JUDAIZERS , persons who, without being Jews, follow in whole or in part the Jewish religion or claim to be Jews. The prototype of the Judaizer was *Naaman, the minister to the king of Syria, who, after being cured by Elisha, worshiped the God of the Hebrews while continuing outwardly to follow the idolatrous state religion. During the counter-attacks at the time of Esther, it is stated that many of the terror-stricken population "acted as Jews" (מִתְיַהֲדִים), though it is difficult to tell what precisely is implied by this term. In the classical period, the principles and certain practices of Judaism exercised a powerful attraction on some segments of the general population even in Rome, who changed the tenor of their lives, becoming "God-fearers" (σεβόμενοι) who rejected pagan worship and observed the Sabbath. The obligation of submitting to circumcision was of course a deterrent for male sympathizers, who, probably more than women, contented themselves, therefore, with half-way conversion, which became recognized too in rabbinic law. With the rise of Christianity, the differentiation between the followers of the new faith and the old was sometimes not easy to impose, and the Church inveighed violently against Judaizers within the Church, who wore Jewish ritual vestments, followed some of the dietary laws, kept the seventh-day Sabbath, and observed Easter on the Passover or with Jewish rites. In the Church, over a prolonged period (for instance at the time of the Albigensian schism), the accusation of Judaizing was frequently made against dissidents. In fact, some of them, such as the "Passagi" and "Circumcisi," were, it seems, Judaizing sects in the full sense of the term. Similar accusations were common at the time of the Reformation, sometimes even within the internal polemics of the Reformers (see *Disputations and Polemics). The ambivalence of the period of the rise of Christianity was long perpetuated in North Africa, where a good part of the population seems to have been affected by Judaism both before and after the spread of Christianity among them. The "Hebrewisms" which have been discerned down to the present day in some African tribes may be a relic of this. With the rise of Puritanism in England and the North Atlantic area generally, including America, the study of the Old Testament led to a relatively wide spread of Judaizing tendencies, expressed in the demands of some extremists for the use of Hebrew in the liturgy, the modeling of the constitution on biblical prescriptions, the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, and rigorous abstention from blood. In certain cases, as that of the followers of John *Traske in England in the first half of the 17th century, these Judaizing tendencies had as their inexorable sequel in due course the formal adoption of Judaism. The same occurred in the 18th to 19th centuries with the Sabbath-observing sects in Hungary (see *Somrei Sabat) and in Russia (see below), and recently with the proselyte community of *San Nicandro in southern Italy. At the present time, the Seventh Day Adventists, while they have adopted certain Jewish practices based on the Bible, remain a closely organized separate sect. On the other hand, it is difficult to determine whether certain other groups who claim to be Jewish, such as the Mexican Indians or some groups of the black Jews in the United States, should properly be considered Jews or Judaizers. Some of the "Old Christian" victims of the Inquisition in Spain convicted of following Old Testament rites, and therefore termed Jews, are also in this category.
Present-day Judaizers or Judaizing sects are mostly to be found outside Europe. On the American continent, apart from the black Jews of the United States there are the so-called "Indian" Jews in *Mexico and the Iglesia Israelita de Chile, consisting of less than one thousand people in the southern Chilean province of Cautin. Many of them joined the Zionist movement and some even settled in Israel. They originated in the early 20th century in a Christian fundamentalist sect which gradually adopted Old Testament rites and festivals. Some Protestant Sabbath-observing "Israelitas" in Peru are sometimes mistaken as Jews. In *Japan several Christian sects are deeply interested in Judaism, the Old Testament and the Hebrew language, and their members often visit Israel. In Uganda a Judaizing sect called *Bayudaya, of which only about 500 remained faithful to Judaism, was founded in the 1920s by the political and military leader Semei Kakungulu. It was recognized in 1964 by the Uganda government as a religious community under the name "The Propagation of Judaism in Uganda – Moses Synagogue."
There were various Judaizing sects and trends in Russia from the second half of the 15th century on. Occasionally they even adopted Judaism and its precepts, in part or completely, sometimes leading to formal conversion. The emergence of Judaizers in this area stemmed from ancient Byzantine oppositional traditions to the established Church, going as far back as iconoclasm and the *disputations with Jews and encounters with them in the Kievan principality. In the 16th century and later, the Judaizers were influenced by the radical wing of the *Reformation. Long-held critical opinions simmering in the Athos monasteries influenced the many Russian pilgrims who visited them. The first open appearance of Judaizers occurred in Novgorod, the principal commercial city of northern Russia, where heretical expressions had already been known in the 14th century. An ancient Russian chronicle relates that in 1471 Prince Michael Alexandrovich of Kiev came to Novgorod with several Jewish merchants in his retinue; "The Jew Zechariah" (Skhariya Zhidovin) is stated to have "corrupted to Judaism" two clergymen, Alexis and Denis. They were joined by the Lithuanian Jews, Joseph Samuel Skorovey and Moses Khanush, thus forming the nucleus for the new sect. In 1479 Grand Prince Ivan Vasilevich (Ivan iii) of Moscow visited Novgorod and invited Alexis and Denis to officiate in the Church of Moscow. There they influenced many members of the grand prince's court, among them his daughter-in-law Helena.
In 1487 Archbishop Gennadi of Novgorod denounced the "atheists," whose numbers were increasing throughout the kingdom, to the grand prince. An investigation was entrusted to Gennadi. Manuscripts of hymns and prayers which did not accord with the doctrine of the official Church were uncovered. Several members of the sect were arrested and severely tortured at Novgorod. Others fled to Moscow, where they found influential protectors. At the Church council of 1490, Gennadi called for the adoption of severe measures against the Judaizers and suggested the establishment of an *Inquisition. The grand prince rejected this project, but it was agreed that the Judaizers were to be confined to monasteries. In 1494 the metropolitan of Moscow, Zosima, was accused of being a Judaizer and deposed. The struggle against the Judaizers became rapidly enmeshed with the underground struggle between various factions of the nobility over the succession to the throne and the course of Russian policy. The Judaizers supported Dmitri, the son of Princess Helena. In 1502 Ivan iii nominated his son Vasili (Basil) as his successor; a campaign of persecution against the Judaizers began, and in 1504 the leaders of the sect were condemned to be burned at the stake. The sect rapidly disappeared from the political and cultural scene in Russia.
The extent of actual Judaizing within this sect is disputed among scholars. Some rely on the few extant remains of its literature – among them numerous translations of the Bible from the traditional Hebrew text and extracts from Millot ha-Higgayon of "Moses the Egyptian" (Maimonides) – and stress its proximity to Judaism. Others claim that the faulty style of these translations proves that they are not the work of Russians, but of Jews, and do not prove much about the Russian sect. Adherents of the sect were certainly named "Judaizers" by its opponents, who thus sought to impugn its standing among the masses (Joseph Volotski, one of the most violent opponents of the sect, referred to its members as zhidovomudrstvuyushchiye, "Jewish wiseacres"). According to some scholars, the Judaizers were a Christian rationalist sect, which tended to reject the Church hierarchy, the religious ceremonies, and icon adulation, whilst some of them even negated belief in the Trinity. Whatever may have been the true character of this sect, the propaganda against it, which emphasized its affinity with Judaism, aroused a persisting fear of the Jews among all classes of the Russian population. The consequences were felt in the Russian attitude toward the Jews during the 16th to 18th centuries.
At the beginning of the 18th century Judaizers reappeared in Russia, but there is no proof of any link between them and the Judaizers of the 15th century. The origin of the later groups was essentially due to a profound study of the Bible. St. Dimitri of Rostov, who concerned himself with tracking down sects which deviated from the Church, mentions the sect of Sabbath observers in his work of the early 18th century. During the second half of the 18th century, sects of Judaizers and Sabbath observers appeared in the interior provinces of Russia, as well as in the Volga provinces and the northern Caucasus. Among the most prominent was the Molokan sect, which broke away from the Dukhobors. Its founder was Simeon Uklein, noted for his biblical erudition, who introduced many Jewish customs among the members of his sect. His disciple Sundukov called for greater association of the sect with the Jews; this resulted in a split within its ranks and the creation of the "Molokan Sabbath Observers."
During the early 19th century, the authorities began to persecute the Judaizers systematically. The existence of Sabbath observers was discovered in the province of Voronezh. After a series of persecutions, many of them were brought back within the fold of the ruling Church. The others were impressed into the army. According to official figures, the number of members of this sect was 3,770 in 1823. In 1805 the authorities of the province of Moscow announced the existence of Sabbath observers, and in the province of Tula about 150 persons were discovered as claiming that they had been attached to their faith from ancient times, but that they had concealed this so as not to provoke their Christian neighbors. The Judaizers succeeded particularly in the province of Saratov, where the preacher Milyukhin won over whole villages to his faith. In 1817 Milyukhin submitted a memorandum to the minister of the interior in which he complained against the persecutions of the local authorities and the Christians. He argued that his followers did not observe the Jewish laws because they had no leaders versed in the customs of Judaism. He requested that the members of the sect be authorized to establish relations with Jewish scholars. In 1820 the Council of Ministers decided to instruct the local authorities to act with lenience toward the Judaizers and to content themselves with banishing their preachers to the Caucasus, where they were to settle. The remainder were not to be attacked so long as they did not propagate their faith. In a memorandum of 1823, submitted by Count Kochubey to the Council of Ministers, he claimed that the Judaizers' sect was widespread throughout Russia and that its adherents were estimated at about 20,000 persons. It was decided to enlist all who propagated the beliefs of the sect into the army, whilst those who were unsuitable for military service were to be banished to Siberia and settled in such a way as to preclude them from any intercommunication. It was also decided to expel the Jews from all places to which the sect had spread. Another decision prohibited the issue of passports to the Judaizers, so as to restrict their movements, prevent them from meeting with Jews, or propagating their faith. In order to arouse the masses of the people against them and ostracize them, it was emphasized that they were merely members of a Jewish sect. At the same time, the Judaizers were prohibited from holding prayer meetings and carrying out circumcision, marriage, and burial ceremonies according to Jewish custom. Many members of the sect decided to accept Christianity outwardly while continuing to practice their customs clandestinely.
With the accession of *Nicholasi to the throne, the position of the Judaizers deteriorated. Those who were apprehended in the observance of Jewish customs were forced to join the army or were exiled to Siberia. Entire villages were thus depopulated and destroyed. Many of the Judaizers were expelled beyond the Caucasus Mountains, where they settled, founded flourishing villages, and spread their religion among the Russian settlers. Near Aleksandrovsk, in the Caucasus, almost all the inhabitants adhered to the Judaizers' sect. During the 1840s, the Russian government supported the settlement of members of the sect in the northern Caucasus because it regarded them as an industrious and desirable element. The expulsion of Judaizers from their former places of residence was nevertheless continued. In Siberia, large settlements of Judaizers of various categories were also established (as in the town of Zima).
With the accession of *Alexanderii, the administrative pressure was alleviated and the authorities did not insist on the application of the law. Many of the Judaizers began to observe their religion openly. They were particularly numerous in the provinces of Voronezh and Saratov. In 1887 the government officially recognized the right of the members of the sect to perform marriage and burial ceremonies according to their customs. With the manifesto issued on Oct. 17, 1905, which included freedom of religion for all the citizens of Russia, all the discriminatory legislation against the Judaizers and Sabbath observers was abolished. The government even emphasized, in special circulars issued by the ministry of the interior, that the Sabbath observers were not to be regarded as Jews, and that the special laws directed against the Jews did not apply to them.
All those who came into contact with the members of the sect, even their opponents, pointed out that they were mainly industrious peasants, moral, literate, charitable, and sober in their lives. Their main divisions were (1) the Molokan Sabbath Observers, believers in the New Testament and in Jesus as Christ, but not as God. Their observance of precepts of the Jewish religion (circumcision, the Sabbath, dietary laws, and the like) stemmed from their interpretation of the evangelists; (2) the Sabbath Observers (Subbotniki), who accepted the Hebrew Bible only, but not the Talmud. They were also occasionally referred to as the "Karaite Sabbath Observers" or the "Bareheaded"; (3) the proselytes (Gery), considered themselves Jews in every religious aspect and were also known as the "Covered Heads" (because they covered their heads, according to Jewish custom, both when at prayer or in other places). The proselytes endeavored to intermingle with the Jews as much as possible. Marriage with Jews was regarded by them as an important achievement. They sent a number of their children to yeshivot. Some Jews were secretly active among them as rabbis, shoḥatim, and teachers. David Teitelbaum of Lithuania, who was active in the proselyte settlements during the 1880s, became particularly renowned among them. These proselytes traveled to Ereẓ Israel among the masses of Russian pilgrims, and many of their families settled there. They were especially associated with settlements in Galilee (Yesud ha-Ma'alah, Bet Gan, etc.). In Ereẓ Israel they became completely integrated within the Jewish population.
There is no information available on the lives of the Judaizers and the proselytes under the Soviet regime.
L.I. Newman, Jewish Influence on Christian Reform Movements (1925); Z. Casdai, Ha-Mityahadim (19302); R. Matthews, English Messiahs (1936); H.J. Schoeps, Philosemitismus im Barock (1952); M. Simon, Recherches d'Histoire Judéo-Chrétienne (1962); Roth, England, 149–50; S. Grayzel, The Church and the Jews in the xiiith Century (19662); G. Boehm, Nuevos antecedentes para unahistoria de los Judíos en Chile colonial (1963), 124–6; A. Oded, in: Ha-Mizraḥ he-Ḥadash, no. 1–2 (1967), 92–98. in russia: I. Berlin, in: ye, 7 (c. 1910), 577–87; S. Ettinger, in: Zion, 18 (1953), 156–68; Ever ha-Dani (A. Feldman), Ha-Hityashevut ba-Galil ha-Taḥton (1955), 163–71; S. Ettinger, in: I.F. Baer Jubilee Volume (1960), 228–47.
The Judaizing "heresy" arose in Novgorod in the years 1470 and 1471, after a Kievan Jew named Zechariah (Skhary) proselytized the priest Alexei, who in turn enticed the priest Denis and many others, including the archpriest Gavril, into Judaism. Around 1478, Ivan III, who had just subjugated Novgorod, installed them in the chief cathedrals of the Moscow Kremlin. In 1484 or 1485, the influential state secretary and diplomat Fyodor Kuritsyn and the Hungarian "Martin" joined with Alexei and Denis and eventually attracted, among others, Metropolitan Zosima (r. 1490–1494), as well as Ivan III's daughter-in-law Elena of Moldavia, Meanwhile, Archbishop Gennady of Novgorod (r. 1484–1504) discovered the Novgorod heretics and started a campaign against them, which was later taken up by Joseph of Volotsk. Synods were held in Moscow in 1488 and 1490, leading to an auto-da-fé in Novgorod and to the imprisonment of Denis and several others. Alexei had already died, however, and several others, like the historiographercopyist Ivan Cherny, fled. Joseph's faction forced Zosima from office and convened another Moscow synod in 1504, which condemned five heretics to death, including the late Kuritsyn's brother Ivan Volk, a state secretary expert in the law, and Archimandrite Kassian of Novgorod's Yurev Monastery. Others, like the merchant Semon Klenov, were imprisoned.
The accusations against the "heretics" reveal a hodgepodge of tenets rather than a coherent sect. The dissidents allegedly elevated Old Testament law, denigrated Christian scripture and patristic writings, attacked icons and monasticism, and denied the Trinity and the Incarnation. They dissimulated in the presence of steadfast adherents of Orthodoxy, practiced astrology and black magic, and after the end of the Russian Orthodox year 7000 (1492 c.e.) ridiculed Christian writings that had predicted the Second Coming around that time, and especially the New Testament for describing its own era as the last epoch. They also opposed the condemnation of heretics and demanded that repentant heretics not be punished.
Whatever Jewishness lies behind these accusations may go back to the scriptural, astronomical, and philosophical interchanges between Jews and Orthodox Christians in western Rus during the fifteenth century. Fyodor Kuritsyn's "Laodician Epistle," a chain poem, is reminiscent of Jewish wisdom literature. In addition, the dissidents were more open to secular culture and rationalism than most representatives of the official church. Some of the accusations of heresy may have derived from issues pertaining to specific icons, to various Novgorodian practices, to the use of Jewish astronomical knowledge, to Moscow's treatment of conquered Novgorod, and even to church lands. Whatever the case, when a similar outbreak of dissidence occurred in Novgorod and Moscow during the 1550s, it was attributed to Protestant, not Jewish, influences. The phenomenon of dissidence prompted Archbishop Gennady to assemble a coterie of Orthodox and Catholic experts to compile the first complete Slavonic Bible and make other useful translations.
See also: ivan iii; joseph of volotsk, st.; kuritsyn, fyodor vasilevich; novgorod the great; orthodoxy; possessors and non-possessors
Klier, John. (1997). "Judaizing without Jews? Moscow-Novgorod, 1470–1504." In Culture and Identity in Muscovy, 1359–1584, ed. Ann M. Kleimola and Gail D. Lenhoff. Moscow: ITZ-Garant.
Tauber, Moishe. (1995). "The Kievan Jew Zacharia and the Astronomical Works of the Judaizers." In Jews and Slavs, vol. 3, ed. Wolf Moskovich, Shmuel Shvarzbard, and Anatoly Alekseev. Jerusalem: Hebrew University Press.
David M. Goldfrank