2022 Melamed

Melamed & Stein

Professor and world-famous Spinoza scholar Yitzhak Melamed in conversation with Yoram Stein, who wrote his dissertation on Spinoza, about Spinoza and Judaism.

Yitzhak Melamed en Yoram Stein

Spinoza: heretic or first secular Jew?

It was all over the news. Yitzhak Melamed – a philosophy professor at John Hopkins University in Baltimore and a renowned Spinoza scholar – was due to come to Amsterdam to make an Israeli documentary about Spinoza’s life and thought. In the context of that film, shooting in the Portuguese synagogue was also considered – the Esnoga of the same congregation that had banned Spinoza in 1656.

Rabbi Serfaty of the Portuguese synagogue, however, refused Melamed to enter the synagogue and declared him ‘persona non grata’. For Melamed, in the words of Serfaty, had devoted his life to the study of this Epicurean, while the ban had expressly forbidden anyone to study those works.

The outrage in the Jewish Netherlands about this ‘new ban’ was great. But what exactly did Serfaty say wrong? Is it not true that Spinoza has been banned and that it is forbidden to read any of his writings? And is it not true that the so-called herem has never been withdrawn? Doesn’t Serfaty have a point somewhere? It is, of course, a real pleasure to hear such an eminent Spinoza scholar and scholar of Jewish tradition speak and question the relationship between Spinoza and Judaism.

Spinoza: heretic or first secular Jew?

The talk was organized by the Levisson Institute together with the Progressive Jewish Community (LJG) of Amsterdam op Zoom on February 10, 2022.

Rabbi Menno ten Brink introduced the two philosophers and led the questions.

In 2020 Yoram Stein gave the David Lilienthal lecture about Spinoza (in Dutch).