New from the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization
Louis Jacobs and the Quest for a Contemporary Jewish Theology by Miri Freud-Kandel
November 2023, pp. 384, Hardback 9781906764883, Ebook 9781802071160, £29.95
For Louis Jacobs, the quest—the process of engaging with and thinking about Jewish faith—was a lifelong pursuit. He offered a model in the 1960s, a period characterized by general religious crisis, of an observant, committed, but intellectually curious Judaism that empowered individual seekers to address challenges to faith. In Orthodox Judaism at the time a battle was under way for religious control. Generating a widespread controversy in British Jewry known as the ‘Jacobs affair’, his thought offers a lens for examining the trajectory of Orthodoxy. In a contemporary context marked by the changing cultural and intellectual concerns of a ‘post-secular’ age, the focus of some of these debates over religious control has shifted. Yet Jacobs’ emphasis on a personal quest is as relevant as ever, perhaps more so.
This first book-length analysis of his theology unpacks the building blocks of his thought. It argues that, despite its particularities and limitations, his approach can provide a powerful model for contemporary religious seekers in the context of a growing impetus away from established, denominationally bound forms of religion. Many orthodox believers across a range of faiths continue to prefer the certainty of unquestionable religious truth claims rather than pursuing a subjective search for religious meaning. For those seeking alternative models for the contemporary Jewish quest, a a reconsideration of Jacobs’ theology can offer valuable tools.