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A distinct Jewish politics emerged in the Russian empire at the turn of the twentieth century - the Bund, formed in 1897; the Marxist Zionist Poale Zion in New York in 1903 and in the Russian empire in March 1906 (the term 'Poale Zion' may have been first used by a group formed in Minsk in 1897 (1)) and the Union for Equal Rights, which included the liberal Simon Dubnow and the Zionist Vladimir Zabotinsky, in March 1905. This development presupposed a profound transformation of the idea of what it was to be a Jew, a transition from an essentially religious conception to a secular - and therefore racial - conception. If a similar development had been occurring in Western Europe since the emergence of the 'Haskalah' ('enlightenment') in the eighteenth century, it had been moderated by the emergence of Reform Judaism. The Haskalah itself had not been defined as anti-religious, and in Reform Judaism it assumed a religious form. Although this is a sweeping generalisation my impression is that in the Pale of Settlement in the Russian empire, the transition was much more abrupt. Here the tendency of the Haskalah was not so much to reconcile Judaism with European 'modernity' as to reject Judaism in favour of an alliance with the similar tendency ('Nihilism') in Russian society. When a rebound occurred back towards a distinctly Jewish identity in the wake of the 1881-2 pogroms, it very distinctly did not take a religious form.

(1)  Jonathan Frankel: Prophecy and Politics - Socialism, Nationalism and the Russian Jews, 1862-1917, Cambridge University Press, 1984 (first published 1981). p.310.

Some idea of the conflict between traditional Judaism and the new idea is given in two books by Yakov Rabkin - A Threat from within, and What is modern Israel? (2) Rabkin is writing as an anti-Zionist and his principle concern is with the opposition to Zionism by various 'ultra-Orthodox' groupings - the haredim (those who tremble). Although militant anti-Zionism among the ultra-Orthodox is now reduced to two allied tendencies - the 'Satmar' haredim and Neturei Kartei (guardians of the city) - Rabkin argues that they represent positions that had been more or less universally accepted as defining characteristics of Judaism for the whole period following the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD. He also says that those haredim tendencies that do not militantly oppose the existence of Israel nonetheless do not not recognise it as a legitimate Jewish state and certainly not as fulfilment of the return to the kingdom promised by the prophets.

(2) Yakov M. Rabkin: A Threat from within - a century of Jewish opposition to Zionism, Zed books, London and New York, 2006 (first published in French as Au Nom du Torah, 2004) and idem: What is modern Israel?, Pluto Books, London, 2016 (first published in French as Comprendre l'état d'Israël, 2014).

In the traditional concept, Jews are the people who follow, or aspire to follow, the law of God as revealed in the 'Torah' (the Pentateuch, or first five books of what Christians call the Old Testament). They are the 'chosen people' because they, and only they, are required to observe the Torah in its fulness. The rest of us are only required to observe seven laws which were given to Noah, ancestor, following the Flood, of the whole of humanity. According to the account on the Chabad (Lubavitcher) website, these are:

'1. Do not profane G‑d’s Oneness in any way. 
Acknowledge that there is a single G‑d who cares about what we are doing and desires that we take care of His world.

'2. Do not curse your Creator. 
No matter how angry you may be, do not take it out verbally against your Creator.

'3. Do not murder. 
The value of human life cannot be measured. To destroy a single human life is to destroy the entire world - because, for that person, the world has ceased to exist. It follows that by sustaining a single human life, you are sustaining an entire universe.

'4. Do not eat a limb of a living animal. 
Respect the life of all G‑d’s creatures. As intelligent beings, we have a duty not to cause undue pain to other creatures.

'5. Do not steal. 
Whatever benefits you receive in this world, make sure that none of them are at the unfair expense of someone else.

'6. Harness and channel the human libido. 
Incest, adultery, rape and homosexual relations are forbidden. 
The family unit is the foundation of human society. Sexuality is the fountain of life and so nothing is more holy than the sexual act. So, too, when abused, nothing can be more debasing and destructive to the human being.

'7. Establish courts of law and ensure justice in our world. 
With every small act of justice, we are restoring harmony to our world, synchronizing it with a supernal order. That is why we must keep the laws established by our government for the country’s stability and harmony.'

Six of these laws were given to Adam. The law against eating the limb of a living of a living animal was added when permission was given to Noah to eat meat.

In 1978, the United States Congress asked President Carter to designate the birthday of the Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Menechem Mendel Schneerson, as Education and Training Day, to celebrate the Rebbe's achievements in that field. Since the Rebbe's birthday is four days before the Passover and calculated following the lunar calendar it is a moveable feast in the Western solar (Gregorian) calendar. The day has been proclaimed annually by the President ever since. In 1987, Ronald Reagans' proclamation spoke of 'the historical tradition of ethical values and principles which have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilisation when they were known as the seven noahide laws transmitted through God [should that be G-d? - PB] to Moses on Mount Sinai' and in 1991, Congress, in the preamble to the 1991 bill establishing Education Day, referred again to 'these ethical values and principles' which 'have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilisation when they were known as the seven noahide principles.'

Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (right) with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In a book designed to introduce Judaism to non-Jews, Isidore Epstein claims that in the time of paganism Judaism was a missionary religion but primarily concerned with promoting the Noahide laws ('the religion of humanity') rather than the full range of obligations imposed on the Jews. 'But when paganism gave place to Christianity and later also to Islam, Judaism withdrew from the missionary field and was satisfied to leave the task of spreading the religion of humanity to her daughter faiths.' (3)

(3) Isidore Epstein: Judaism - a historical presentation, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1973 (first published in 1959), p.144.