Introduction to: The Myth of the Cultural Jew

The Myth of the Cultural Jew: Culture and Law in Jewish Tradition (Oxford U. Press, 2015)

9 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2014

Date Written: November 25, 2014

Abstract

A myth exists that Jews can embrace the cultural components of Judaism without appreciating the legal aspects of the Jewish tradition. This myth suggests that law and culture are independent of one another. In reality, however, much of Jewish culture has a basis in Jewish law. Similarly, Jewish law produces Jewish culture. A cultural analysis paradigm provides a useful way of understanding the Jewish tradition as the product of both legal precepts and cultural elements. This paradigm sees law and culture as inextricably intertwined and historically specific. This perspective also emphasizes the human element of law’s composition and the role of existing power dynamics in shaping Jewish law.

In light of this inevitable intersection between culture and law, The Myth of the Cultural Jew: Culture and Law in Jewish Tradition argues that Jewish culture is shallow unless it is grounded in Jewish law. Roberta Rosenthal Kwall develops and applies a cultural analysis paradigm to the Jewish tradition that departs from the understanding of Jewish law solely as the embodiment of Divine command. Her paradigm explains why both law and culture must matter to those interested in forging meaningful Jewish identity and transmitting the tradition.

Keywords: Jewish tradition, cultural analysis, Jewish law

Suggested Citation

Kwall, Roberta Rosenthal, Introduction to: The Myth of the Cultural Jew (November 25, 2014). The Myth of the Cultural Jew: Culture and Law in Jewish Tradition (Oxford U. Press, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2530714

Roberta Rosenthal Kwall (Contact Author)

DePaul University - College of Law ( email )

Center for Intellectual Property Law & Information
25 East Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604-2287
United States
312-362-8131 (Phone)
312-362-5448 (Fax)

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