The Bible itself calls the Jewish people 'a company of nations', suggesting that difference within Judaism is not a new phenomenon. It has continued throughout Jewish history, and this volume investigates how and why such difference has been tolerated. Drawing on examples from different geographical areas and from ancient times to the present, the contributors consider why Jews sometimes attempt to impose constraints on other Jews or relate to them as if they were not Jews at all, but at other times recognize differences of practice and belief and develop ways of handling them. In doing so, they provide an insight into a history of Judaism as a complex web of interactions between groups of Jews despite grounds for mutual antagonism. Substantial introductory chapters lay out the issues and provide an extensive survey of cases of toleration throughout the past two thousand years, outlining possible structural reasons for it. The eight chapters that follow each take a specific case of toleration within Judaism, attempting to explain it in light of the models outlined in the Introduction.
Presented in chronological order, the cases have been selected to reflect a spectrum of responses, from grudging forbearance to enthusiastic welcome of difference. Covering both practice and theology, each case is presented in depth, with full documentation. The Conclusion provides an overview of the patterns of tolerance that have emerged and discusses the implications for writing the history of Judaism as a narrative more complex than either the tracing of a linear progression from the Bible to the present, with variations presented as deviations, or as a model of overlapping 'Judaisms'. This innovative volume sheds light on an important and overlooked aspect of the history of Judaism and should have broad appeal, not only for students and scholars of Judaism but for students of religious studies more generally.