Senior Fellow: February 2016–March 2016, Februay 2018–March 2018, and February 2019
Research Project: The London Missionary Alexander McCaul and his Assault on the Talmud
David Ruderman’s research will focus on the London missionary Alexander McCaul, one of the primary leaders of the famous London Society for the Promotion of Christianity amongst the Jews, his assault on the Talmud, the very interesting converts he attracted, and the debate he engendered in the mid-nineteenth century with Jewish thinkers, especially Eastern-European maskilim. The topic of scepticism insinuates itself into the project in the revival of the Jewish-Christian debate engendered by McCaul‘s attack on the Talmud and rabbis. Both sides use sceptical arguments to undermine the certainty of their opponent‘s positions. This of course is standard in all Jewish-Christian debates, but the present debate applies methods of modern scholarship in highly innovative ways, particularly by using historical arguments about ancient history and culture. After winning the loyalty of several Jewish intellectuals to his cause, several of them change their positions vis-à-vis the missionary of the London Society and offer a sceptical critique of the very foundations of Christianity, and its need to save the souls of Jews, by obliging them to relinquish Rabbinic Judaism. Their arguments are highly revealing when defining and redefining the implications of being a Christian and how Jews and Christians could co-exist.
David Ruderman is Joseph Meyerhoff Professor of Modern Jewish History at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia/USA.