Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy

Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy

Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy

Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy

Synopsis

This unique study of an Orthodox rabbinic leader shows how Hildesheimer's flexible and programmatic approach to the problem continues to be relevant to modern Judaism.

Excerpt

Nineteenth-century German Jewry experienced notable departures from the established patterns of the past. the century witnessed a veritable revolution in the legal status, occupational distribution, cultural habits, and religious beliefs and behavior of central and western European Jewry. Under the impact of Enlightenment and emancipation, Judaism underwent a transition--not everywhere uniform in shape and intensity--from European traditionalisms to the modern era of contemporary Judaisms. Modern varieties of Judaism, each a response to the changing time, emerged in Germany during the 1800s. Each deserves study for its attempt to adapt and modify Judaism to this new challenge in Jewish history, as well as for its effort to maintain a link to the past.

No group in nineteenth-century Germany is more representative of this effort than modern Orthodoxy. As one apologete, Hermann Schwab , has written, German-Jewish Orthodoxy was Sinai Judaism. Yet in talking of German Orthodoxy, even Schwab is forced to concede that "some of its characteristics could be traced to its German surroundings." the German Orthodox were not one with the antimodernist Hungarian rabbi the Hatam Sofer (1762-1839), who was eager to endorse a total rejection of the contemporary, cosmopolitan world. in Germany, the reaction of such spokesmen as the Frankfurt rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) was to make peace, as far as possible, with many aspects of modernity and the transformations it wrought in Jewish status and culture. Simultaneously, they insisted on the eternality of the Oral Law. Hirsch . . .

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