The binary distinction between Jew and gentile is so fundamental to Jewish tradition that it seems almost futile to try and imagine Judaism without it. Yet how did it come to happen that the Jews’ multiple others were melted into a single category, that of the goy? In their book Goy: Israel’s Multiple Others and the Birth of the Gentile, Adi Ophir and Ishay Rosen-Zvi analyze the fundamental Jewish structure of Othering, while reopening a set of burning questions which have haunted Jewish (and gentile) history from time immemorial.
Goy is first and foremost a meticulous historical and philological research into ancient rabbinic texts. Yet this research on things past is closely related with the present, what gives the discussion a sense of urgency. How deep is the Jew-goy binary opposition anchored within contemporary relationships between Jews and others? What are its political-theological repercussions in the modern world, and especially in the State of Israel?
This symposium is dedicated to the contemporary reverberations of Goy: four scholars from various disciplines examine, debate, and explore the implications of Ophir and Rosen-Zvi’s thesis through the lens of political theology. Sarah Imhoff explores how the goy/Jew distinction intersects with that of male/female, exposing the unattended structures of gender differentiation beneath the surface of this apparatus of Othering. Sergey Dolgopolski extracts a theory of political theology form the authors’ genealogy, opening the book’s horizon to argue that the figure of the goy establishes a certain relationship between theology and politics. Vivian Liska challenges the ideological impetus behind the book’s main argument, calling into attention a greater diversity of contemporary Jewish experiences which are at odds with the authors’ perception of the present as an embodiment of the ancient rabbinic perception of goy. Elad Lapidot argues that the authors participate in their own experiment, applying an external, “goyish”, apparatus of othering on rabbinic texts, which reproduces, as in a mirror, the same binary distinction. These diverse voices, at times enthusiastically embracing the book’s thesis and at others vehemently opposing it, present the gravity of Jewish Othering, in its multiple senses, as one of the central issues in contemporary Jewish political theology.