Originally published in The Jewish Chronicle, 9 April 1965.
Studies in Nineteenth Century Jewish Intellectual History. Edited by Alexander Altmann. Harvard University Press. 46s.
Readers, and they must be many, who found the first volume of studies edited by Dr. Altmann absorbing, will not be disappointed with this second volume, the scope of which is limited to one period but that one of the most formative in Jewish history. Needless to say, the scholarship is impeccable. Entirely new material has been used by the contributors and they all break fresh ground.
For instance, everyone uses the term “Jewish Emancipation,” but Professor Jacob Katz, in the erudite article with which the volume opens, is the first to subject the term to a close analysis, discussing its origin and historical impact. We learn that although the historical reality behind the emancipation is much earlier, the term itself was not used by contemporaries until the year 1828.
Professor Glatzer shows how the new Jewish learning at the beginning of the nineteenth century differed in method and approach from the old. Professor Petuchowski examines the manuals and catechisms of the Jewish religion produced during the early period of emancipation, Eisig Silberschlag the Hebrew poetry of the period, and Hans Liebeshütz the formation of Jewish political attitudes. Emil L. Fackenheim writes on Samuel Hirsch’s “Religionsphilosophie des Judens,” published in 1842, and its relationship to Hegelian philosophy.
The longest and most original article in the book is the editor’s tremendously impressive account of preaching in nineteenth-century German Jewry and the influence on it of Christian models. This is a weighty treatment indeed of a hitherto neglected field.
We gain many glimpses from, this volume of how energetically (sometimes with great depth, at others rather superficially) Jewish thinkers and teachers, chiefly German, faced the problem of a Jewish life in Western society. It is salutary for us to be reminded how much we all owe to the trail blazers who lived over a century and a half ago, and of our debt to the scholars who write here, and so bring the still relevant ideas to our notice.