Martin Buber's Formative Years: From German Culture to Jewish Renewal, 1897-1909


Martin Buber (1878-1965) was born into a world of two cultures - his Jewish family and his Austrian fatherland. During his childhood with his grandparents in Galician Lvov, Jewish values and German aesthetics coexisted. But after Buber re-entered fin-de-siecle Viennese society, the world of his grandparents fell apart. Nothing was as it should have been: Jewish hopes for full social integration were disappointed, Yiddish culture seemingly caused modern Jewish youth to be impoverished, and the Jewish religion had become ossified. In his personal confusion, Buber clearly grasped the essence of the problem: emancipation had failed, German culture was dying, Jews were on their own, and tradition was no longer good enough. During the period from 1897 to 1909, Buber's keen sense of the crisis of humanity, his intimate knowledge of German culture and Jewish sources, and his fearlessness in the face of possible ridicule challenged him to behave in a manner so outrageous and so contrary to German-Jewish tradition that he actually achieved a transformation of himself and those close to him. Calling on spiritual giants of great historical periods in German, Christian, and Jewish history - such as Nicolas of Cusa, Jakob Bohme, Israel Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Nachman of Brazlav, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Friedrich Nietzsche - Buber proceeded to subvert the existing order by turning his upside-down world of slave morality right side up once more. If contemporary life was bankrupt, why lament? Did not God command humanity to act? Buber wholeheartedly immersed himself in the making of a new world, of Zionist culture, of Hasidic spirituality, of Romantic individuality, of unity from diversity. Byexamining the multitude of disparate sources that Buber turned to for inspiration, this book aims to elucidate Buber's creative genius and his contribution to turn-of-the-century Jewish renewal. Schmidt's timely and comprehensiv

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Tuscaloosa, AL
Publication year:
  • 1995