Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy

By David Ellenson | Go to book overview

1
The Man and the Challenges of His Times

The year 1820 was a time of transition for German Jewry in an era of ferment for Judaism. The medieval order of central European Judaism had been for some time in the process of dissolution, confronted by the new society and the new economy which had been taking shape throughout the eighteenth century. The parameters of new structures of Jewish life and religion, however, had yet to emerge. On May 11 of that year, Esriel Hildesheimer was born in Halberstadt, a small town in Saxony. Halberstadt had been annexed by Prussia in 1815 in the wake of the defeat of Napoleon's armies by the conservative forces of Europe.1 Hildesheimer was destined to be both a product of the ferment of his time and a major force in shaping new directions for Jewish life and religion in the years ahead.

Hildesheimer's life spans almost the entire nineteenth century ( 1820-99); his career embraced two nations--Hungary and Germany; and his reputation extended throughout Europe. He was educated in the first Orthodox school in Germany to add secular subjects to its curriculum. He continued his studies with Jacob Ettlinger and Isaac Bernays, rabbis noted for their traditional observance and knowledge as well as their receptivity to contemporary thought. Both men encouraged Hildesheimer's interest in secular studies, and under their influence he went on to study at the two finest universities in Germany, Berlin and Halle. He received a Ph.D. from the latter in 1846 for a study of the Septuagint. He emerged from this education a staunch opponent of Reform Judaism and a major proponent of the position that secular studies and traditional rabbinic scholarship were fully compatible.

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Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - The Man and The Challenges of His Times 1
  • 2 - The Quest For Religious Authority 21
  • 3 - The Confrontations With Jewish Religious And Cultural Pluralism 73
  • 4 - The Tasks of Education 115
  • Conclusion 166
  • Notes 171
  • Bibliography 194
  • Index 203
  • About the Author 213
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