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Jewish Pacifism from Joshua to Gaza

Portrait of a bald white man wearing square black glasses and a slight smile on his face.
January 31, 2024
4:00PM - 5:30PM
198 Hagerty Hall

Date Range
2024-01-31 16:00:00 2024-01-31 17:30:00 Jewish Pacifism from Joshua to Gaza The Center for the Study of Religion is excited to host visiting scholar Elliot Ratzman for a series of events to be held throughout the 2024 Spring Semester. These visits will include public lectures, a reading group and classroom lectures and visits. The first event in this series is a research lecture, "Jewish Pacifism from Joshua to Gaza," or “American Jewish Pacifism: Countertraditions and Interreligious Networks 1918-1973."In these times, who would claim that Judaism is, in essence, a pacifist religion? Christians who want to justify war and capital punishment turn to the “Old Testament”; most of 21st century Jewry is proud of Israel’s military, its conquests, and support its current war on Hamas; the war against Nazism is considered the key counterpoint to the pacifist appeal; American Jews believe that antisemitism is a danger requiring armed protection and severe punishment; the most admired military leader in the world today is Jewish…Ukraine’s Zelensky! Yet after World War I, a network of rabbis and theologians advocated a Judaism that was, on principle, anti-war, anti-death penalty, even in the wake of the Holocaust. In this presentation, Ratzman recounts this lost “peace tradition” within Judaism, showing how pacifists reacted to Nazism, the State of Israel, decolonization, and threats of antisemitism, insisting that Judaism demanded a distinct brand of pacifism, arguing for its distinctiveness in contrast to the Christian peace traditions.Elliot Ratzman is Visiting Professor in the Religion Department at Earlham College where he teaches courses in Jewish Studies, ethics, and philosophy of religion. He is an alum of Ohio University and Harvard Divinity School. He completed his PhD through Princeton’s Religion Department, working with Cornel West, Peter Singer, Jeff Stout and Leora Batnitzky. Previously he taught Jewish Studies in the Religion departments of Swarthmore, Temple, Lawrence University, and Grinnell. His scholarship and teachings address the insights that religious traditions bring to political practice, virtue cultivation, and social ethics. He is finishing a book on the Jewish ethics and anti-racism, Zipporah’s Knife: A Reckoning with Race. His current research is on the network of pacifist rabbis and thinkers who, in the wake of WWII, constructed a “peace tradition” out of the sources of Judaism. Ratzman is also active in efforts for social justice, Middle East peace, and global health care equity. He serves on the leadership team of Bend the Arc-Jewish Action (Ohio) and serves on the board of Extend Programs in Israel/Palestine.   The Humanities Institute and its related centers host a wide range of events, from intense discussions of works in progress to cutting-edge presentations from world-known scholars, artists, activists and everything in between.We value in-person engagement at our events as we strive to amplify the energy in the room. But we also recognize the fact that not all our guests will be able to visit our space. Zoom access will be available to this event upon request. If you wish to have such access or have any other accommodation request, please send your request to Megan Moriarty: moriarty.8@osu.edu.  198 Hagerty Hall Center for the Study of Religion religion@osu.edu America/New_York public

The Center for the Study of Religion is excited to host visiting scholar Elliot Ratzman for a series of events to be held throughout the 2024 Spring Semester. These visits will include public lectures, a reading group and classroom lectures and visits. The first event in this series is a research lecture, "Jewish Pacifism from Joshua to Gaza," or “American Jewish Pacifism: Countertraditions and Interreligious Networks 1918-1973."

In these times, who would claim that Judaism is, in essence, a pacifist religion? Christians who want to justify war and capital punishment turn to the “Old Testament”; most of 21st century Jewry is proud of Israel’s military, its conquests, and support its current war on Hamas; the war against Nazism is considered the key counterpoint to the pacifist appeal; American Jews believe that antisemitism is a danger requiring armed protection and severe punishment; the most admired military leader in the world today is Jewish…Ukraine’s Zelensky! Yet after World War I, a network of rabbis and theologians advocated a Judaism that was, on principle, anti-war, anti-death penalty, even in the wake of the Holocaust. In this presentation, Ratzman recounts this lost “peace tradition” within Judaism, showing how pacifists reacted to Nazism, the State of Israel, decolonization, and threats of antisemitism, insisting that Judaism demanded a distinct brand of pacifism, arguing for its distinctiveness in contrast to the Christian peace traditions.

Elliot Ratzman is Visiting Professor in the Religion Department at Earlham College where he teaches courses in Jewish Studies, ethics, and philosophy of religion. He is an alum of Ohio University and Harvard Divinity School. He completed his PhD through Princeton’s Religion Department, working with Cornel West, Peter Singer, Jeff Stout and Leora Batnitzky. Previously he taught Jewish Studies in the Religion departments of Swarthmore, Temple, Lawrence University, and Grinnell. His scholarship and teachings address the insights that religious traditions bring to political practice, virtue cultivation, and social ethics. He is finishing a book on the Jewish ethics and anti-racism, Zipporah’s Knife: A Reckoning with Race. His current research is on the network of pacifist rabbis and thinkers who, in the wake of WWII, constructed a “peace tradition” out of the sources of Judaism. Ratzman is also active in efforts for social justice, Middle East peace, and global health care equity. He serves on the leadership team of Bend the Arc-Jewish Action (Ohio) and serves on the board of Extend Programs in Israel/Palestine.   

The Humanities Institute and its related centers host a wide range of events, from intense discussions of works in progress to cutting-edge presentations from world-known scholars, artists, activists and everything in between.

We value in-person engagement at our events as we strive to amplify the energy in the room. But we also recognize the fact that not all our guests will be able to visit our space. Zoom access will be available to this event upon request. If you wish to have such access or have any other accommodation request, please send your request to Megan Moriarty: moriarty.8@osu.edu.