[RG #98] One People, Scattered: The Role of Communication in Holding the Jewish Diaspora Together, 200-2000 AD
September 1, 2004 - August 31, 2005
Menahem Blondheim (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Our group sets out to address an ancient problem from a new perspective. The problem, which has intrigued and been debated for centuries, is Jewish survival as a people in exile, dispersed over the four corners of the earth since antiquity. The proposition we set out to explore is that effective communication, over time and across space, was key to the survival of Jews as "one people, scattered" (Book of Esther, 3:8), forming what many consider "the mother of all diasporas".
Beyond approaching a major hisorical quantary in a new way, we are also developing a novel scholarly agenda. This agenda is the re-understanding of Jewish civilization from a communications perspective and, more generally, proposing that history and communications be studied jointly. History, after all, aspires to trace all aspects of human life and understand it in all its complexity. Communication is one significant, albeit neglected, aspect of human history; but in addition, it is a potential key to grasping and untangling historical complexity. For by its nature, communication is the story of linkages, of interconnections and interrelations. It may therefore serve as a central site, anchoring a multifaceted perspective on historical development in all its richness. At the same time history, which is the great warehouse of human experience, can serve as the ultimate database, and a giant multifunction laboratory for testing, fine-tuning and even generating ideas and theories about communication.