Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Daniel Elazar Papers Index

Jewish Community Studies

The Constitutional Documents of Contemporary Jewry:
An Introduction to the Field

Introduction to The Constitutional Documents of American Jewry

Daniel J. Elazar

The Jews as a Constitutional People

Jewish civilization, its religion and its polity, are grounded in constitutional documents and infused with the principles of constitutionalism.1 Torat Moshe is properly understood as the constitution of the Jewish people, however interpreted. Over centuries, its application has been modified through the addition of other constitutional referents to explicate the original text of the Torah: the Mishnah, the Gemarah, and the codes, the last of which to gain wide acceptance was the Shulchan Arukh. All have served as constitutional referents for the Jews in one or another epoch.

  1. Ha-Avot/The Forefathers c. 1850-c. 1570 BCE
  2. Avdut Mizrayim/Egyptian Bondage c. 1570-c. 1280 BCE
  3. Adat Bnei Yisrael/The Congregation of Israelites c. 1280-1004 BCE
  4. Brit ha-Melukhah/The Federal Monarchy 1004-721 BCE
  5. Malkhut Yehudah/The Kingdom of Judah 721-440 BCE
  6. Knesset ha-Gedolah/The Great Assembly 440-145 BCE
  7. Hever ha-Yehudim/The Jewish Commonwealth 145 BCE-140 CE
  8. Sanhedrin u-Nesi'ut/The Sanhedrin and the Patriarchate 140-429 CE
  9. Ha-Yeshivot ve Rashei ha-Golah/The Yeshivot and Exilarchs 429-748 CE
  10. Yeshivot ve-Geonim/Yeshivot and the Geonim 748-1038 CE
  11. Ha-Kehillot/The Kehillot 1038-1348 CE
  12. Ha-Va'adim/Federations of the Kehillot 1348-1648 CE
  13. Hitagduyot/Voluntary Associations 1648-1948 CE
  14. Medinah ve-Am/State and People 1948- CE

In addition, Jewish states and communities have had their own chain of constitutional referents in the context of Torat Moshe beginning with the Prophet Samuel's mishpat hamelukha, introduced when he acquiesed to the people's choice of Saul as king and annointed him nagid (high commissioner).2 Subsequent subnational constitutional referents included those of the Second Commonwealth Hasmonean state, the Jewish community of Babylonia with the law of its Exilarch, the communal askamot and takkanot hakahal of the Middle Ages, including such multi-community efforts as the takkanot of Valadolid which formed a civil constitution for the Jewish communities of Castille in the fifteenth century and continued to form the constitutional basis of the Jewish communities of the Sephardic world until the break-up of the traditional societies in that world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. At the end of the eleventh century, Yehuda HaBarceloni collected model constitutional documents for founding and organizing communities. His collection of model contracts, Sefer HaShtarot, relied upon documents in existence for centuries. Askamot, takkanot, and later pinkasei hakahal served as constitutional foundations of Jewish community life throughout the world until the loss of Jewish autonomy during the modern epoch.3

While no longer comprehensive autonomous "states within a state," the new limited and increasingly voluntary Jewish communal structures continued to operate under basic laws now referred to in the languages of the countries in which the communities were located. In English, they came to be known variously as charters, constitutions, and bylaws. In those countries where the state dictated basic forms of religious or communal organization, those documents were formulated within the state-provided framework. In some states, the communities formulated their own constitutions which were then enacted into law by the appropriate state organs.

In the communities of the new worlds of North and South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the communities were fully voluntary. Each could develop its own constitutional documents as its members chose as long as they did not violate any provisions of state law. Its constitutions could even be enforced in state courts as legal contracts forming private associations. Generally, state law required that all voluntary associations, including Jewish ones, adopt such organic laws. Adoption did not guarantee that they would be treated with any deference or even viewed as important except in those rare moments when controversies erupted within the body involved and one or another side had recourse to the body's organic law in an effort to gain an advantage or prove its point.

Constitutionalism in Modern Jewish Thought

This casual attitude toward the constitutional documents of modern and post-modern Jewry was compounded by the fate of constitutionalism in modern Jewish thought. There is every reason to believe that in the first epochs of Jewish history, at least through the Second Commonwealth, the Torah was viewed as a constitution or its equivalent. Josephus, who was the first to describe the Torah in the terminology of Western (i.e., Greek) constitutionalism, tried to explain the ideas and practices of Judaism in the then-dominant terminology of Greek thought. In doing so, he described something that rang true to the Jews of his time as well.4

With the triumph of the Pharisees in the latter years of the Second Commonwealth and particularly after its destruction, constitutionalism became more complex with the Torah-as-constitution increasingly replaced by the Torah-as-detailed-code.5 This trend became even more pronounced in the Middle Ages, during the tenth epoch of Jewish history. This tendency persisted and became even more extreme on the threshold of the modern epoch with the composition of the Shulhan Arukh and its adoption as the standard halakhic authority in Jewish communities throughout the world.

In the modern epoch, there was a sharp intellectual reaction to this development. The two great founders of modern Jewish thought -- Spinoza and Mendelssohn -- laid the groundwork for the change. Spinoza in his Political-Theological Tractate accepted the traditional understanding of the Torah as the constitution of the Jewish people, but, reversing the dominant trend in medieval European constitutional thought, claimed that it was the constitution of the Jewish people only and even for Jews applicable only in a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.6 While not ruling out the future restoration of that state and its constitution, Spinoza argued that it was irrelevant for Jews or Christians until that occurred.

Mendelssohn also emphasized the Torah as constitution. Moreover, since he did not reject Judaism in the way Spinoza did, he made an even stronger case for its constitutional character in every realm, not only the political. Then in his Jerusalem he argued that this constitution had limited authority and in the diaspora under modern conditions that it was precisely this constitutional dimension that Jews had to give up except in the most narrow sense of Jewish ritual in order to become citizens of modern civil societies.7

Thus Spinoza provided the justification and Mendelssohn the direction of the deconstitutionalization of modern Jewish consciousness. Their line of thinking was picked up by the new Reform movement that emerged early in the nineteenth century which, by transforming Judaism into a religious cult resting on the ideas of the Enlightment, rejected the binding character of the Torah as constitution as well as the codes and transformed the rabbi from an expounder of the Torah into a new style leader of the cult whose task it was to enable his congregants to reach out to God as individuals. Nevertheless, Reform congregations adopted constitutions which outlined their structure and functions pursuant to state law.8

But this is not the whole story, for ordinary Jews, especially those engaged in establishing new communities, writing a constitution could still evoke the desire to proclaim their goals to the world and establish the rules of order necessary to achieve them. The contemporary constitutions of the Jewish people speak to that reality as well. So while Jewish congregations and communities continued to write and adopt constitutions, if only out of necessity, the idea of constitutionalism as part of the Jewish experience dropped from the intellectual consciousness of Jews.

Even in Israel, where the absence of a single constitutional document has persuaded most Israelis that Israel has no constitution, constitutionalism plays a minor role in public consciousness -- albeit a growing one. But just because it is not perceived to be important does not mean that it is not. In fact, the experience in Israel in the past decade is one of growing constitutional consciousness, first on the part of the main institutions of Israeli government, particularly the Supreme Court and the Knesset, and now among the Israeli public as well.9 The Israeli experience may not yet be paradigmatic for world Jewry, but may be a harbinger of what is to come. At least in part this is because constitutionalism has surfaced once again as an important concern in the larger world where proper constitutions whose ideas are properly internalized by the publics they serve and hence are properly translated into appropriate political action are becoming recognized as vital for the preservation of democratic self-government.10

Studying the Constitutions of Contemporary Jewry

This necessarily brings us to the study of the constitutional documents themselves. Why should we bother to study the constitutions of contemporary Jewry? At the highest level, constitution-making, properly considered, brings us back to the essence of the political. However much extra-political forces may influence particular constitution-making situations or constitutional acts, ultimately both involve directly political expressions, involvements, and choices. In that sense, the dynamics of constitution-making have to do with questions of what Vincent Ostrom has termed constitutional choice.11 A proper study of the subject, then, involves not only what is chosen but who does the choosing, and how.

Constitutional choice is more art than science. There are scientific principles involved in the making of constitutions, as the fathers of the United States Constitution of 1787 demonstrated in their reliance on the "new science of politics," which had discovered such vital principles of republican regimes as separation of powers, federalism, and the institution of the presidency. But the combination of those elements and their adaptation to the constituency to be served is an art. A constitution is also a political artifact; making one combines science, art and craft, including the identification of basic scientific principles of constitutional design and the technologies which are derived from them by a constitutional artisan or group of artisans.12

It is an even greater art to bring the constituency to endow the constitution with legitimacy. Constitutional legitimacy involves consent. It is not a commitment which can be coerced -- however much people can be coerced into obedience to a particular regime. Consensual legitimacy is utterly necessary for a constitution to have real meaning and to last. the very fact that, while rule can be imposed by force, constitutions can only exist as meaningful instruments by consent, is another demonstration that constitution-making is the preeminent political act.

We can and should look at the constitutional documents of contemporary Jewry from yet another perspective, as indicators and tracers. Even if the constitutional documents of contemporary Jewry have no particular call upon contemporary Jews, they will inevitably serve as indicators of the impact of the host culture and the Jewish experience within it on Jews.

As a first step in the revival of a sense of constitutionalism in the Jewish polity it is necessary to understand the constitutional documents of contemporary Jewry from two perspectives: How have they been reshaped by the modern and post-modern environments in which they have been produced, and to what extent do they continue older Jewish models? In other words, the constitutional documents become another measure of the relationship between continuity and change in contemporary Jewish life. Given the origins of so many contemporary Jewish constitutional documents in the requirements of the external government, we can expect that the documents will predominantly reflect the external environment, at least in an overt way. On the other hand, one should find either manifest or latent expressions of the Jewish political tradition within those documents, in organizational forms if not in style or terminology.

The U.S. experience is of special interest. The first constitutions of Jewish congregations and organizations in the United States clearly reflect traditional Jewish patterns. But as those constitutions were changed or replaced by a more acculturated Jewish population, they increasingly reflected American democratic individualism and volunteerism. At least at the time of the American Revolution there was deliberate recourse to constitutional change in the Jewish community to embody the spirit of that revolution within the Jewish fold.

In the United States, at least, it is not always easy to distinguish between American and Jewish influences. The constitution of Congregation Beth Shalom of Richmond, Virginia, adopted in 1789, the year that the U.S. Constitution went into effect, begins: "We, the subscribers of the Israelite religion resident in this place, desirous of promoting the Divine worship which, by the blessing of God, has been transmitted by our ancestors, have this day agreed to form ourselves into a society for the better effecting the said laudible purpose, to be known and distinguished in Israel by the name of Beth Shalom." What could be more American-sounding or an obvious imitation of the newly-adopted U.S. constitution? Except that constitutions with such "We the people" preambles are found in Jewish history going back at least 1,000 years.

We can identify some of the directions of change embodied in these constitutional documents. First of all they move from a traditional basis, which includes a commitment to Jewish religious tradition, to grounding in one of the modern Jewish ideologies with an according diminution of traditional Jewish practices, even among those who remain faithful to religious tradition.

Second, there is a movement from oligarchy to democracy. Historically, Jewish institutions have always been republican, but at various times in history they have been under oligarchic rule within the republican framework. That is to say, the Jewish polity and its communities constitute a res publica, a public thing, not the private preserve of any of their members, in which all Jews are ultimately equal citizens. But the governance of the communities, if not the polity, often has been in the hands of a small group who have organized communal institutions so as to preserve their control.

In part, this oligarchic control has been justified in the name of an aristocratic republican ideal which is fundamental to the older Jewish political tradition, according to which those who are special bearers of Torah are given a favored position and are allowed to form alliances with economically or politically powerful families. Early in the modern epoch, as differences between rich and poor grew in the Jewish community, especially in Eastern Europe, these bearers of Torah allied themselves with the wealthy who could provide the resources to enable them to devote their lives to Torah, instituting severe oligarchic rule within the community.13 In small ways it was even one of the propellants of Jews away from traditional Jewish environments, and those Jews who came to the United States quickly seized upon the spirit of democracy abroad in the land to democratize their congregations. Similar transformations took place in the other countries of the New World where Jews settled, moderated only by the degree to which the host societies themselves emphasized elite rather than democratic rule.

In Western Europe, on the other hand, rule by notables was well accepted and clearly reflected in the constitutional documents of the Jewish communities. Germany, France and Britain offered three different examples of the pattern. Germany remained the closest to the traditional Jewish community, with little distinction between congregation and community, with overarching community organization embracing one or more congregations, and the usual division of power between the baalei batim, representing the keter malkhut (the domain of civil rule), and the rabbi, representing the keter torah (the domain of Torah, or God's teaching) in Orthodox circles or the keter kehunah (the domain of priesthood offering humans the opportunity of reaching toward the Divine) in Reform communities, each given a share in the communal governance with a certain tension built into the relationship between them. The result was a matrix of communal unions federated countrywide.14

In France the demand of the external society to transform the Jewish community into a church in the hierarchical Catholic mode led to consistorial constitutions, essentially forced on the community by the state. They vested all authority in the synagogues and territorial synagogue bodies whose leadership was to be self-perpetuating, in other words, a religously-centered power pyramid. This, too, led to rule by notables but it also led to Jewish efforts to circumvent state-imposed constitutional limits on their communal-cum-congregational organization.15

In Britain, the Board of Deputies model, introduced in 1760 by Act of Parliament at the Jews' request and subsequently modified from time to time as warranted, established the constitutional basis for rule by the "cousinhood," an interlocking network of notable families that represented the closest Jewish equivalent to the rule of Britain itself by its aristocracy. The Board, a representative body embracing all or almost all Jewish congregations and other bodies in Britain, was the center of communal governance and power in which the peripheries were represented.16

In the twentieth century all three models underwent democratization that came to be reflected in their constitutional documents. In both Germany and France, the state relaxed or removed its control over the Jewish community. In the latter, that relaxation brought a fuller articulation of Jewish communal comprehensiveness than was possible under the consistorial system. In Britain there were fewer structural changes but a substantial broadening of the leadership base that made the structures work. All of this is reflected in the constitutional documents of those communities.17

Elements to be Examined in the Study of Contemporary Jewish Constitutional Documents

To study these constitutional documents it is necessary to begin by identifying the realms in which continuity and change is likely to be expressed. Governance is no doubt the first in importance of those realms. How are authority and power organized constitutionally? To what extent do the constitutional documents reflect the traditional Jewish division of powers among the three ketarim? To what extent do they embody different forms of organization of power reflecting specific circumstances?18

The second realm relates to the arenas of governance, the relations between congregation and community, local and countrywide communities, and specific communities and the Jewish people as a whole. Are these relationships federal in the traditional Jewish manner? Do they take on some other form reflecting external demands? In the cases of both governance and arenas of organization, where it seems that traditional Jewish practices are being continued, to what extent is that because those practices square with the specific circumstances of the community in question.

A third element is religious practice. While here there would be a difference between congregational constitutions and those of communities and organizations that are not congregations, it is still possible to ask whether or not the constitutional documents reflect particular attitudes towards religious practice, or embrace or require certain kinds of religious practices or certain specific practices (e.g., separate seating in congregations or public kashrut in organizations).

This leads to the fourth realm, namely relationship to halakhah and traditionalism. To what extent do these constitutional documents maintain a connection with halakhah and the traditional Torat Moshe? To what extent do they separate themselves from them? To what extent do they ignore the issue?

Constitutional documents inevitably reflect the aspirations of those who design them. One way in which to identify those aspirations is to identify the constitutional principles embodied in the documents in question and how they relate to the traditional constitutional principles of the edah. Elsewhere I have suggested that the traditional constitutional principles of the edah can be delineated as follows:

  1. The Torah is the constitution of the edah.
  2. All members of the edah -- men, women, and children -- participate in constitutional decisions.
  3. Political equality exists for those capable of taking full responsibility for Jewish survival.
  4. Decisions are made by an assembly that determines its own leaders within the parameters of Divine mandate.
  5. The edah is portable and transcends geography. Nevertheless, for it to function completely, the edah needs Eretz Israel.

These basic principles 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.

With those principles in mind we can examine the constitutional documents in light of three important constitutional principles of the emerging world Jewish polity.

  1. Torah as constitution rather than code, that is to say, it is real as offering basic principles and guidelines, rather than detailed prescriptions for every aspect of life.

  2. State and diaspora linked through national institutions in an emerging federal relationship.

  3. Citizenship increasingly voluntary based upon the formal obligations of Israeli citizenship in Israel and contributions to the Magbit and congregational or organizational membership in the diaspora.

The constitutional documents should help us delineate the constitutional principles of each Jewish community. For example, in the American case, we have identified fifteen constitutional principles:19

  1. Voluntary citizenship
  2. Associationalism
  3. Federalism
  4. Governance through trusteeship
  5. Shared and divided authority
  6. Consensualism
  7. Jewish survivalism
  8. Mutual responsibility (brit arevut)
  9. Vital importance of Israel
  10. Respect for Jewish tradition without necessarily being traditional
  11. Recognition of the Jewish polity as a partnership between God and the Jewish people
  12. Recognition of the Torah as the constitution of the edah
  13. Viewing the edah as portable and transcending geography
  14. Pluralism
  15. American patriotism as sacred and compatible with Jewish loyalty

These constitutional principles define the basic purposes, powers, processes and limitations of the polity and its components.

With the constitutional principles identified, it is important to identify the special constitutional terminology or language in use in particular documents. Is it traditionally Jewish or is the language conventional to the environment in which the constitution was prepared? Does it reflect the covenantal element in the Jewish political tradition, the division of power among the ketarim, the constitutional standing of the Torah, etc.?

The constitutions of Shearith Israel are excellent examples of the expressive use of traditional terminology and a slow adaptation to American usage. Congregation Shearith Israel of New York City, the Spanish and Portuguese congregation, founded in 1654, is the oldest in North America and one of the oldest congregations in continuous existence in the Jewish world. No doubt its founders drew up a set of Askamot (articles of agreement, as constitutions were referred to in the Sephardic world) even earlier, but the first set of Askamot of which we have record were drawn up in 1706. They were dated in the Hebrew manner as 5466 and were drawn up by what were referred to as the "elders of our holy congregation." "Elders," of course, is the English translation of the classic Hebrew term zekenim, the oldest office in the keter malkhut, a term in unbroken use to describe that function since the days of the Egyptian bondage. So, too, the term "holy congregation" is the English version of kahal kadosh, the traditional name for congregations in the Sephardic world since the Middle Ages.

Those Askamot were amended in 1728 to ensure "ye good Government of our Holy Congregation," continuing to date it by the Hebrew date. The head of the congregation continued to be referred to as parnas. He was assisted by two hatanim (literally, bridegrooms; used in public affairs as honorees). The parnas was elected and was empowered to appoint the hatanim as his assistants. The honors were referred to as misvots and members by the classic Sephardic term of yehidim. Provision was made for reading the Askamot (referred to as Articles) twice a year in the synagogue in both Portuguese and English.

The Articles were further amended in 1761, still utilizing the Hebrew date and Hebrew terms for the offices and members of the congregation. These early constitutions were generally oligarchic in that once selected by the members, the parnas had almost complete authority over the affairs of the synagogue. During the Revolutionary period two more constitutions were written which introduced a more democratic element, clearly in response to the spirit of democracy engendered by the American Revolution. Because of the congregations' general conservatism and pride in its lineage, subsequent constitutions of Shearith Israel have kept more Hebrew terminology than is normally the case, at times coupling an English term to the Hebrew one as in the case of the parnas-president.

In some cases, Hebrew terminology was simply translated into English. Another early congregation, Beth Shalom of Richmond, Virginia, dated its founding constitution "New Moon of Elul, 5549, August 24, 1789."

Those constitutions of American Jewish congregations and organizations written by the immigrant generation often contain some traditional Jewish political terminology, occasionally in Yiddish or Spanish. Constitutions written after the immigrant generation, however, normally utilize common American political terminology. The only terminological remains are words that have been accepted into English such as "rabbi."

In the Canadian Jewish community, on the other hand, constitutional documents are much more likely to express and utilize traditional terminology, in part because Canadian Jewry is far closer to its immigrant roots than U.S. Jewry. (The predominant models for U.S. Jewish constitution-making go back to the mid-nineteenth century, whereas in Canada the predominant models are of the post-World War I period.) Moreover, the founders of Canadian Jewry came more directly out of a more articulated Eastern European kehilla experience than did the founders of American Jewry.

Shifting away from these more overt symbols, it is necessary to examine the functions of the constitutions, particularly in reference to the distribution of authority and powers and their effort to justify conservation and/or change. Does the distribution of authority and powers express the traditional patterns of Jewish political organization, history, whether explicitly or implicitly? In the United States example we see at least three patterns.

Structurally, most congregational constitutions continue to reflect the division between the ketarim, with the board as the instrument of the keter malkhut and the rabbi sometimes a combination of keter torah and keter kehunah, and sometimes exclusively one or the other. Some congregational constitutions constitutionalize the role of the hazan, thus giving each of the three ketarim constitutional expression. In such cases almost every congregational constitution suggests a desired balance of power among the ketarim, in most cases clearly subordinating the rabbi to the board, in a few cases making the rabbi a powerful figure in the governance of the congregation, and in some cases seeking parity between the two. Even where the role of the hazan is constitutionalized, it is clearly a subordinate one. On the other hand, functionally the constitutions of these same congregations in effect recognize that the role of the congregation in American Jewry is essentially to give expression to the tasks of the keter kehunah and to some extent the keter torah while most of the keter malkhut, other than the direct governance of the congregation itself, lies outside their purview.20

The second model is that of the constitutions of the Jewish community federations. At least implicitly, these constitutions recognize that they frame an institution of the keter malkhut only and have no direct relationship to either of the other ketarim. There are some exceptions where provision is made for relations with or representation of the other ketarim within the federation but that is not common in the U.S. Jewish experience. In Canada, on the other hand, the federation or community council constitutions are more in the spirit of the traditional kehilla in that they recognize and institutionalize roles for all three ketarim, including a community council for the keter malkhut, a rabbinical Vaad Ha'ir (the term usually used) for the keter torah, and at least a Kashrut Council or the like for those functions of the keter kehunah handled by the community as a whole. The Montreal and Ottawa community constitutions are perhaps the most pronounced examples of this.

The third model is that of Jewish organizational constitutions. American-style countrywide organizations especially are new phenomena in Jewish history, a reflection of the associational character of modern and postmodern society. Hence it is hard to expect their constitutions to fall into traditional patterns except insofar as they can be classified among the ketarim and they embrace purposes which reflect traditional functions of the Jewish community or expressions of Jewish values. Some made a conscious effort to reflect the latter. With regard to the former, very few give any explicit expression reflecting their position in the keter malkhut, but those connected with the keter torah will often give that connection expression, especially in the case of rabbinical and congregational associations.

Current constitutional issues offer another dimension for investigation. Constitutional issues are those fundamental issues that affect the basic configuration and/or self-understanding of the polity or institution and its components. Every generation confronts certain issues of that kind which it must resolve at least operationally. The resolution often is formally incorporated into the constitutional documents of the community but in any case is incorporated into its constitutional tradition and understanding.

Some of the current constitutional issues confronting U.S. Jewry are:

1) Determination of citizenship (by whom, how, and on what criteria). This issue is usually described as the "Who is a Jew" issue. This issue is further complicated by the problem of intermarriage, mixed marriage, and conversion. In the United States the burden of definition falls principally on the congregations. Many congregational constitutions simply specify that members must be Jews. Some go further and specify Jews by birth or religious conversion. On the other hand, at least one Reform temple only requires that "any person who accepts the teachings of Judaism and is of good character shall be eligible to membership in the congregation." Jewish community federations usually require that members be Jewish, but do not specify anything beyond that phrase. The same is true of most Jewish organizations, although the American Jewish Committee includes language in its constitution that allows non-Jewish spouses and halakhicly non-Jewish children of Jews who are members. There are a few congregations that make similar provisions, recognizing that halakhicly non-Jewish spouses and children of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother are not Jewish, but providing that they can be members of the congregation and are not to be denied any of its services or facilities.

2) Institutional reconfiguration to cope with demographic changes, especially migrational ones. In the United States the primary Jewish community was and is local. This essential localism could be maintained unrestricted even during metropolitanization because the integrity of the local community remained intact even as it spread over a wider geographic area. Now such factors as the migration to the sun-belt, dual residency, and shifts from metropolitanization to rurbanization have challenged the old locally-based forms of organization, communal and congregational. To the best of our knowledge, these have not yet been reflected constitutionally.

3) "Democratization." The introduction of structural and procedural changes to enhance participation is a perennial issue in voluntary communities whose leaders are inevitably drawn from among self-selected activists who choose to be involved. Normally an issue most pronounced in the institutions of the keter malkhut, in the post-modern epoch it has expanded to include the other two ketarim as well. Indeed in the United States most of the highly visible constitutional issues have to do with such matters as the equality of women in Jewish religious expression, especially ritual practice but also with regard to admission to the rabbinate, and who should decide questions of religious behavior. Most of these issues are ultimately embodied in the constitutional documents, whether in changing systems of leadership selection and representation in communal constitutions or in defining the roles of congregants versus rabbis, and women in congregational constitutions. In an earlier generation these were often "mixed seating" issues which actually brought congregational constitutions to be tested in the civil courts in a number of cases.

These issues are often very disruptive ones, leading to the secession of groups from existing congregations and formation of new ones. In at least one constitution, the mixed seating issue was so important that the first operational article of its constitution reads as follows: "Article II -- Ritual and Mode of Worship. Section 1. The ritual and mode of worship shall be in accordance with Traditional Judaism. Section 2. During formal religious services, the center sections of seats in the sanctuary shall be used for mixed seating and a reserved area on each side of the center section shall be designated exclusively for men and boys, separately from women and girls" (Constitution and Bylaws of Congregation Beth Abraham, Detroit, Michigan, revised March 1958).

4) Integration of the religious congregational subsystem into the larger communal system. As we look at the constitutional documents of U.S. Jewry, one of the most striking discoveries to be made is the degree to which the institutions which together comprise the community are constitutionally separated from one another. It is especially striking with regard to religious congregations. Constitutionally, congregations are constituted as potentially comprehensive communities from the perspective of the Jewish political tradition, and private associations from the perspective of American law. Practically, congregational rabbis have tended to see their congregations as self-contained institutions while the membership has tended to see the congregations as private associations. The combination has brought strong reinforcement for the idea that community and congregation are organizationally separate in all respects. This view has become increasingly problematic in an increasingly interdependent world in which communities and congregations, especially the large American congregations, must interact for the common good, leading to the emergence of this constitutional issue.

5) Edah, medinah, and inter-medinah relationships -- the issue of how the diaspora relates to Israel and how different diaspora communities relate to each other. This issue is most visible in the constitutions of the world Jewish organizations which provide for organization in several arenas. In the U.S., the community relations organizations claim as their mandate the defense of Jewish rights everywhere. So, too, the constitution of B'nai B'rith International reflects its striving to be the fraternal body for all Jews. Of course the countrywide organizations of U.S. Jewry relate to at least two arenas and sometimes all three. Some congregational constitutions require their congregation to be linked to one or another of the religious movements and their institutions. As early as 1934, the constitution of the Louisville (Kentucky) Conference of Jewish Organizations, the predecessor of the present Jewish Community Federation, provided for the inclusion of the local affiliates of the Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency.

6) Traditional norms of practice vis-a-vis Jewish tradition. An example of this is the development of a "Minhag America," whether formally, as Isaac Meir Wise tried to do, or informally, to reflect the norms of American society, even when they conflict with traditional Jewish practice. Some American congregational constitutions specify the use of Minhag America. Others specify certain religious practices that are indicative of one or another approach to Jewish practice. Outside of the United States congregational constitutions tend to be more explicitly tradition-oriented; that is to say, they require adherance to traditional Jewish rites and practices. American communal constitutions tend to ignore this issue, which may indeed be treated at least by reference in other countries.

7) Communal discipline and sanctions. How does one maintain communal discipline in a voluntary community? What sanctions can be imposed if at all to maintain communal discipline? How much latitude in Jewish thinking and practice can a community tolerate and still be a community? In the United States, the earlier constitutions were more likely to address this question, reflecting a time when it was still believed possible for voluntary Jewish institutions to enforce sanctions. More contemporary constitutions will have articles dealing with grounds for denying or forfeiting membership, which are more likely to have to do with non-payment of dues or lack of attendance than any religious standards. Often constitutions provide for the suspension or expulsion of a member for "conduct which brings discredit upon the congregation" (Constitution of Ahavath Achim Congregation, 1960). Or "a member may be suspended or expelled for conduct which brings discredit upon the Jewish community..." (Jewish Community Center of Summit, New Jersey). Community federations and community councils have organizational as well as individual members and, indeed, operationally, the former are the most important. The constitution of the Albany (New York) Jewish Community Council is typical. "Any Jewish organization which performs an act or operates in such a manner as to jeopardize the well-being or good status of the Jewish community" may be expelled, following proper procedures.

8) Defining citizens' "civil rights" or the right of dissent within the community. Shearith Israel, no doubt inspired by the writing of the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, adopted a bill of rights of its own in its 1790 constitution.

The constitutional documents can also be examined for their contextual issues such is internal Jewish pressures, the impact of the external environment, the direction of change such as the movement from oligarchy to polyarchy (democracy), community or congregational responses to different patterns of family organization, efforts of congregations to be the community or community organizations to replace congregations.

U.S. Congregational Constitutions

U.S. Jewish constitutions take three forms: Most of the older and some of the later ones are written in full-blown constitutional form -- preamble, articles and sections, and an appropriate conclusion. A few are written as articles of agreement among the founders that include procedures for congregational governance. Many of the later ones are written as articles of incorporation following patterns established by the laws of the state under which they have incorporated. While the latter clearly follows lines of least resistence, it is apparently not mandatory. There are legislatively approved constitutions that follow the first rather than the last format. Where the last format is followed, elements of the first are sometimes introduced at the beginning and end of the document.

Where the earlier constitutions begin with the officers and then move on to the membership, the more recent ones begin with the membership and move on to the officers. This is such a common pattern that it seems to be a sign of democratization.

Constitutions are documents that require the consent of those who are bound by them. In the early documents, terms such as "common consent" and "agreed to" are frequently used. In the nineteenth century it was expected that members would sign the constitution individually and new members were required to add their signatures to the document within a specified time after being admitted to membership. Neither of these devices has been carried over into the twentieth century. Instead, complex membership regulations have been introduced into the constitutions which reflects the privatization of congregations, whereby membership is less of a public act.

In the earlier constitutions the Jewish calendar established the rhythm of congregation governance with congregational meetings provided for either in the month of Elul before Rosh Hashanah or Hol Hamoed Sukkot and Hol Hamoed Pesach, both of which are ancient traditions. By the mid-nineteenth century, constitutions had changed to specify meetings according to the American calendar and convenience of the members.

Constitutional preambles are particularly important for how they reflect the purposes of the association. Thus the early congregational constitutions in the United States, and to a great extent Orthodox and Conservative congregational constitutions subsequently, start by proclaiming their desire to preserve Jewish tradition, while the preambles of Reform congregations, beginning with "The Constitution of the Reformed Society of Israelites For Promoting True Principles of Judaism According to Its Purity and Spirit," founded in Charleston, South Carolina, January 16, 1825, often state that the reform or "purification" of Judaism is their purpose -- somtimes at considerable length. In the Charleston constitution:

Whereas, a correction understanding of Divine Worship is not only essential to our own happiness, and a duty we owe to the Almighty Disposer of events, but is well calculated, at the same time, to enlarge the mind and improve the heart....It was therefore resolved, on the 16th day of January, 1825, that a Society should be formed for the purposes here and after mentioned...for promoting true principles of Judaism according to its purity and spirit.

Or the Sinai Congregation (of Chicago) Constitution of 1861:

WHEREAS, There appears to exist among Israelites a large degree of indifference in religious matters, threatening to drag life more and more to materialism and degradation, and stifling all nobility of sentiments, all sympathy for higher pursuits, all appreciation of the more sacred boons of humanity; while, on the other hand, Jewish religious life clinging to obsolete ideas and maintaining antiquated usages, has taken its course in a direction of which we cannot approve.

AND WHEREAS, We share the conviction that a truly religious life is the most powerful agent to create noble thoughts and good morals."

AND WHEREAS, Especially the Jewish religion, having a past of 4,000 years, most glorious and eventful, is evidently destined, in the future too, to act a most important part in the development of mankind and in its onward course to the lofty position of the Messianic time coming.

THEREFORE, A number of Israelites have assembled with the avowed intention of fostering the inestimable inheritance of our fathers, of restituting the original spirit of simplicity, purity and sublimity in Judaism, and thus to perpetuate the same and secure its duration.

More recently (1956), the Leo Baeck Temple of Los Angeles adopted the following preamble, to cover the range of relationships -- within the congregation and between the congregation, the United States, and the Jewish world:

The purpose of this congregation shall be to worship God in accordance with the faith of Reform Judaism; to cultivate a love and understanding of the Jewish heritage; to bring nearer the Kingdom of God on earth through an emphasis of the principles of Righteousness, Justice and Love to all the peoples of the world; and to stimulate an awareness of our responsibilities as Jews to the community in which we live.

As Americans of Jewish faith we are dedicated to the achievement of a Judaism that contributes to the up-building and maintaining of the biblical ideals inherent in our free America; a Judaism that will aid us to become spiritually sensitive and morally strong human beings; a Judaism that draws its inspiration from the priceless traditions of our ancestral faith as well as from the rich and enduring elements of our American democratic heritage. We have allegiance to no country other than the United States of America but we are mindful of the bonds of kinship with our co-religionists throughout the world, and the obligation to discharge our responsibilities to those of our faith who live beyond our borders.

In order to accomplish these purposes we shall:

Provide the facilities with which to instruct our children and refresh ourselves in the principles of our faith.
Maintain a religious home, which, by its simplicity and sincerity, shall reflect the spirituality of our faith. Limit the membership of our synagogue to 300 families, so that one Rabbi may adequately and effectively serve them.
Establish within our synagogue an intimacy and modesty which unites all who enter it, whatever their station in life.

Another point to consider in reviewing contemorary constitutions is that constitution-makers often borrow from one another, not only within the framework of a particular constitutional tradition but across traditions as well. There always was considerable borrowing within the Jewish fold as well. Indeed, the Jewish people, like some others, have a tradition of providing model constitutions for specific communities, institutions and organizations to adopt. The oldest model constitutions of which we have a record were published by Judah HaBarceloni at the end of the eleventh century in his Sefer HaShtarot. The American synagogue movements provide suggested constitutions for congregations and an examination of the constitutional documents of individual congregations within each movement indicates that many do adopt or adapt parts of the movement model. The Council of Jewish Federations has its model constitution for the reference of the community federations as well, but it seems to be less widely used.

Throughout the eighteenth century congregational constitutions were also community constitutions, since no community was large enough to maintain more than one congregation. Many had requirements that every Jew in the community had to affiliate if he stayed in the community for more than a limited period of time and could be fined if he did not. While couched in general and more Americanized terms, it was clear that these congregations continued the Old World kehilla tradition, or, since they were almost entirely of the Portuguese rite (minhag haSepharadim), the kahal kadosh tradition. As framing documents of putatively comprehensive communities, some of them tried to deal with such social problems as to whether prostitutes could become members of the congregation and how to deal with the offspring of intermarriages in the congregation, in its services, and in its school.

These constitutions usually had Hebrew dates, used Hebrew terms for the principal offices, and for many of the religious functions and subordinate institutions of the community (e.g., porta a echal, a Spanish-Hebrew combination for opening the Ark where the Torah scrolls were kept, or beit hayim, the traditional Hebrew term for cemetery). In some of the documents, the terms are even printed in Hebrew and incorporated in Hebrew letters in the legislative charter (e.g., Constitution of Mikveh Israel, Philadelphia).

These constitutions focus on the organization of the keter malkhut, emphasizing the role of the officers first and foremost, indicating the somewhat oligarchic leanings of those early congregations. Within the aristocratic republican framework common to traditional Judaism, every yahid (member) had the right (even the duty) to vote, but once elected the officers are fully empowered to act in their name. Very little attention is paid to the keter kehunah, usually in the form of a reference to the hazan or reader of the service, sometimes to the shammash, later called warden and still later, sexton, and the shochet (ritual slaughterer). None have any reference to the keter torah, a sign of the lack of any rabbinical presence in the United States of the time.

This pattern continues up to the Civil War, after which, through the influence of Reform, the congregational rabbi takes over from the hazan as the leading representative of the keter kehunah and this is so noted in the constitutional documents. Significantly, even then the constitutions themselves deal with the keter malkhut, usually relegating any reference to the role of the rabbi to the bylaws, where the duties specified for the rabbi are those of the keter kehunah, that is to say, rabbis are never called upon to be poskim (rabbinic decisors), only officiants at religious services and rites of passage. This seems to be the prevalent pattern down to the present. Most of the congregational constitutions emphasize the role of the members, boards and officers, and give secondary treatment to the keter kehunah tasks of the rabbi as officiant and sometimes the hazan in that capacity as well. Only in selected Orthodox and Conservative constitutions is the rabbi referred to in his capacity as representative of the keter torah, usually in relationship to what his powers are as a posek or a mara d'atra (resident rabbinic authority).

In the period from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, congregational constitutions become more "private" in the sense that it is understood by one and all that there will be many congregations in the same community and hence the task of each congretation is to provide religious services for its members and educational services for their children, and perhaps some mutual aid as well. However it is also assumed that congregational members join to avail themselves of those services. Thus there is less emphasis than in the first group of constitutions on requiring attendance. Also the possibility of exercising sanctions against those who do not conform, other than expulsion, realistically has been abandoned.

More recent constitutions, those of the post-World War II period, begin to discuss access to synagogue facilities in such a way as to reflect the synagogues' growing function as a service center for most members, who are not regular participants or attendees but who want to be able to hold rites of passage in the synagogue and social hall or to use other facilities of the synagogue center. An example of this is the constitution of the Northern Hills Synagogue, Congregation Bnai Avraham, of Cincinnati, Ohio, adopted in 1968. These constitutions rarely contain any ideological message, although there is a tendency among the constitutions of Reform congregations to emphasize the heritage and goals of Reform Judaism, as in the case of the Leo Baeck Temple, and of Conservative and Orthodox congregations to make simple declarative statements as to which "forms, practices, and usages" the congregation will follow -- that is to say, Conservative or Orthodox. Article 3 of the Northern Hills Synagogue, Congregation Bnai Avraham, reads: "Practices: The Congregation shall follow the forms, practices, and usages of Conservative Judaism."

Organizational and Communal Constitutions

The demise of the comprehensive congregational community early in the nineteenth century led to the need to establish a new arena of Jewish organization that would embrace the various congregations and perhaps other Jewish organizations within a common framework.21 Significantly, the first such efforts were pointed toward countrywide organization rather than more comprehensive local communities. Four major efforts can be identified in the nineteenth century United States. The first was the establishment of B'nai B'rith in 1843 as a countrywide fraternal organization of Jews. The second was the establishment of the Board of Delegates of American Israelites in 1859 to link all American Jewish congregations and other organizations for what would today be called community relations or defense purposes. The third was the establishment of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1873 to unite all synagogues in the United States. The fourth was the establishment of the American Jewish Committee in 1906 to represent Jewish interests before the authorities and to encourage local Jewish communities to form comprehensive community organizations (kehillot). Paralleling these four major efforts were other attempts to establish fraternal organizations, representative bodies, and intercongregational unions, but these were the four significant efforts of the century. Their constitutions reveal that special mixture of tradition and change characteristic of a newly-Americanizing Jewish community.

There is a pronounced tendency in these documents to use covenantal terms. B'nai B'rith is, of course, a classic Hebrew term to describe the Jewish people as the children of the covenant. In its early constitutions, B'nai B'rith also had a Council of Skenim (zekenim or elders) as its chief administrative council. It also required ten Jewish males for the establishment of a lodge. At its founding, the preamble of the constitution of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations referred to the document as the "sacred covenant of the American Israelites" -- this when the UAHC was committed to uniting all Jewish congregations in one congregational union. Covenantal terms cropped up even among less successful organizations such as the Jewish Alliance of America founded in 1891 for the absorption of Jewish immigrants to the United States.

What is characteristic of these bodies except B'nai B'rith is that they use local congregations as building blocks but go beyond them to try to include other organizations as well. Thus in some respects their constituencies are not clearly defined because there was no clear definition of constituencies in American Jewry of the time.

The American Jewish Committee, incorporated in 1906, confined its constitution to simple articles of incorporation following the form required by New York State. Shortly thereafter, the leadership of the American Jewish Committee embarked upon a noble experiment in their effort to establish comprehensive Jewish communities or kehillot in New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago as a prelude to establishing such bodies throughout the United States. The constitution of the Jewish Community in New York City, as it was formally called, specified its relationship to the American Jewish Committee in Article 5. While the constitution had no specifically Jewish terminology, it did provide that "the annual meetings of the Jewish community of New York City should be held during Sukkot week...."

The Board of Delegates of American Israelites, the American Jewish Committee, and the Jewish Community of New York are all keter malkhut organizations in their purposes and structures, even though the first and last relied upon congregations as their building blocks. Only the UAHC has an avowedly religious purpose which combines the functions of the keter kehunah with those of the keter torah, since one of their major aims was to found a theological seminary to train rabbis.

As the constitutional documents reveal, for the most part, nineteenth century American Jewry was devoid of an organized framework for keter torah, countrywide as well as locally. The exceptions to this were the several efforts to establish rabbinical training institutions. The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, which became the flagship of the Conservative movement, was the first to be established successfully as an independent rabbinical training institution, but even it provided for the affiliation of Jewish congregations and organizations and their representation at a biennial meeting. Curiously, the 1902 constitution of the JTS makes no reference whatsoever to its purposes. Nor could one tell by reading that document that this was to be a body in fact governed by rabbinical scholars. Instead, there are standard articles of incorporation that describe a lay directorate.

In the twentieth century, a transformation of Jewish communal organization in the United States did take place, based upon local Jewish community federations which, over the course of the century, emerged as the American version of the traditional kehilla. Their umbrella organization, the Council of Jewish Federations; and the "national" organizations linked to them, including the Jewish Education Service of North America, the Jewish Welfare Board, the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Board, the Joint Distribution Committee, the United Israel Appeal and the United Jewish Appeal, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, constitute the cornerstones of the countrywide extension of this neo-kehilla framework.

Jewish community federations developed in one or another of three ways.22 The oldest developed out of the linking of local Jewish charitable and eleemosynary organizations, usually known as Associated Jewish Charities or United Jewish Charities, which developed in the late nineteenth century to facilitate fundraising, beginning with Boston in 1895. The activities of these bodies were clearly conducted in the spirit of Jewish self-help and Jewish morality. The organizational forms they adopted were commonplace in the United States, though it should be added that they did not stray from the federal principles and practices of earlier Jewish communities except in those aspects that had to do with modern organizational techniques. They should be seen both as Jewish versions of various associations and federations of charities that emerged in American cities at the end of the nineteenth century or as American versions of the hevrot and federations of hevrot in earlier Jewish communities.

The clue to their essentially American character lies in the fact that there is not one iota of traditional Jewish language or custom explicit in their constitutional documents, all of which are essentially American-style articles of incorporation. It would take many years until any Jewish elements would be introduced into those constitutions. The framework would remain American.

The one thing that could be pointed to that may be seen as having a Jewish flavor is the organizational structure that emerged, namely a relatively large board organized on consociational principles, with every constituent organization or institution in the community represented and a smaller executive committee which had to report to the board. This governing structure was very different from the separate committees that checked and balanced each other in the medieval kehilla, but it became almost universal in the Jewish world from the Jewish community federations in the United States to the State of Israel, where it is reflected in the relationship between the electorate, the Knesset, and the government.

The second stimulus for the founding of Jewish community federations was the Jewish experience of the 1930s which, on one hand, led to the establishment of Jewish community councils to bring together all the local Jewish organizations for community relations and defense purposes plus some effort at Jewish cultural expression, and the involvement of local fundraising instrumentalities in (for that time) massive overseas Jewish relief. In the period between 1937 and 1957, these bodies joined with the local Jewish charities to form Jewish community federations or federation councils. These bodies were more self-consciously part of the larger Jewish world than the associations of Jewish charities. These bodies also evolved into community federations by the end of the first postwar generation.

The example of the Louisville Jewish community is more or less typical. In 1934 the Louisville Conference of Jewish Organizations was founded as the community's first umbrella body. It was reorganized in 1954 as the Conference of Jewish Organizations of Louisville, Kentucky, and in 1971 as the Jewish Community Federation of Louisville. The original bylaws provided that "national Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, and B'nai B'rith are invited to join with the local YMHA, Jewish Welfare Federation, Jewish Hospital Association, and Conference of Jewish Womens' Organizations in the common Conference." Perhaps more significantly, the Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Palestine were also asked to have their local affiliates join. (Incidentally, these bylaws contained one reference to sacred tradition: "the laws and the sacred traditions of the United States of America, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the community in which we reside.")

The third model involved a handful of federations that sought to be kehillot from the first. In the case of the Jewish Federation of Scranton, Pennsylvania, founded in 1915, its constitution defines the object of the Federation comprehensively to deal "with the general welfare and problems of Jews throughout the Community, State, and Nation; and to perform whatever acts or things may be necessary or proper in the accomplishment of these ends, in such manner as may by it be deemed best." The constitution uses the term kehilla essentially interchangeably with that of federation. The annual meeting is scheduled for the month of October which may be a secularized continuation of the idea of communities having their elections during Hol Hamoed Sukkot. The Federation was organized into six operating departments including a Department of Education responsible for "carrying on the Talmud Torahs for the community." Other departments included: Sheltering, Relief, Self-support (an employment service and a free loan society), Legal Aid, and International Institutions. While there were relatively few of these kehilla federations, their model persists in what are called the integrated federations of today (for example, the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey) in which the institutions of the community are either arms of the federation or are united with it in a relationship that involves more than being beneficiary or constituent agencies.

The federations are clearly instruments of the keter malkhut. While congregations often are members of the federations and entitled to send representatives to the the federation board, they do not have a religious standing. Nor is any provision made in these constitutions for either of the other two ketarim. Rabbis are involved ad personam or perhaps in limited symbolic ways as rabbis, in the form of a rabbinic advisory board which may be reflected in the federation constitutions. Except insofar as some federations were and most now are involved in Jewish education, they do not touch the keter torah. Since federations rarely support synagogues as such, they are even further removed from the keter kehunah.

While the United States model has had an influence on the organization of Canadian Jewry, the Canadian approach has been more in the direction of comprehensive organization. This was first manifested countrywide through the establishment of the Canadian Jewish Congress, a comprehensive body that, while principally aligned with the keter malkhut, gives functional expression to the keter torah and keter kehunah as well, as reflected in its constitution.

Locally the constitution of the Ottawa Vaad Ha'ir (Jewish Community Council of Ottawa) is perhaps the fullest expression of this approach. Its constitution provides that its Hebrew name is its official one. Its purposes are "to supervise and assist in developing the religious, cultural, philanthropic and national life of the Jewish community of Ottawa. To unite this community with other Jewish communities throughout Canada." Its membership is built as a federation of all the city's congregations and other organizations, represented in proportion to the size of their membership (which means that this is designed to be real representation, unlike the equal representation usually provided for organizations large and small, which is usually symbolic). Not only that but the synagogues are guaranteed a major share of the total membership of the Vaad Ha'ir. According to its constitution, "the Vaad Ha'ir shall have under its control and jurisdiction" such bodies as the Vaad Hakashrut, the Talmud Torah and Hebrew Sunday School, the cemetery, the Hebrew Benevolent Society, the Hebrew Free Loan Association, the Jewish Community Center, and the annual fundraising campaign.


This essay has barely scratched the surface of constitutional analysis of modern and contemporary Jewry and has only hinted at the possibilities for applying the same tools historically. If this essay has anything to suggest, it is that constitution- making and constitutional choice are vital aspects of Adat Bnei Yisrael in all its parts, that they are more than the arid preparation of constitutional documents. Rather, constitution- making involves the embodiment of the constitutional traditions of the body politic in appropriate binding rules of the game that properly reflect the polity, its moral basis and socio-economic distribution of power. Constitutional choice involves utilizing appropriate models that recognize the importance of institutions in the lives of humans, the significance of history and culture in shaping those institutions and rendering particular institutions effective or ineffective, and identifying the empirical and behavioral dimensions of the constitutional process in each case.


1. Cf. Salo W. Baron, The Jewish Community (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1938-1942), 3 vols.; Josephus Flavius, "On the Polity Settled by Moses," Antiqities of the Jews. Translated by William Whiston (Manchester: R. Mipos, n.d.); Moses Mendelssohn, Jerusalem: A Treatise on Ecclesiastical Authority and Judaism (London: Longman, 1838); Baruch Spinoza, Theologico-Political Tractate (1670); Joseph Salvador, Histoire des institutions de Moise et du peuple hebreu 2nd ed. (Bruxelles: Hauman, 1829-30); 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. 20-36.

2. On the Mishpat HaMelukah, see S. Yavin, "Mishpahot u-Miflagot be-Mamleket Yehudah," Mehharim be-Toldot Yisrael ve-Artzo (Jerusalem, 1960), pp. 239-251; Y. Blidstein, Ekronot Mediniyyim Be Mishnat haRamban (Ramat Gan, 1983).

3. Jewish Polity, op. cit.

4. Josephus, op. cit.

5. George Foot Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of the Tannaim (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1932); Louis Finkelstein, Jewish Self-Government in the Middle Ages (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1924) and The Pharisees: their Origin and Their Philosophy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1929). 6. Spinoza, op. cit.

7. Mendelssohn, op. cit.

8. On the history of Reform Judaism, see Sylvan David Schwartzman, Reform Judaism in the Making (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1970); Wolfgang Guther Plaut, The Growth of Reform Judaism: American and European Sources until 1948 (New York: World Union for Progressive Judaism, c.1965).

9. Ammon Rubinstein, "The Struggle Over a Bill of Rights for Israel," Constitutionalism: The Israeli and American Experiences, Daniel J. Elazar, ed. (Lanham, MD: Univerity Press of America/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1990); Amos Shapira, "The Israeli Supreme Court and Human Rights," in Constitutionalism: Israeli and American Experiences; Zalman Shoval, "The Politics of Constitution-Making in Israel Today," in Constitutionalism: Israeli and American Experiences.

10. Israel's Constitution, with an introduction by Daniel J. Elazar (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1988).

11. Vincent Ostrom, A Political Theory of the Compound Republic (Lincoln, Nebr.: University of Nebraska Press, 1987) and "A Computational-Conceptual Logic for Federal Systems of Governance," in Constitutional Design and Power-Sharing (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1991).

12. Keith G. Banting and Richard Simeon, eds. Redesigning the State: The Politics of Constitutional Change (London: Macmillan Press, 1986).

13. On oligarchic rule in Eastern Europe, see Michael Stanislavsky, The Transformation of Jewish Society in Russia, 1825-1855 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1983).

14. Jewish Polity, Epoch XIII, pp. 207-257.

15. Phyllis Cohen Albert, The Modernization of French Jewry: Consistory and Community in the Nineteenth Century (Hanover: Brandeis U. Press, 1977).

16. Stuart A. Cohen, English Zionists and British Jews: The Communal Politics of Anglo-Jewry: 1895-1920 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982).

17. Daniel J. Elazar, People and Polity: The Organizational Dynamics of World Jewry (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989).

18. On the ketarim, see Daniel J. Elazar, People and Polity; Daniel J. Elazar and Stuart A. Cohen, The Jewish Polity; Stuart A. Cohen, "The Concept of the Three Ketarim: Its Place in Jewish Political Thought," AJS Review IX, 1 (Spring 1984): 27-54.

19. These were developed in the Workshop in the Study and Teaching of the Jewish Political Tradition of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs at its initial meeting in 1981 and subsequently refined.

20. It should be noted that the term "rabbi" did not come into general usage in the United States until after the mid-nineteenth century. Prior to that, hazzan was the title used for the person playing a similiar role, in recognition of the fact that his function was primarily as ritual leader of the congregation. "Rabbi" was a term reserved for someone traditionally ordained who represented the keter torah as a posek (halakhic decisor). The earlier usage was more accurate from the point of view of Jewish tradition. The new usage was in itself a product of German reform and the American experience, and has led to considerable confusion of roles. Thus earlier constitutions referred to the hazzan in a different capacity, although in fact he too is basically a vehicle of the keter kehunah.

21. Daniel J. Elazar, Community and Polity (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1976), Chap. 5.

22. Community and Polity, Chap. 6.

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