The Millennial Year 2000 and the Jewish Community: Implications for Public Policy

Presented by Richard Landes
Department of History, Boston University
Director, Center for Millennial Studies

Sponsored by the Susan and David Wilstein Institute of Jewish Public Policy Issues
David Gordis, Director

The seminar proposes to explore the public policy implications of the possible increase in apocalyptic expectation at the advent and passage of the year 2000, not only among Christians but Muslims, Jews, and "New Agers". Each session, partly by examining the historical record of such circumstances and partly by surveying the current situation, will consider one of the major ways in which apocalyptic expectations, sharpening and mutating around the year 2000, can impact on the Jewish community.

Format: Each session will contain four parts: first, a historical introduction to the issues involved (30 minutes); second, presentations by guest speakers on current developments (45 minutes); third, division of participants into smaller groups to discuss specific facets of the problem and to study texts (45 minutes); and fourth, reunion for open discussion (one hour).

I. The Threat of Violence: Paranoia, Revelation, and the Final Solution

A look at the kinds of violence that accompany the more paranoid manifestations of apocalyptic expectation among Christians, Jews, Muslims, and secular millennialists. From a historical perspective, we will examine the way in which apocalyptic belief allows normally inhibited behavior to surface, and the kinds of eschatological scenarios that encourage the annihilation of one's enemies. Current topics: The dissemination of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the "nationalisms" of the twentieth century, the Christian militia movement, Islamic "fundamentalism," and religious Zionist violence.

Guest Speakers: Philip Lamy (Castleton State College), David Cook (Hebrew University)

II. The Drive to Conversion: Expansion, Inclusion, Urgency

A look at the kinds of irenic, expansive behaviors that mark the more optimistic apocalyptic movements, the role that conversion of unbelievers plays in the movements' religious "equilibrium, " and the consequences of the failure of their expectations. From a historical perspective we will examine the place of mission in Christian eschatology, the central role of the ultimate conversion of the Jews, and the ways that these apocalyptic scenarios have affected Jewish/Christian relations in the past. Current topics: Christian apocalyptic "Zionism"; Christian "Mission 2000"; Jews for Jesus; Missionary activity in Islam, Mormonism, and among the Lubavitcher Hassidim.

Guest Speakers: Susan Only (Boston University School of Theology), Adam Szubin (Harvard University)

III. Jerusalem, the Millennial City

An examination of the place of Jerusalem in the eschatological imagination of Jews, Christians and Muslims, and a consideration of the ways in which an influx of Christian apocalyptic pilgrims into the city in 2000 could have an impact on what is currently a highly volatile situation. From a historical perspective we will examine Jewish " return, " Christian crusades, Islamic Jihad, and the religious politics of sovereignty. Current topics: the apocalyptic dimension of Hamas, the "Third Temple" Movement, expectation of Jesus' return on the Mount of Olives, the possiblity of a metastasis of "Jerusalem syndrome," the impact of apocalyptic disappointment on Christian pilgrims, the international implications of religious violence in Jerusalem in the year 2000.

Guest Speakers: Stephen O'Leary (University of Southern California), Paul Steinberg (Harvard University).

If interested in participating please send e-mail to rlandes@bu.edu.


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