Page 195 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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THEODORE WIENER
ewish Literary Anniversaries, 1986
T
h r e e
t o w e r i n g
f i g u r e s
,
a century apart from one another,
dominate our list of portraits this year. Moses Mendelssohn, who
began to lead Jews out of the ghetto in the eighteenth century,
Leopold Zunz, the founder of modern Jewish scholarship in the
nineteenth century, and David Ben-Gurion, who helped realize
the dream of Zion restored in our lifetime, each in their own way
had a revolutionary impact on their respective generation.
Mendelssohn broadened the outlook of Jews, opening their
minds to modern thought, thus laying a new basis for Jewish life
in Central and Western Europe and in the Western Hemisphere.
He helped make it possible for Jews to enter all walks of life and
still remain Jews. The transformation thus wrought required also
a new way of looking at the Jewish past. Zunz used the tools of
modern historical scholarship, which evolved in his own period,
to develop a program for research into Jewish history and litera­
ture. The new respect for past Jewish achievement that he tried
to secure helped lay the foundation for those romantics who to­
ward the end of his life began the Hibbat Zion movement, which
found its full fruition in Ben-Gurion’s proclamation of the Jewish
State in 1948.
Around these personalities, a host of others can be grouped.
The struggle for emancipation was not easy. So Ludwig Boerne,
an important figure in German journalism in his time, felt
compelled to leave his ancestral faith. Leopold Kompert oper­
ated in a more hospitable era, and he could describe the Jewish
life of his youth with greater sympathy. The successors of Zunz
are legion. Ludwig Blau, Samuel Klein, Jacob R. Marcus, and
Moshe Davis are just a few of those who have enriched Jewish
scholarship and are continuing to do so at hundreds of institu­
tions of higher learning throughout the world, from the Hebrew
Universty in Jerusalem to colleges and universities in every part
of the globe, including Germany, where Zunz had fought in vain
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