Page 130 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

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THEODORE WIENER
Jewish Literary Anniversaries
1979
Two
f igures
in
th is
y e a r
s
group of personalities symbolize the
eventful political and intellectual history of modern Jewry,
Moses Mendelssohn and Theodor Herzl. T he former is regarded
as the first modern Jew, who was able to adapt the thought
of his environment without relinquishing his Judaism. The
movements of emancipation and assimilation, with all their
wide ranging positive and negative connotations, are associated
with him. Few of those living after him remained unaffected
by what he had wrought. Herzl, coming from a thoroughly
assimilated background, gave a powerful stimulus toward revers-
ing the conception of Jewish life tha t Mendelssohn had stood
for, simply as a religious community in the modern liberal
state. The Zionist movement, which emphasized the national
element in the Jewish tradition and in a very practical way
worked for the establishment of a national home in Palestine,
synthesizing the Messianic teachings of Judaism with the ideas
of 19th-century nationalism, gave a new direction to the think-
ing of all.
The very controversies tha t were sparked by the revolutionary
ideas of both these leaders are reflected in the works of some
of the writers we commemorate this year. Karl Emil Franzos,
Hans Joachim Schoeps, Jakob Loewenberg, and David Einhorn
are some of the people following in the footsteps of Mendels-
sohn. Israel Cohen, Dov Joseph, and Ernst Simon belong to
those inspired by Herzl, not to mention the modern Hebrew
writers, most of whom were imbued with the Zionist ideology.
But these two elements in Jewish life are not the only dimen-
sions in which we move. T rad itional Judaism is represented
by Yom Tov Lipman Heller and Meir Loeb Malbim, who
although centuries apart in time, shared a similar outlook.
A modern Jewish thinker is Franz Rosenzweig, who sought his
way back to the well-springs of our faith.
Thus the vicissitudes of Jewish life have produced a variety
of literary responses, which continue to enrich our patrimony.
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