Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Elias R. Sacks

Second Advisor

David Shneer

Third Advisor

Holly Gayley

Fourth Advisor

Martin Kavka

Abstract

In my thesis, I call for a reassessment of Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (1924-2014), an influential exponent of New Age Judaism and a leading figure in American Judaism. I propose a more nuanced understanding of the intellectual genealogy of Schachter-Shalomi’s New Age Judaism in North America by suggesting an important yet overlooked source of his theology, calling attention to the possibility that he has deep philosophical and historical roots in German-Jewish rationalism. Citing hitherto unnoticed historical, textual, and philosophical evidence, I suggest that key elements of Schachter-Shalomi’s mystically inflected, seemingly anti-rational religious thought may be sourced from, and creatively reimagine, the work of one of Jewish modernity’s arch-rationalists: the German-Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen (1842-1918). I argue that the messianic idea inherited from Cohen’s “religion of reason” may serve as a major foundation for what I call the “messianic politics” of Schachter-Shalomi.

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