Senior Fellow: September–October 2019 and July–September 2021
Research Project: A Jew in the Fringe: Richard H. Popkin’s Views on Judaism and Scepticism in His Correspondence with Judah Goldin
Popkin’s scholarly interest in Judaism appeared late in his academic career, only from the sixties onwards, after what Popkin described as an “overpowering religious experience.” Recent scholarship on Jewish scepticism has rightly stressed that Popkin’s multifarious ouvre lacks of an articulated reflection concerning a specifically Jewish current within the sceptical tradition, independent from the Converso encounter with classical philosophy and Christian theology.
However, Popkin’s personal papers and archives shed light on research fields that he cultivated which did not find adequate representation in his published oeuvre, i.e., the origins of European racism, Jewish–Christian relations, Jewish emancipation, Zionism and religious fundamentalism. Among Popkin’s correspondents, his life-long friend Judah Goldin (1914–98), an internationally renowned scholar of rabbinic literature, stands out as his main mentor and confidant for everything concerning Judaism, Israel, and his spiritual struggles. The Popkin–Goldin correspondence extends over almost forty years, from 1953 to 1997, and provides a new understanding of how Popkin’s self-perception as a Jew affected his scholarly interest in scepticism in the frame of Jewish intellectual history.
Asher Salah is an associate professor at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.