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Dutch Nineteenth-Century Protestant Theologians on the Position of Jews in Society

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Online June Meeting

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Abstract for Online Program Book (maximum 150 words)

Jews had been full-fledged Dutch citizens since 1795, but tensions remained both within and outside their circle over whether or not they should fully assimilate. When a new primary education law was passed in 1857, some orthodox Protestants blamed Jews for preventing the continuation of the traditionally Protestant character of public education. This raised the question of how to deal with Jews in modern society. Several Protestant theologians participated in this debate, most notably Abraham Kuyper. When he distinguished Jews as a separate group, he did so because of their non-Christian religion. This approach was challenged because the Jewish community was diverse in its relationship to Judaism: some were Orthodox, but the majority were not Orthodox or were secular. Moreover, most Jews did not want to be considered a separate group. First and foremost, they wanted to be Dutch. The result of this 19th-century debate was an ambivalent Protestant appreciation of Jews.