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Confessions of the ShtetlConverts from Judaism in Imperial Russia, 1817-1906$
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Ellie R. Schainker

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780804798280

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804798280.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM STANFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.stanford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Stanford University Press, 2017. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in SSO for personal use (for details see http://www.stanford.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 16 December 2017

The Genesis of Confessional Choice

The Genesis of Confessional Choice

Chapter:
(p.15) Chapter 1 The Genesis of Confessional Choice
Source:
Confessions of the Shtetl
Author(s):

Ellie R. Schainker

Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804798280.003.0002

Chapter 1 charts the institutionalization of confessional difference in the Russian Empire, from Tsar Alexander I and the genesis of confessional choice for Jews in 1817, to freedom of conscience measures instituted by Tsar Nicholas II in the wake of the 1905 revolution, which allowed Jewish converts to all tolerated confessions to legally reclaim their ancestral faith. The chapter uses the 1820 conversion to Catholicism of Moshe Schneerson, scion to the Chabad Hasidic dynasty, to illustrate the conditions in pre-reform imperial Russia (1817-1855) that shaped the conversion landscape for Jews. The tsarist state’s missionary impulse was tempered by religious toleration and the empire’s increasing patronage and sponsorship of a variety of Christian and non-Christian religions. The Schneerson case also highlights how contemporary Jews actively engaged with the problem of Jewish conversion and leveraged their confessional status to vie with the state for control over apostasy and communal belonging.

Keywords:   Moshe Schneerson, confessional state, religious toleration, mission, empire, apostasy, communal contestation

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