Page 178 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

Basic HTML Version

anced 20th-century historical writing, was appreciative o f Zion­
ism but also o f the diaspora, interested in marginal and obscure
aspects o f Jewish life bu t cognizant o f “official Juda ism ” as a
powerful element in Jewish survival. As concerned as Dubnow
with a sociological viewpoint, he ascribed far g rea ter importance
to religion than did the East European dogmatic secularists and
Dubnow. Baron can be viewed as a culmination o f a profes­
sionalization o f Jewish historiography initiated by Graetz’s im­
mediate predecessors and fu r the red by Graetz himself, al­
though his calm dispassion was the antithesis o f Graetz’s and
Dubnow’s a rden t partisanship.
Heinrich Graetz was born in 1817 in the town o f Xions in
an area o f Prussia that 45 years earlier had been pa r t o f Poland.
(Graetz, Dubnow, and Baron can be considered East European
Jews by origin, although the geography o f their lives radically
diverged.) While still a yeshivah student, Graetz on his own
learned modern languages, history, and literature , leading to
the typical torments o f a young 19th-century maskil caught
betweeen Jewish traditionalism and European rationalism. The
crisis o f faith abated when the 19-year-old Graetz read Samson
Raphael Hirsch’s
Nineteen Letters on Judaism
and travelled to
Moravia to become his disciple. Hirsch’s Neo-Orthodoxy proved
too inflexible for a young man imbued with
Wissenschaft des
as the underp inn ing o f a new Jewish consciousness
in a decade o f liberal and romantic ferment. Graetz en tered
the University o f Breslau in 1842 and received his doctorate
for a thesis on Gnosticism and Judaism in 1845 (from the Uni­
versity o f Jena , since a Jew could not obtain a Ph.D. at Breslau).
An unimpressive preacher, he was not able to find a rabbinical
position as did o ther university-educated German Jews who
aspired to Jewish leadership. Instead he taugh t in several Jewish
schools and published his researches in Zecharias Frankel’s
scholarly jou rna ls until, in 1854, Frankel asked him to jo in the
faculty o f the newly established Jewish Theological Seminary
o f Breslau.
Already in 1853 there had appeared the first volume o f the
Geschichte derJuden,
the section dealing with the talmudic period.
Eight more volumes were issued between 1856 and 1870; the