Statement of Purpose

“Textual Reasoning” is the name a community of contemporary Jewish thinkers has given to its overlapping practices of Jewish philosophy and textual interpretation. The initial inspiration for the movement came from the confluence of postmodern philosophy, pragmatism, and cultural theory coupled with the dialogical and hermeneutical Jewish philosophies of Hermann Cohen, Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig and Emmanuel Levinas. This exploration led to a renewed appreciation for classical Jewish texts and rabbinic traditions of interpretation. In these materials textual reasoners have found dialogical and exegetical methods of thinking and rich textual resources for responding to some of the great challenges of contemporary life.

Among these challenges are the intellectual and religious issues posed by the demise of the hegemonic principles of secular thought that came to guide the lives of so many European and American Jews up to the Shoah and the problem of how to create flourishing Jewish cultures in the Diaspora and Israel. Questions that have been central to our group work are:

  1. How does Jewish thought respond to the Shoah and ongoing genocidal movements throughout the world?
  2. What are the implications of postmodern philosophy and criticism for Jewish philosophy?
  3. How should Jewish thought and culture relate to Christianity, Islam and other religions?
  4. What is the significance of the establishment of the State of Israel and its relations with its neighbors for Jewish thought?
  5. What are the implications for Jewish thought of contemporary developments in gender theory and the re-examination of the status of women in Judaism and in Jewish communities?
  6. Finally, how can we maximize our responsibilities to social justice in ways that both build social communities and involve the ethical responsibilities of each of us for the other.

In response to such questions and issues, “Textual Reasoners” seek to think through the traditional Jewish practices of reading and commentary. However, in response to profound concerns about the biases in exclusively traditional practices of reading, we have sought to extend the practice of reading by including contemporary critical methods that will help to re-evaluate and expand Judaism’s past practices of reading. The result is that textual reasoning is at once a critical and constructive enterprise that endeavors to create new forms of Jewish thought and life that will respond to contemporary needs while being faithful to the fabric of Jewish traditions of text interpretation and philosophy.

The Journal of Textual Reasoning is the main publishing expression of the Society of Textual Reasoning, which sponsors an electronic list-serve [] and meetings at professional academic conferences. The Journal will publish peer-reviewed essays in the exegetical analyses of Jewish texts and the practice of textual reasoning as well as statements in the on-going development of the theory of Textual Reasoning. The Journal will generally follow a particular theme in each issue and include reviews of books relevant to Textual Reasoning. In the traditions of rabbinic thought and dialogical philosophy, we aim to present individual articles along with commentaries to them. To subscribe or to check on your options, write to

Submissions may be sent to Mark Randall James, Fordham University (mjames26(AT)fordham(DOT)edu). 

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