Spinozium Final Arguments + The Forward Reflects on Spinozium Vote

Must See TV – Spinozium final arguments, part 1

Spinozium final arguments, part 2

Centuries Later, Spinoza Back in the Fold: Editor’s Notebook

By Jane Eisner

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/154209/centuries-later-spinoza-back-in-the-fold/#ixzz1r8PLJCQb

After more than 350 years of enforced exile, Baruch Spinoza has been invited back into the Jewish community — at least by the people who participated in a mock trial and symposium at Theatre J in Washington D.C. earlier this month. The vote was 108 to 41. The controversial writ of excommunication was lifted by a trio of rabbis who made the pronouncement and then ceremoniously snuffed out a black candle.

Dramatic Decision: Participants at a recent symposium reenacted the 1656 decision to banish the controversial philosopher from Amsterdam’s Jewish community.

Dramatic Decision: Participants at a recent symposium reenacted the 1656 decision to banish the controversial philosopher from Amsterdam’s Jewish community.

Yes, this was theatre, and brilliant theatre at that, dramatic and engrossing. The daylong event culminated Theatre J’s revival of the David Ives play “New Jerusalem,” a retelling of the story of the 1656 interrogation of Spinoza, arguably the most controversial philosopher in Jewish history, if you could call him Jewish at all. There was plenty of debate about that, too.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a modern audience sophisticated enough to sit through hours of scholarly and artistic presentations would vote in such a lopsided fashion in favor of inclusion and free speech. As one of a few journalists to take part in the “Spinozium,” I didn’t cast a vote or argue a position, but if I had, I guess that my personal and professional allegiance to the First Amendment would have trumped all.

Having Spinoza inside the communal tent is far more interesting and challenging than pushing him away.

Still, I found myself conflicted. My unexpected sympathy for the rabbinic edict that irrevocably placed the 23-year-old Spinoza into cherem was fueled by two revelations that day: about the Amsterdam Jewish community from which he was forever banished, and the philosophy that he preached.

The community had largely fled from Portugal and, while the Dutch were far better hosts than the Jews’ previous rulers who demanded conversion to Catholicism on pain of death, they still were hosts. Jews were guests. Freedom of worship was granted, not innate

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/154209/centuries-later-spinoza-back-in-the-fold/#ixzz1r8PewdQC


2 thoughts on “Spinozium Final Arguments + The Forward Reflects on Spinozium Vote

  1. Firstly I would like to acknowledge how great it was to see a sold out theatre packed with a devoted audience who appeared passionate about the Spinozium. I found it to be a wonderful ambiance between the speakers and the spectators. A topic that could have been heated was taken with humor and knowledge.

    The Spinozium to me was very entertaining, but most importantly, informative event. I really enjoyed the broad perspectives of experts, ranging from to to . The topics were enhanced by the fact that our class had prepared our own debates about similar topics. I was able reflect on how my personal arguments held up, as well as learn of other ideas I had not thought of. Since my debate topic was arguing the affirmative for if Spinoza’s excommunication should be reversed there were a few things that stuck with me after the Spinozium. Firstly, it was brought to attention that the majority of herems in Amsterdam during that time were mostly reversed, as a herem was not necessarily banishment, but more a lesson to be learned. It was very rare at the time that an excommunication was to be taken so seriously as Spinozas was. It was also interesting to hear reasons as to why Spinozas excommunication was so harsh, especially when during his punishment he was a young man in his early 20’s who wasn’t well known in the Jewish community. It was mentioned that one of the reasons it could have been so harsh was that when Spinozas was in his early 20’s Clara was only nine years old. When watching the play “New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch De Spinoza” I did not question the age difference between Spinoza and his love, as it was portrayed in a different light in the theatre. These were historical norms that I was not aware of and had found it difficult to understand on my own. It is through the Spinozium that it was put into context that I was able to grasp and learn much more about the topic.

    • I would have to agree, and the turn out was awesome as well. There war barely any seats. In Particular, I appreciated the one speaker, I cannot recall his name at this moment exactly, but anyone who was there know
      who I may be speaking of (last name started with an H). He gave a very good explanation of some interesting topics and I thought that was a great learning experience.

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