Works in Progress

Jewish Rights, East and West

Jews and the Persistence of Collective Rights in the Modern World

The idea that individuals have the right to equal treatment before the law is widely considered a hallmark of liberal democratic states. Yet collective rights persist in different forms everywhere, and courts in liberal democratic states are increasingly deciding on questions about the rights and privileges of collectivities. The right to judge religious matters before a religious court, to teach in one’s own language, or to have institutions exempt from taxation, to give a few examples, tend to be justified by laws protecting individual rights, but can just as easily be seen as group rights. This may sound uncontroversial, except that ending the patchwork of special privileges and disabilities in feudal or corporate societies is considered by historians to be a central feature of state modernization. When European states modernized, so our understanding goes, they centralized, and attempted to eliminate competing authorities. To make a larger point about the persistence of collective rights as a legal concept in liberal democratic states this books explores the example of how Jews have pursued their collective rights as a minority group in Europe, North America, and Israel. My goal is to isolate moments when Jewish collective and individual rights come into conflict, and explain why. Finally, Jewish Rights, East and West examines how different states have resolved or struggled with these conflicting rights as they arose based on their different histories.