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.