Intra-Jewish Censorship: The Case of Spinoza

By :  Jonathan Ray Samuel Eig Associate Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Theology and a faculty fellow at the Berkley Center at Georgetown University Posted On Nov 21, 2022 / 5783 | Dangerous Ideas Monday Webinar

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Part of the series, “Dangerous Ideas: Censorship Through a Jewish Lens”

With Dr. Jonathan Ray, Samuel Eig Professor of Jewish Studies, Georgetown University, and JTS Alumnus

In July 1656, Baruch Spinoza was excommunicated from the Jewish community of Amsterdam for his “abominable heresies” and “monstrous deeds.” He was 23 years old. This class explores some of the key writings of Spinoza, as well as the social and political context of 17th-century Holland to try to understand the reasons behind Spinoza’s harsh, and historic, banishment.   


Throughout Jewish history, certain texts and ideas have been deemed too dangerous to circulate—whether by outsiders who banned Jewish writings, or Jewish leaders who suppressed ideas considered heretical or beyond the pale. In this series, JTS scholars will examine efforts to control knowledge from ancient to contemporary times, exploring the ways in which censorship both reflects and shapes broader ideological struggles. They will discuss the varying motivations for controlling or revising narratives, and consider whether and under what circumstances it might make sense to suppress certain ideas. These discussions will illuminate past struggles and help us understand the battles over censorship and free expression playing out today. 


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