Religious Practices, Mentalities,
Before Emancipation, Judaism enveloped the lives of its members. An isolated, often segregated Jewish community assumed its members' beliefs and strongly supported and demanded the practice of commandments and rituals. In the course of Emancipation, it has been argued, Jews plunged into assimilation, absorbing German culture as they integrated with the political and social worlds. Judaism lost its hold and allegedly evolved or declined—depending on one's viewpoint—into a simple religious creed rather than an all-encompassing environment. The behavior of German Jews at the end of the nineteenth century is more complicated. If, in theory, "milieu religiosity" gave way to an "individualistic religiosity,"1 in practice there was actually a complex relationship between the two. At the grassroots level, individuals created their own Judaism, a Judaism striking in its variety. This Judaism could be defined as including elements of traditional beliefs and practices,2 a strong sense of kinship with family and (an increasingly voluntary) Jewish community, and a profound attachment to German Enlightenment traditions. Judaism was the sum of many parts.
The nineteenth century witnessed gradual privatization of religion among most Germans, both Christian and Jewish, especially in the cities. "God was indeed 'dead' for the educated city-dweller of Protestant Germany,"3 but religion was not. Although Protestant weekly churchgoing reached its lowest rates of the century between 1870 and 1880 (at between 1 and 5 percent),4 "each person made up his own religion," choosing among life-cycle events and organizations