Page 177 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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ROBERT M. SELTZER
Graetz, Dubnow, Baron
w e
recall
t h e
dea th anniversaries in 1991 o f three giants of
modern Jewish historiography. Heinrich Graetz passed away
in 1891; Simon Dubnow was killed in the Nazi evacuation o f
the Riga ghetto in 1941; Salo Baron died late in 1989. Each
man had an illustrious scholarly career, publishing landmark
monographs that by themselves would have ensured an en d u r­
ing reputation . Each played a major role in the publication o f
distinguished jou rna ls and was an influential teacher, shaping
the historiographical agenda o f his many students. Toge the r
they form a triptych in the history o f Jewish learning, three
who attempted the impossible — to condense the more than
th ree millennia o f Jewish historical experience into a lengthy
but finite series o f books: Graetz’s eleven-volume
History of the
Jews,
Dubnow’s ten-volume
World History of theJewish People,
Bar­
on ’s eighteen volumes (perhaps more are yet to come) o f the
second edition o f his
Social and Religious History of the Jews.
Graetz and Dubnow are among ou r classic historians who can
still be read with pleasure, even though much o f their data is
long out-of-date. Imbued with the didactic spirit o f the 19th-
century historiography (although ha lf o f Dubnow’s life was lived
in the twentieth century), they did not hesitate to reiterate the
lessons they had discerned in the past in o rd e r to shape the
Jewish
Weltanschauung
o f the ir and the next generations.
Graetz’s conception o f Jewish spiritual nationhood led him to
reject Reform and O rthodoxy and identify wholeheartedly with
Zecharias Frankel’s Positive-Historical School that offered a very
moderate religious reform ism that was careful not to rup tu re
the chain o f Jewish practice, belief, and folk unity. Dubnow
founded the small bu t conspicuous
Folkspartei,
the Jewish Peo­
ple’s Party, to fu r th e r his ideology o f diaspora nationalism and
a democratically organized Jewish ethnic community in a secular
multinational state. Baron, the exemplar o f objective and bal­
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