Page 84 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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While the book is critical of “uncritical,” “rigid” and “in­
flexible” Orthodoxy, it attacks Reform without qualification.
Nationalism is the hinge on which the criticism swings. It favored
“historical” or “critical” Judaism largely formulated by the
Science of Judaism, or modern Jewish scholarship, as espoused
by the Breslau Rabbinical Seminary. Indeed the book received
its friendliest reception in that circle; Heinrich Graetz, the
eminent historian, helped to procure the publisher.
Since the third trend had as yet no roots in the community,
he sided with Orthodoxy. For “the pious Jew is above all a
Jewish patriot.”5 Specifically: “I know only one religious fellow­
ship, the old Synagogue . . . I myself, had I a family, would, in
spite of my dogmatic heterodoxy, not only join an Orthodox
synagogue, but would also observe in my house all feasts and
fast days so as to keep alive in my heart and in the heart of my
children the traditions of my people . . . No ancient custom or
usage should be changed, no Hebrew prayer should be shortened
or read in German translation . . . In a word, I would favor
everything which would contribute to the elevation and education
of the congregation without . . . undermining our ancient service.
And in my own family circle I would carefully see that the
traditions of our people are strictly observed.”6
He then included this amazing statement: “If it were true that
Jewish emancipation in exile is incompatible with Jewish nation­
ality, it would be the duty of the Jews to sacrifice the former
for the sake of the latter.”7
The last two letters in the volume deal directly with the
problems of acquiring and colonizing Palestine. Hess relied on
France, the then dominant power in the Near East and the
champion of the liberation of the suppressed nations as part
“of the spirit of the Revolution,” to help the Jews attain their
national goal at the ripe moment in the dissolution of the
Ottoman empire. But the Jews must be prepared to provide the
financial means.
To validate his confidence in France and the practicability of
the State idea, he cited a brochure,
The New Eastern Question,
by Ernest Laharanne, private secretary to Napoleon III, who
enthusiastically advocated a Jewish State in the Holy Land for
which “we will be proud to open its gates,” and proposed that
the Jewish people be unified in a Congress that should plan to
“buy back their ancient fatherland.”8
Hess reinforced his recurring contention that Orthodox Jewry
is basically nationalist and ready to return and revive the Holy
6 P. 62.
6 Pp. 99-100.
7Pp. 62-63.
6 Pp. 150-159.