Page 104 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
rary value ju dgm en t to the Haskalah period , however, is to p re ­
vent us from grasp ing the complete scope o f Hebrew Haskalah.
One should not in te rp re t these comments as advocating the
re tu rn to an historical and social analysis o f Haskalah litera tu re ,
bu t ra the r to a more balanced, and complete assessment. Such an
evaluation should take into consideration not only cu r ren t trend s
in modern criticism, bu t also the 18th- and 19th-century cu ltural
and social views and concepts enunc ia ted by the exponen ts o f
Haskalah itself.
In assessing the Haskalah phenomenology after two h u n d red
years, we note a g rea t and innovative achievement: the establish­
ment o f centers o f literary activities. No longer do we face an
individual writer who is completely isolated from his peers, bu t
ra th e r a group o f individuals functioning both as individuals and
as a group. At times they may have been isolated and geog raph i­
cally distant from each other; nevertheless, the established cen ter
united them. They appear to have had a common goal and to
have shared similar literary concepts. Despite the ir differences,
they continued to work toge ther toward a common goal. This led
to the somewhat “m od e rn” character o f Hebrew Haskalah: the
establishment o f a society for the p romo tion o f the Hebrew lan­
guage.
Such a center was first established in Koenigsberg in 1783, and
later transfe rred to Berlin. T he impact o f the group , as such, was
much more visible; its voice was much more powerful and its
ideological argum en ts carried much more weight. Additional
centers continued to flourish th roughou t the Haskalah period ,
both in Galicia and Russia, and greatly affected the dissemination
of Haskalah ideology and the publication o f its literature .
It should be noted tha t these centers, at times, form ed a social
framework , a su p e r
-kehillah
s tru c tu re , and sometimes even
served as a substitute fo r it. In Berlin, the
maskilim
established, in
addition to the above-mentioned society, also a p r in ting shop,
indeed a major tool for the dissemination o f ideas.
One o f the firs t activities o f th e Society o f H eb ra ists in
Koenigsberg was to establish a modern ongoing jo u rn a l to serve
as a mouthpiece for Haskalah ideology. W ithout such an organ ,
the steady and w idespread dissemination o f ideas was impossible.
One should not underestima te the significance o f the establish­
ment o f
Ha-Me’assef
by the
maskilim
as marking the beg inn ing o f