Julie Cooper, Spinoza vs. the Kahal: The Zionist Critique of Spinoza's Politics

When and Where

Monday, November 07, 2022 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Jackman Humanities Building
170 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5R 2M8


Professor Julie Cooper



Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Israel Exchange Scholar

Julie Cooper (Tel Aviv University)

"Spinoza vs. the Kahal: The Zionist Critique of Spinoza's Politics" 

The 1920s and 30s witnessed an explosion of interest in Spinoza among Zionist intellectuals. In this lecture, I will study the Hebrew literature on Spinoza written in this period, focusing on the work of Nahum Sokolow and Jakob Klatzkin. The reflexive equation of nation and state has led scholars to conclude that Zionists were drawn to Spinoza because he justified state sovereignty. Yet, as I will demonstrate, Eastern European Zionists rejected Spinoza’s sovereignty-centered political thought – precisely because it denies political standing to non-sovereign bodies such as the diasporic Jewish community. 

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Philosophy.

This lecture is part of the Workshop on Theocracy, co-sponsored by the Grafstein Chair in Jewish Philosophy. For more information on the workshop's program, please see the attachment: PDF iconWorkshop on Theocracy - Program, Bios and Abstracts.pdf


Julie E. Cooper is Senior Lecturer (US equivalent: Associate Professor) in the Political Science Department at Tel Aviv University. Her research interests include the history of political theory; early modern political theory (especially Hobbes and Spinoza); secularism and secularization; Jewish political thought; and modern Jewish thought. She is the author of Secular Powers: Humility in Modern Political Thought (Chicago, 2013). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals including Review of Politics, The Historical Journal, Political Theory, Jewish Quarterly Review, Annual Review of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, and Political Theology. She has been awarded fellowships from the School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study and The Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. She is currently working on a book project, tentatively entitled Politics Without Sovereignty? Exile, State, and Territory in Jewish Thought, that examines modern attempts to reimagine and rehabilitate Judaism’s national and political dimensions.



This lecture will be delivered in-person at JHB100 and virtually via Zoom. To attend virtually, please click THIS LINK on Monday, November 7 at 4 PM.


Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Israel Exchange Scholar, Department of Philosophy


170 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5R 2M8