HIS 155 1.6 Jewish Communal Structure: The Kehillah

Jews of Cochin. Source: Jewish Encyclopedia via Wikimedia Commons.
Jews of Cochin. Source: Jewish Encyclopedia via Wikimedia Commons.

To view the Prezi associated with this lecture, please click here.


8 thoughts on “HIS 155 1.6 Jewish Communal Structure: The Kehillah

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  1. I really like how every position was talked about in depth. It really gave me a great feel for how the community worked and could picture how I would see me and my peers contribute to the Kehillah.

  2. Your description of each section in the kehillah is detailed so vividly, giving the entire communal structure a modern feel. Through this description, you have allowed me to achieve a deeper comprehension of this historical section. I can put myself in the shoes of those who lived at the time and almost see where I myself would fit into the community.

  3. There are many aspects of the Kehila that I believe would be so effective in Jewish communities today. The fact that it was coercive and forced people to be apart of it, was much of the reason for its success. However, since the disbandment of the Kehila, Jews have become much more assimilated and in many cases there is a much smaller sense of community and protection. For example, the Kehila’s sumptuary law was put in place in order to protect those that couldn’t afford lavish affairs. If we had such laws today, many more people would have a lot more money to spend on other important things instead of having to keep up with the Cohens! If there was a vote whether or not to bring the Kehila back, they’d have my vote!

  4. I really like that quote from Pirkei Avos: “If there’s no flour, there is no Torah and if there is no Torah, there is no flour.”
    There was no in-between back then-you were either part of the Jews or not. It is not at all like that today; some people are a little bit here and a little bit there. It is really nice that the Kehilla is what maintained Judaism. Really helpful how the system was broken down for us. Thank you!
    -Yocheved Homnick

  5. This lecture introduced the Kehilla and examined its structure at basic level. I enjoyed the analogy of the Torah to flour- without the Torah you can not make flour, without flour you can not practice the torah. You need both work and spiritual guidance in order to function properly, you can not have one without the other. The Kehilla refers to a congregation. At the time Kehillas were formed there was no such thing as secular. You had to belong to something. You either belonged to a Kehilla or you belonged to something else. This lecture explains how the Kehilla was set up. Using a system of in some ways similar to what we have now. There were men at the top with the wealth, however with this wealth came a lot of responsibility- writing checks to the Kehilla through taxes from the people. Then there were those who made sure the wealthy were acting under jewish law. Interesting note from the lecture, there was a slight conflict of interest here. Those governing the jewish law were employed by the very people they were governing. Then you had the tax collectors and the small groups of women who carried out the daily activities of the Kehilla. Another interesting scenario was introduced at this point in the lecture. Under Jewish law divorce is up to the man. If a woman was being treated unfairly by her husband and he would not grant her a divorce, she could then storm into synagogue on shabbat stand on the bima and not allow services to continue until her case was heard. Twice a year all the kehillas would get together to discuss and make the jewish laws, this was known as council of lands. The lecture leaves us with feeling that Kehilla was coercive yet effective in preventing assimilation.

  6. I’m probably “talking too much” so I will in the future only comment on the lectures that effect me the most. I have to say that, whatever shortcomings this community structure may have had, it worked for a long time and kept the community together. Thanks again for another wonderful lecture.

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