Page 60 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 2

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B y B
o h e n
One hundred and fifty years ago, an infant was born in the town
of Detmold in Germany who was named Leopold Zunz and who
was destined to usher in a new era in the history of Jewish learning.
As a gifted young man, Zunz studied under the leading scholars
of his day, and was inspired by them with the love for research.
Stimulated by the new horizons that were opened up before him
by his teachers at the Berlin University, young Zunz resolved to
study various branches of Jewish literature from this new angle.
He was primarily interested in literary history, a field that had
been generally neglected before his time by Jewish scholars.
The erudition of Zunz was both deep and broad, derived as it
was from countless books and unprinted sources. While some of
his writings were composed in response to some practical and
contemporary need, they were always rigidly scientific and ob-
jective. In the introduction to his first great work on the history
of the sermonic literature of the Jews, Zunz reprimanded the
political leaders of Germany for bestowing merely special rights
and privileges upon the Jews, instead of granting them full liberty
and citizenship. In this gigantic work, which appeared in 1832,
and was partly translated into Hebrew in 1913, he traced for the
first time the history and the development of the sermon and of
its place in Jewish worship. The study of the origin of the sermon
involved him in a minute investigation of the whole midrashic
literature of which he was master.
Zunz roamed over the whole field of Jewish literature with
great ease, but it was in the field of poetry and liturgy that he
made his greatest contributions. Nor was he indifferent to bibli-
ography, philology, or history. Of special contemporary interest
is his learned essay on the History of the Jews of Sicily. To sum
up, Zunz’s learning was comprehensive and thorough, opening
up new vistas never before beheld by students of Jewish literature.
The following is a selected bibliography on Zunz and his work:
a b b i n o w i t z
P. Life, Times and Writings of Zunz (in Hebrew). Warsaw, 1894.
a r s h a l l
, L
o u i s
Leopold Zunz. New York, 1905.
c h e c h t e r
, S
o l o m o n
Studies in Judaism, III. Philadelphia, 1924, 84-117.
4. Jewish Encyclopedia, XII , 699-704.
5. Otsar Yisroel, IX, 19-21.
6 .
a m b e r g e r
F. Zunz’s Conception of History. New York, 1941.
a l l a c h
L. The Scientific and Philosophical Background of Zunz’s Science
of Judaism. New York, 1942.
a r x
A. Zunz’s Letters to Steinschneider. New York, 1934.
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