The process of secularization, which is one of the sources of present-day democracy, has its radical origins in eighteenth-century Europe. Criticism of religious norms and discipline, institutions and ideology led to the movement known as the Enlightenment. Its Jewish protagonists (the maskilim), a young intellectual elite, undertook the role of culturally revolutionizing eighteenth-century Jewish society. They aimed at overturning the monopolistic control of rabbinic scholars over education, publications, and social behaviour in favour of secular intellectual values. They sought to promote political rights and religious tolerance, embraced humanism, rationalism, and freedom of opinion. In turn, the end of Jewish isolation brought about a significant contribution to philosophy, science, and art, and participation in the culture of modern European society.
This introduction to the emergence of Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) in Germany pays special attention to its most famous figure, Moses Mendelssohn, who was active at the centre of the Enlightenment in Berlin. The volume is richly illustrated with images of eighteenth-century manuscripts, books, and pamphlets, some of which are published here for the first time, and which derive from a collection assembled by the famous nineteenth-century scholar Leopold Zunz. This is an attractive book providing an excellent guide to the major cultural metamorphosis represented by Jewish Enlightenment.
Shmuel Feiner is Professor of Modern Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University and Chairman of the Jerusalem Leo Baeck Institute.
Natalie Naimark-Goldberg obtained her doctorate at Bar-Ilan University, where she now works, specialising in the study of Haskalah and Jewish women's modernization in the eighteenth century.
- 104 pages, 234 x 157 mm
- 84 colour illustrations
- ISBN: 9781851242917
- Publication September 2011