This essay focuses upon Rabbi Manuel Joël, stressing for the first time his unusual position between the Positive-Historical and the Liberal movements within German Judaism. His stance produced controversy both with the Liberal Rabbi Abraham Geiger, his predecessor in the Breslau rabbinate, and Heinrich Graetz, his teacher at the Positive-Historical Breslau Theological Seminary. Points of dispute included Joël’s prayer book and his participation in the Liberal Leipzig Synod of 1869. Yet controversy eventually gave way to reconciliation and Joël could ultimately enjoy the respect of both factions.
In 1966, Ephraim Elimelech Urbach and a group of religious intellectual figures established the Movement for Torah’s Judaism, in order to change some elements in the religious life in Israel. The hegemony of religion in Israel belonged at that time to Orthodox Judaism and its political parties, especially the Lithuanian Yeshivot circles. The new movement challenged the “gap between the people and the Torah and the gap between the halacha and the political, economic and social reality”, and called “to revive the halacha through the clear assumption, that the problems of the State are included again in the field of Torah”.
Urbach’s movement was an attempt to establish a Jewish “midstream movement”, and actually to reestablish the Breslau School, in Israel. The movement opposed the domination of Lithuanian orthodoxy in Israel’s religious life, as well as the very way of neo-orthodoxy, which represented the idea of “a technologist with the permission of the Torah”. They were also opposed to Reform Judaism. Although they opposed the secular way, they were obligated to cooperate with the secular majority in all the national-public missions. Their three main motions for the agenda were: the method of ruling halacha; changing problematic prayers; and establishing a modern rabbinical seminary.
After the establishment of the movement, only a few hundred members joined it. The movement did not succeed in influencing large audiences. The movement also failed in establishing the rabbinical seminary. After a decade, the movement ceased its activities.
During the years that led to the Hungarian Jewish schism of 1869, Orthodoxy reigned relatively unchallenged in communities of long standing or East European immigration, while Neology spread in the recently founded urban synagogues. Only the steadily growing community of Pest, Hungary’s economic capital, presented an appropriate testing-ground for religious forces that tried to withstand the progressive cleavage. My paper will focus on the exceptional moment after 1859, when Chief Rabbi Wolf Meisel (1815-1867), a Bohemian compatriot of Zacharias Frankel, formulated in his short-lived journal Der Carmel a popular midstream ideology that was largely independent from the Breslau-style „Science of Judaism.” Jointly attacked by the Orthodox party as well as by Leopold Löw’s progressive journal Ben-Chananja, Meisel’s religious position was undermined by the rise of Hungarian nationalism and the more successfully mediatized Magyarization efforts of the Neologs. My paper will ask for the ideological and social characteristics of Rabbi Meisel’s failed peace movement, the controversy it aroused, and its long-term repercussions on Hungarian Jewish modernism.
The dispute over the nature of the Oral Law in the nineteenth century sheds light on fundamental developments in modern Jewish thought. An attitudinal shift can be discerned in the modern period. If in the medieval period, oral transmission was perceived as preserving the accuracy and authentic meaning of the tradition, in modern times it was described, to the contrary, as a crucial means of adapting Jewish tradition to constantly changing environments and to the demands of each generation. This radical new assumption that the existence of an oral tradition reflected the ability of the halakha to change gave rise to countless arguments: if the writing of a text signifies stagnation, when did Jewish tradition lose its vitality? Who was responsible for thus turning the halakha into a fixed or even, according to some, a lifeless system by writing it down? The article addresses these and similar questions raised by the nineteenth-century Jewish scholars throughout Europe and shows how their answers reflect the governing ideologies of the various camps in Jewish society.
The article follows the reception of the philosophy of Yehudah Halevi (1075–-1141) within the Breslau school of Jewish thought during the second half of the nineteenth century. Special focus is given to the discussion of Halevi in the writings of David Kaufmann and Julius Guttmann. Both scholars admire Halevi’s Sefer haKuzari because they discovered a certain analogy between his medieval project of an intellectual apology of Judaism and their own endeavors in Breslau to philosophically justify the existence of Judaism in modernity. In their point of view, Halevi has achieved his results, however, without forcing the wealth of traditional Jewish teachings into an artificial system of thought, as did Maimonides after him. Thus, Halevi became for the Breslau scholars a personal example of Jewish integrity, combining faithful adherence to Judaism with intellectual penetration of its doctrines.
Recent work by scholars such as Sylvie-Anne Goldberg and Elisheva Carlebach has paid close attention to the forms of temporality in traditional Jewish cultures, and classic twentieth-century studies debated the origin and character of various forms of Jewish Messianism as well as the genre of Jewish apocalypse. This essay considers the possible relevance of Jewish rhetorics of temporality to the most likely current scenario of the human future: a deterioration of both numbers and quality of life, with no inevitable extinction or redemption to be envisioned as a narrative end-point. The recent television series “Battlestar Galactica” is closely examined, both for its specifically Jewish tropes and more generally as a narrative modeling of a regressive sequence without inevitable resolution. Most broadly, this meditation in the form of a dialogue challenges scholars to address their analyses to the current situation of the species, and to do so in a way that does not rely on antiquated ideologies of progress and enlightenment.
The article deals with three points that refer to two important Jewish institutions of the age of emancipation, that is, the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau and the Rabbinical College of Padua: (1) how these Rabbinical schools were founded, (2) their courses and programs, and (3) the inspiration behind them. A comparison is outlined on the ground of these three points. The conclusion reminds the closing of these two schools, in 1938 the first and in 1871 the second, because of external events: the uprising of German antisemitism and the constitution of Italian State; and how the interesting figure of Sabato Morais, the founder in 1887 and first president of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, which prepares Conservative Rabbis, could in a sense be considered the heir of both these schools.
This article examines how concepts related to menstruation and menstrual blood were used by medieval Jews to insult the Christians’ God and his mother. One of the central concepts used in these exchanges was the claim that Jesus was conceived while Mary was menstruating. The article checks this and similar claims when they appear, among other places, in polemic works, such as the rather famous Toledot Yeshu (“The Genealogy of Jesus”), and in the Jewish chronicles about the massacres of Rhineland Jews during the first crusade of 1096.