyond the community's organizational "bundle" into the larger questions that make the structure meaningful. It is the first goal in understanding the Jewish people as a polity.


1. Salo. W. Baron, The Jewish Community: Its History and Structure to the American Revolution, 3 vols. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1942), ch. 4.

2. See Daniel J. Elazar, "From the Editor of Publius -- Federalism, Centralization, and State Building in the Modern Epoch," Publius, vol. 12, no. 13 (Summer 1982), pp. 1-9; James W. Skillen and Stanley W. Carlson-Thies, "Religion and Political Development in Nineteenth Century Holland," Publius, vol. 12, no. 3 (summer 1982), pp. 43-64.

3. See Ivo Duchacek, "Antagonistic Cooperation: Territorial and Ethnic Communities," Publius, vol. 7, no. 4 (fall 1977), pp. 3-30; Daniel J. Elazar et al., Handbook of Federal and Autonomy Arrangements (forthcoming); Stephen Thernstrom and Ann Orlov, eds., Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980).

4. The modern nation-state, despite its present currency, is but one form of polity. In recent years political research has come to recognize that there are other kinds of polities (or political systems, to use the term preferred among contemporary political scientists) existing alongside the nation-state even today. David Easton, Gabriel Almond, and Robert A. Dahl, among others, have pioneered in broadening the definition of political systems. See, for example, David Easton, The Political System (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1953); Gabriel A. Almond and James S. Coleman, eds., The Politics of the Developing Areas, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960); and Robert A. Dahl, Modern Political Analysis (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963). Dahl, for example, defines a political system as "any persistent pattern of human relationships that involves to a significant extent, power, rule, or authority...any collection of real objects that interact in some way with one another can be considered a system...." This somewhat inadequate definition demonstrates the new breadth of the definitional framework being used to understand different forms of political order, or different polities. For a good collection of recent thought on this problem, see Roy C. Macridis and Bernard E. Brown, Comparative Politics, 3d ed. (Homewood, Ill.: The Dorsey Press, 1968). Robert J. Pranger offers an important and extremely relevant discussion of the larger questions of political order in The Eclipse of Citizenship: Power and Participation in Contemporary Politics (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968). Benjamin Akzin discusses this entire question in State and Nation (London: Hutchison University Library, 1964), a book that rests to a great extent on insights drawn from the Jewish experience.

5. See, for example, Edwin Samuel, "The Administration of the Catholic Church," in Public Administration in Israel and Abroad 1966, vol. 7, one of the few such studies available.

6. A few historians and social scientists have taken note of the covenant community as a distinct sociopolitical phenomenon from this perspective. Margaret Mead, for example, suggests that the Jewish polity and other covenant communities deserve special exploration; see her Introduction to Mark Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog, Life Is with People (New York: Schocken Books, 1952). For an eloquent evocation of the spirit and character of the covenant community, see Page Smith, As a City upon a Hill (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966).

7. This section is based on material originally presented in four publications by the author, "The Reconstitution of Jewish Communities in the Post-War Period," Jewish Journal of Sociology, vol. 11, no. 2 (December 1969), pp. 187-226; "Kinship and Consent in the Jewish Community," Tradition, vol. 14, no. 4 (fall 1974), pp. 63-79; Covenant and Freedom in the Jewish Political Tradition, Annual Sol Feinstone Lecture (Philadelphia: Gratz College, March 1981); and Participation and Accountability in the American Jewish Community (New York: Council of Jewish Federations and Association of Jewish Community Organization Personnel, 1980).

8. The close connections between the theological and the political are made manifest in Jewish literature beginning with the Bible. In our time, Martin Buber has been the foremost expositor of those connections. See, in particular, his Kingship of God, trans. Richard Scheimann (London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1967). See also Hans Kohn, The Idea of Nationalism (New York: Collier Books, 1944), ch. 2; and Harold Fisch, Jerusalem and Albion (New York: Schocken Books, 1964).

9. Jews have always desired an independent territorial state, but they have desired it only as a means to a larger end and not as an end in itself.

10. Pranger, The Eclipse of Citizenship, following the Bible and Aristotle, among others, provides a useful discussion of citizenship as the creation of official identity, itself a culturally created necessity for every man that enables men to become fully human. The necessity for citizenship has become universal (p. 10): "In the language of psychology, citizenship supplies an integral segment of one's 'identity pattern,' something taken as second nature." It is in this sense that the concept is used here. See also Akzin, State and Nation. Relevant to the Jewish situation is D.F. Aberle et al., "The Functional Prerequisites of a Society," Ethics, vol. 60, no. 2 (January 1950), pp. 100-110. On the compatibility of multiple loyalties, see Morton Grodzins, The Loyal and the Disloyal (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957).

11. Pranger, The Eclipse of Citizenship, following Sheldon S. Wolin in Politics and Vision (Boston: Little and Brown, 1960), defines this phenomenon as the carving out of political space, space "shaped by a dualist structure of tangible objects and subjective perceptions which arranges a system of shared political meanings among citizens and also establishes these meanings in hierarchies of valued priorities." Pranger continues, "Around a nation are drawn a number of physical and non-physical boundaries within which citizens feel at home, outside of which they are foreigners. Such a space is molded by objective factors such as geographical frontiers, an economic system, a legal system, a common political language..., and by the special governmental institutions called offices. But one also discovers certain subjective perceptions and expectations that members share abut correct political action, expectations drawn from the members' own individual needs and values and from the social symbolism attributed to boundaries, economics, language, and governments. These symbolic perceptions may not find common agreement throughout a nation. Nevertheless, there are often common relationships between more specialized perceptions which entitle an observer to speak of a 'pattern' for even the heterogeneous political life of a Switzerland or an India....In every political situation, no matter how transient, one can locate such patterns of civic expectations." Pranger defines this as the political culture of a "national state" but with a few modifications it is useful in defining the political space and culture of the Jewish polity. Thus, for example, this concept being related to the study of Jewish political life, the tangible objects are the patterns of community organization and activity; the subjective perceptions relate to the questions of individual identity and and involvement. See also Daniel J. Elazar and Joseph Zikmund, eds., The Ecology of American Political Culture: Readings (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1975), Introduction.

12. The biblical understanding of the covenant as a consensual, theopolitical act is discussed in George E. Mendenhall, The Tenth Generation, and R.A.F. MacKenzie, S.F., Faith and History in the Old Testament (New York, 1963); see ch. 3, "Israel's Covenant with God."

13. The record of the reaffirmation of the covenant in the Bible is easily discernible in the text itself. Buber, Kingship of God, deals with this in his textual exegesis. See also the studies of Avraham Malamut, "Organs of Statecraft in the Israelite Monarchy," The Biblical Archaeologist, vol. 28, no. 2 (1965), pp. 34-51; G.E. Mendenhall, "Covenant Forms in Israelite Tradition," The Biblical Archaeologist vol. 17, no. 3 (1954), pp. 50-76; Hayim Tadmor, "'The People' and the Kingship in Ancient Israel: The Role of Political Institutions in the Biblical Period," Journal of World History vol. 11, nos. 1-2 (1968), pp. 46-68; Moshe Weinfeld, "The Transition from Tribal Republic to Monarchy in Ancient Israel and Its Impression on Jewish Political History," in Daniel J. Elazar, ed., Kinship and Consent: The Jewish Political Tradition and Its Contemporary Uses (Ramat Gan: Turtledove Publishing Co., 1981), pp. 151-66.

14. Leo Baeck discusses this phenomenon in This People Israel: The Meaning of Jewish Existence (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1965). The historic evidence is mustered in Daniel J. Elazar and Stuart Cohen, The Jewish Polity: Jewish Political Organization from Biblical Times to the Present (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1985).

15. See, for example, Louis Finkelstein, Jewish Self-Government in the Middle Ages, 2d ed. (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1964); and H.H. Ben-Sasson, Perakim beToldot haYehudim beYamei haBaynayim (Chapters in the History of the Jews in the Middle Ages) (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1969).

16. See Daniel J. Elazar and John Kincaid, eds., Covenant, Polity, and Constitutionalism (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America and Center for the Study of Federalism, 1982) and Daniel J. Elazar, "Covenant as the Basis of the Jewish Political Tradition," Jewish Journal of Sociology, vol. 20, no. 1 (June 1978), pp. 5-37.

17. Elazar and Cohen, The Jewish Polity, Introduction; Robert Gordis, "Democratic Origins in ancient Israel; The Biblical Edah," in Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1950); Moshe Weinfeld, "The Transition from Tribal Republic to Monarch in Ancient Israel and Its Impression on Jewish Political History," in Elazar, ed., Kinship and Consent.

18. See Stuart A. Cohen, The Concept of the Three Ketarim, Working Paper No. 18 of Workshop in the Covenant Idea and the Jewish Political Tradition (Ramat Gan and Jerusalem: Bar Ilan University Department of Political Studies and Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1982).

19. Howard M. Sachar's The Course of Modern Jewish History (New York: Dell Publishing, 1958) is a comprehensive source of the history of Jewish life in this period. The changes themselves are discussed by Jacob Katz in Tradition and Crisis (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1965) and Michael A. Meyer, The Origins of the Modern Jew: Jewish Identity and European Culture in Germany 1794-1824 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1967). See also Louis Finkelstein, ed., The Jews: Their History, Culture, and Religion (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1960), 3d ed., 2 vols.; Salo W. Baron, "The Modern Age" in Leo W. Schwarz, eds., Great Ages and Ideas of the Jewish People (New York: The Modern Library, 1956), pp. 315-484.

20. For a brief exposition of this definition of the modern era, particularly as it applies to the United States, see Daniel J. Elazar, Cities of the Prairie (New York: Basic Books, 1970), Introduction and Appendix; and, by the same author, Toward a Generational Theory of American Politics (Philadelphia: Center for the Study of Jewish History," Judaism, vol. 10, no. 3 (summer 1961), pp. 256-64.

21. See Jacob Lestchinsky, Tfutzot Yisrael Ahar haMilhamah (The Dispersions of Israel after the War) (Tel Aviv, 1958) (Hebrew); Aryeh Tartakower, HaHevrah haYehudit (Jewish Society) (Tel Aviv: Massada, 1957-59) (Hebrew).

22. Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, Toldot Eretz Yisrael beTekufah haOtomanit (History of the Land of Israel in the Ottoman Period), (Jerusalem: Yad Itzhak Ben Zvi, 1955) (Hebrew); Robert Sherevsky, Avraham Katz, Yisrael Kolatt, and Hayim Barkai, Meah Shanah ve'od 20 (One Hundred Years and Another 20), (Tel Aviv: Ma'ariv, 1968) (Hebrew).

23. It should be noted that most, if not all, of the first colonies were founded by covenants or articles of agreement, thus continuing the classic Jewish pattern. See Daniel J. Elazar, Israel: Building a New Society (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1986).

24. "Structure," "function," and "role" in the sense used here should be understood as the patterning of interactions between institutions, organizations, and groups as well as the patterning of the institutions, organizations, and groups themselves. In this sense, we are concerned with these both as entities as role players in the system. See Talcott Parsons and Edward A. Shils, eds., Toward a General Theory of Action (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1951) for an elaboration of the concepts of role and the patterned interaction of roles.

25. The Oxford English Dictionary indicates that this neologism was first used in 1842.

26. See Charles S. Liebman, On the Study of International Jewish Political Organizations (Jerusalem: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 1978) and Mala Tabory and Charles S. Liebman, The Study of International Jewish Activity: An Annotated Bibliography (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Department of Political Studies, 1986).

27. For a superb case study of one such example, see Lloyd Gartner, "Roumania, America, and World Jewry; Consul Peixotto in Bucharest, 1870-1876," American Jewish Historical Quarterly, vol. 28, no. 1 (September 1968), pp. 25-117.

28. See, for example, Stuart Cohen, "The Conquest of a Community? The Zionists and the board of Deputies in 1917," Jewish Journal of Sociology, vol. 19, no. 2 (December 1977), pp. 157-84. (Reprinted by the Center for Jewish Community Studies, 1978). For the Zionist war on shtadlanut, see Charles S. Liebman, "Diaspora Influence on Israel: The Ben-Gurion-Blaustein Exchange and Its Aftermath," Jewish Social Studies, vol. 36, nos. 3-4 (July-October 1974), pp. 271-80. (Reprinted by the Center for Jewish Community Studies, 1978.)

29. Paul Goodman, B'nai B'rith: The First Lodge of England 1910-1935 (London: published by the Lodge, 1936); Walter M. Schwab, B'nai B'rith: The First Lodge of England -- A Record of Fifty Years (London: O. Wolff, 1960); E. E. Grusd, B'nai B'rith: The Story of a Covenant (New York: Appleton-Century, 1966); M. Bisgyer, Challenge and Encounter: Behind the Scenes in the Struggle for Jewish Survival (New York: Crown Publishers, 1967); Itzhak Alfassi, eds., Misdar B'nai B'rith be-Yisrael (B'nai B'rith Order in Israel) (Tel Aviv: B'nai B'rith in Israel, 1966) (Hebrew); Deborah Dash Moore, B'nai B'rith and the Challenge of Ethnic Leadership (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981).

30. Estimates of Arthur Ruppin in the American Jewish Year Book as presented in Raphal Patai, Tents of Jacob (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971), p.79.

31. The two best sources of multicountry Jewish organizations are Ernest Stock, "Jewish Multicountry Associations," American Jewish Year Book 1974-75, vol. 75, pp. 571-97 and Josef J. Lador-Lederer, "World Jewish Associations," Encyclopedia Judaica Yearbook 1973 (Jerusalem: Keter, 1973), pp. 351-56.

32. See Liebman, "Diaspora Influence on Israel."

33. Daniel J. Elazar, "The United States of America: Overview," in Moshe Davis, ed., The Yom Kippur War, Israel, and the Jewish People (New York: Arno Press, 1974), pp. 1-35.

34. For a running account of developments on this front, see the American Jewish Year Book, published annually by the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Publication Society of America.

35. See Ernest Stock, "The Reconstitution of the Jewish Agency," American Jewish Year Book 1972, vol. 73, pp. 178-93; and Charles S. Liebman, "Does the Diaspora Influence Israel? The Case of the Reconstituted Jewish Agency," Forum, no. 23 (Spring 1975), pp. 18-30. Both articles have been reprinted by the Center for Jewish Community Studies, 1978.

36. For a more detailed review, see Stock, "Jewish Multicountry Associations" and Daniel J. Elazar and Stuart A. Cohen, The Jewish Polity: Jewish Political Organization from Biblical Times to the Present (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1985), pp. 258-303.

37. Zelig Chinitz, A Common Agenda: The Reconstitution of the Jewish Agency for Israel (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1985); Stock, "The Reconstitution of the Jewish Agency," pp. 187-88; and Liebman, "Does the Diaspora Influence Israel?"

38. Daniel J. Elazar and Alysa M. Dortort, eds., Understanding the Jewish Agency: A Handbook (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1984).

39. Zionist General Council, Addresses, Debates, Resolutions, June-July 1978 (Jerusalem: The Zionist Executive, Organization and Information Department, 1978); "Caesarea Crossroads," Forum, no. 41 (spring/summer 1981), pp. 1-52; Joseph Heller, The Zionist Idea (New York: Schocken Books, 1949); David Vital, Zionism: The Formative Years (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982); Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error: The Autobiography of Chaim Weizmann (New York: Harper and Row, 1949); The World Zionist Organization, the Organization and Information Department, The World Zionist Organization (Jerusalem, 1972); and Stock, "Jewish Multicountry Associations."

40. On the World Jewish Congress, see Nahum Goldmann, The Autobiography of Nahum Goldmann, trans. Helen Sebba (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969); Lador-Lederer, "World Jewish Associations"; Stock, "Jewish Multicultural Associations"; Melvin I. Urofsky, A Voice That Spoke for Justice: The Life and Times of Stephen S. Wise (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982); George Garai, ed., Four Years in Action: A Record of the World Jewish Congress, 1936-1976 (Geneva: World Jewish Congress, n.d.).

41. On the Claims Conference, see Stock, "Jewish Multicountry Associations"; "Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany," Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 5, pp. 872-73; Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, Five Years Later: Activities...1954-1958 (New York: Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, 1959); and Lucy S. Davidowicz, "Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany," American Jewish Year Book 1953, vol. 54, pp. 471-485 and American Jewish Year Book 1960, vol. 61, pp. 110-27. Also see Annual Reports of Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (1954-).

42. On the memorial Foundation, see Stock, "Jewish Multicountry Associations" and Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, Study documents -- Meeting of Board of Trustees, presented at biennial meeting of Board of Trustees, July 23-26, 1984 (New York: Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, 1984). Also see annual volume of the American Jewish Year Book.

43. On ORT, see Eighty Years of ORT, Historical Materials, Documents, and Reports (Geneva: World Union, 1965); Leon Shapiro, The History of ORT (New York: Schocken Books, 1980).

44. There are several histories of the JDC, including Herbert Agar, The Saving Remnant: An Account of Jewish Survival (New York: Viking Press, 1960) and Yehuda Bauer, My Brother's Keeper: A History of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1929-1939 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1974). See also Daniel J. Elazar, "Israel, American Jewry, and the Re-Emergence of a World Jewish Polity," in Annual of Bar Ilan University Studies in Judaica and the Humanities 16-17 (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University, 1979), pp. 89-126.

45. On the alliance Israelite Universelle, see Phyllis Cohen Albert, The Modernization of French Jewry: Consistory and Community in the Nineteenth Century (Waltham, Mass.: Brandeis University Press, 1977); Paula Hyman, From Dreyfus to Vichy: The Remaking of French Jewry, 1906-1939 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979); Michael M. Laskier, "The Alliance Israelite Universelle and the Struggle for the Recognition within Moroccan Jewish Society: 1862-1912," in Issachar Ben-Ami, ed., The Sephardi and Oriental Jewish Heritage Studies (Jerusalem: the Magnes Press, 1982); Andre Chouragui, Cent ans d'histoire l'alliance israelite universelle et la renaissance juive contemporaire, 1860-1960 (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1965); and Alliance Israelite Universelle, Les droits de l'homme et l'education (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1961).

46. See, for example, Mair Jose Bernadette, Hispanic Culture and Character of Sephardic Jews, 2d ed. (New York: Hermon, 1981).

47. On the ECJCS, see Daniel J. Elazar, "The New Agenda of European Jewry," Jerusalem Letter/Viewpoints, no. 35 (October 17, 1984); Liebman, On the Study of International Jewish Political Organizations; Ernest Stock, "The Emerging European Jewish Community Structure,' Jerusalem Letter, no. 46 (March 14, 1982) and "Jewish Multicountry Associations."

48. The case for American Jewry is fully stated in Steven M. Cohen, American Modernity and Jewish Identity (New York: Tavistock Press, 1983); Chaim I. Waxman, America's Jews in Transition (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983); Arnold M. Eisen, The Chosen People in America (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1983); Henry L. Feingold, A Midrash on American Jewish History (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1982); Charles Silberman, A Certain People.

49. See Daniel J. Elazar, The Jewish Community of Iran (Jerusalem: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 1975).

50. Elazar, "Israel, American Jewry, and the Re-Emergence of a World Jewish Polity," p. 103.

51. I have elaborated on this model in Community and Polity (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1976), p. 72.

52. A comprehensive view of the effect of the Six-Day War can be found in the section on "The Arab-Israel War of 1967," American Jewish Year Book 1968, vol. 69, pp. 115-32. Also see Ernest Stock, "How 'Durban' Reacted to Israel's Crises: A Study of an American Jewish Community," Forum, 1975; Peter Medding, "Toward a General Theory of Jewish Political Interests and Behavior," Jewish Journal of Sociology, December 1977.

53. See Milton Himmelfarb, The Jews of Modernity (New York: Basic Books, 1973); Charles S. Liebman, The Ambivalent American Jew (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1976); Peter Y. Medding, "Toward a General Theory of Jewish Liberalism" in Daniel J. Elazar, ed., Kinship and Consent (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1983); Paul R. Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinhartz, eds., The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980); Calvin Goldscheider, Jewish Continuity and Change: Emerging Patterns in America (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1986).

54. Charles S. Liebman, "Dimensions of Authority in the Contemporary Jewish Community," Jewish Journal of Sociology, vol. 12, no. 1 (June 1970), pp. 29-37.

55. For a discussion of "Israelolitry and Its Limits," see Elazar, Community and Polity.

56. For a more extensive treatment of the typology in a different but analogous setting, see Daniel J. Elazar, Cities of the Prairie (New York: Basic Books, 1970), ch. 5.

57. The patterns of Jewish political organization are treated in detail in Daniel J. Elazar and Stuart A. Cohen, The Jewish Polity: Jewish Political Organization from Biblical Times to the Present (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1985). See also Salo W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 18 vols. (New York and Philadelphia: Columbia University Press and Jewish Publication Society of America, 1952-83); and Haim Hillel Ben Sasson, ed., A History of the Jewish People, contributions by A. Malamut (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1976).

58. For an elaboration of the relationship between pluralism and federalism, see Daniel J. Elazar, "Federalism," in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (New York: Macmillan, 1968).

59. Johannes Althusius was the first to present a comprehensive discussion of the political system as a communications network that deals in detail with the ideas advanced here and has the virtue of being the first systematic presentation of this theory. His Politica methodoce digesta, first published in 1603, is available in a modern edition with an extensive introduction by Carl J. Friedrich (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1932). More recently, Martin Landau and Vincent Ostrom have taken up the same theme. See "Federalism, Redundancy, and System Reliability" by Martin Landau and "Can Federalism Make a Difference?" by Vincent Ostrom, both in Daniel J. Elazar, The Federal Polity (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1974).

60. On these dimensions of political culture, see Daniel J. Elazar, American Federalism: A View from the States, 3d ed. (New York: Harper and Row, 1984), chaps. 5 and 6; Israel: Building a New Society (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1985), ch. 11.

61. Norton Long discusses this "constitutions" approach to the study of politics in "Aristotle and the Study of Local Government," Social Research, vol. 24, no. 3 (Autumn 1957), pp. 287-310, a modern adaptation of Aristotelian principles for the study of comparative government.

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