Senior Fellow: July–September 2016 and July–September 2017
Research Project: Scepticism and Anti-Scepticism in the Jewish Intellectual Debate of Nineteenth-Century Italy
Asher Salah’s project focuses on the context and the uses of the term ‘sceptic’ in the writings of Italian rabbis in the nineteenth century. Scepticism appears to be a central topic in the debate concerning the Jewish Reform, playing a crucial role in the revival of the anti-Karaitic polemic in nineteenth-century Italian Judaism. The interest in recovering classical defences of Jewish oral law is attested by the numerous translations into Italian of the Mate Dan by David Nieto, by the renewed interest in the commentaries of Yehudah Halevi’s Kuzari, and by the proliferation of self-defined ‘anti-Karaitic’ tractates, targeting not only contemporary deist philosophies and religious reforms, but first and foremost positivistic systems of disbelief and secularism. At the same time, Italian rabbis in the nineteenth century engaged in an unprecedented programme of dogmatic interpretation of Judaism. The debate concerning scepticism sheds new light upon the Jewish response to modernity and emancipation in Italy, the challenges to rabbinical authority, the convergence of Catholic and Jewish apologetics in the frame of a growing estrangement from religious practices, and the continuities and discontinuities with previous Jewish philosophical traditions.
Asher Salah is a senior lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was a fellow at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies in 2011–12 and in 2014–15.