By Robert Chazan
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Extra resources for Ajs Review, 1993, Part 1
131). In other words, the Romans were pragmatists who, like the Persians and Alexander and Alexander's successors before them, realized that they were too few in number to maintain control over such a vast empire and that the Jews were simply too numerous and too powerful economically to be treated with disdain. Hence, they adopted a policy of tolerance or benign neglect, stopping the Jews only when their nationalism or their proselytism became an immediate threat to the empire. 76Similarly, although the Bar Kochba rebellion was the most serious military challenge to the Romans during the reign of Hadrian, it is significant that Antoninus Pius alleviated Hadrian's decrees forbidding the practice of Judaism and permitted the Jews to circumcise their own chil- 75.
THE LAST JEWISH GENERALIST 45 At the heart of Baron's enterprise was the desire to equate the social and religious factors at work in Jewish history. In contrast to Dubnov and Kaufmann, he refused to assign primacy to one or the other. Both the secular and the spiritual, society and religion, Jews and Judaism, were universally operative and ever interactive in the Jewish experience. The very title of his book denoted their equality, and both dimensions riveted his attention throughout. ""8That is, one year after the appearance of Kaufmann's third volume, Baron, who in his very first note referred to Kaufmann's work as "a vivid interpretation of the Jewish past from an extreme 'territorialist' point of view," began to formulate a less one-sided picture.
44 ISMAR SCHORSCH national redemption because Jews, by and large, still refused to convert. So Kaufmann became a Zionist, but not one wedded to the land of Israel, where the Arab nation, already in the throes of a national revival, would deny Jews the ethnic supremacy crucial to ending their state of exile. The purpose of this detour has been to recover the context of our text, the first edition of Baron's magnum opus and the key to his conception of Jewish history. To read that text in a vacuum is to sever it from the anguished debate which gave it birth and the issues it tried to address.