Page 204 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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1 9 6
traditionalists discussed the events o f the day and the steps to
be taken in order to oppose the bold, impertinent actions o f
the innovators. The helpless, despairing pain that these valiant
men bespoke with their words and their destitute countenance,
had so affected the boy, that he then vowed to dedicate his life
to the Jewish heritage which had been given up by its own chil­
That Hirsch grew up within the tense religious atmosphere
o f Hamburg at that time goes a long way toward explaining
his emergence as defender o f traditional Judaism just as the
Reform movement was intensifying its activities in pursuit o f
religious and legal change. But there were other elements in
Hirsch’s background that were correctly emphasized exactly
eighty years ago in a penetrating essay in commemoration o f
the centennial o f Hirsch’s birth. Hirsch grew up and was ed­
ucated in an atmosphere which equipped him well for his future
The early years o f the nineteenth century witnessed a rapid
increase in the extent o f secular studies within the Jewish com­
munities o f Germany. When the young Samson Raphael Hirsch
attended secular schools in Hamburg, he was introduced to
these studies in a way that was quite distant from the efforts
o f Solomon Maimon, who was able to acquire his secular knowl­
edge around the middle o f the eighteenth century only through
the arduous efforts characteristic o f the autodidact. By the time
o f Hirsch’s generation, it was far more common for the children
o f comfortable families to receive formal education either in
Jewish schools founded by enlightened educators or in schools
1 “Samson Raphael Hirsch, Ein Lebensbild,”
Samson Raphael Hirsch Jubilaeums
Nummer Der Israelit
(Frankfurt, 1908), pp. 5-17. T h e reference to Hirsch ’s
childhood is on page 6. Tw o d ifferent approaches to Hirsch in English can
be found in Noah Rosenbloom,
Tradition in an Age o f Reform: The Religious
Philosophy o f Samson Raphael Hirsch
(Philadelphia: T h e Jewish Publication
Society, 1976) and Robert Liberies,
Religious Conflict in Social Context: The
Resurgence o f Orthodox Judaism in Frankfurt am Main
(Westport, Ct.: G reen ­
wood Press and the Leo Baeck Institute, 1985). A new study on the subject
in general provides a significant contribution: Mordechai Breuer,
Orthodoxie im Deutschen Reich, 1871-1918
(Koenigstein: Juedischer Ve r lag bei
Athenaeum , 1986).