The Politics of Torah

The Jewish Political Tradition and the Founding of Agudat Israel

By Alan L. Mittleman

Subjects: History
Paperback : 9780791430781, 200 pages, October 1996
Hardcover : 9780791430774, 200 pages, October 1996

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Table of contents



1. Interpreting the Sacred Polity: The Concept of the Jewish Political Tradition

2. The Sacred Polity in Transition: Medieval Norms and Modern Ideals

3. Renewing the Sacred Polity: The Founding of Agudat Israel





A study of the origins and early history of the Agudat Israel movement in Germany, the first international political movement among Orthodox Jews.


Founded in Germany in 1912, Agudat Israel was the first comprehensive, international political movement among Orthodox Jews. This study examines the forces that led to its formation, setting its history into the context of both the millennial Jewish political tradition and the Jewish struggle with the disenchanting effects of modernity.

Mittleman shows that from its formation to the present, Agudah has represented the political interests of the most traditional members of the Jewish community. This book addresses the question of why such arch-traditionalists turned to politics, examines in detail the conflicts that shaped the movement's character, and explores the movement's relationship with prior expressions of Jewish political thought and practice.

Alan L. Mittleman is Associate Professor of Religion at Muhlenberg College. He is the author of Between Kant and Kabbalah, also published by SUNY Press.


"Mittleman seeks to do something which—to my knowledge—has not been done before, to see the emergence of the Agudah in Germany as a religious expression of a Jewish politics. He uses sociological theory to bring the 'intentionality' of the founders and spokesmen of the Agudah into view. He also locates his description of the Agudah in contemporary discussion about Jewish political theory. There is no doubt in my mind about the significance of the study for the history of modern Judaism, particularly modern Orthodoxy." — Robert S. Schine, Middlebury College

"This is a flowing, intellectually challenging work. Mittleman breaks new ground, shedding light on a central stream in modern Jewish history in the context of religio-political fusion, and he does so in a clear, systematic, and analytic way. The intellectual apprehension of the data; the transfomation of the diverse material into core issues (which are demonstrably the issues); and the questions posed in analyzing the directions of nineteenth-century German Orthodoxy and early Agudah, and their placement within the scientific study of religion, are impressive." — Gershon Greenberg, The American University

"This book is full of insights, and it is far more sophisticated than most other works dealing with similar issues. I especially like the use of sociological theory in its analysis of the phenomenon of a particular form of German Jewish Orthodoxy. Anyone interested in modern Jewish politics would be interested in reading this book." — David Novak, University of Virginia