Clémence Boulouque

A graduate from the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris, the ESSEC business school, Ms. Boulouque holds a BA in Art History from the Sorbonne as well as a DEA (one-year post MA French diploma) in Comparative Literature. She also received a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue her studies at Columbia University in the Master’s Program of International Affairs with a concentration on the Middle-East. In Paris, she established herself as a renowned writer as well as a literary critic in print and broadcast (mainly for the daily Le Figaro and France Culture radio network). Following her first book, Mort d’un silence, an acclaimed best-seller in France turned into a documentary (The Judge’s Daughter), she published seven books, ranging from fiction to book-length interviews, notably Amos Oz. Her journalistic and literary career nourished her interests in Jewish and religious studies and fueled a desire to devote herself fully to them, within an academic frame. She is now a third-year doctoral candidate in the joint History and Hebrew and Judaic Studies Program of New York University. Her research interests include intellectual history, cultural and religious encounters throughout history, with a focus on mysticism in the 19th and early 20th century.

Clémence Boulouque

Clémence

Research

(Mentored by Professor Elliot Wolfson)

In a 2004 Symposium entitled “Talking Peace with the Gods: Symposium on the Conciliation of Worldviews,” Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz claimed the irrelevance of the concept of “toleration” in Judaism. To do so, he briefly referred to the work of 19th century Italian Rabbi and kabbalist, Elijah Benamozegh (1822-1900), a passionate advocate of interfaith encounters. Even Benamozegh could not take the Noachide Laws to be void of an intrinsic notion of hierarchy; although the laws aim at reconciling the three monotheisms and subsuming their differences under a set of shared ethical values, they also posit the precedence of Judaism over other faiths.

I would like to further explore this concept of toleration against the backdrop of Benamozegh’s own framing of the Noachide laws. My corpus, from Spinoza on to Locke, will include exclusively works known to Benamozegh. I will try to grasp how they play out in his understanding of the potential strengths and limitations of the Noachide laws. I am particularly intrigued to examine whether it is because he came to perceive Noachide Laws as ill-suited for his purposes, thus validating Rabbi Steinsaltz’s argument, that he went on to promoting Kabbalah and mysticism as the most adequate religious response to the advance of secularism and ultimate path towards universal values.

Such a quest for a religious ground for toleration is relevant for our times. This may explain why a number of actors claim Benamozegh’s legacy: from liberal European Christian thinkers and the modest Noachide Community in South of France to certain currents among settlers in Israel—such as Aime Pallieres, Elitzur Segal, and Rabbi Azriel Ariel—looking for renewed inspiration in how to engage with the non-Jewish world.

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