Page 181 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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faithfulness to its mission, the Jewish people in the
der Juden
constituted a collective messianic figure as significant
to the meaning o f world history as was the unfolding o f history
The Construction o fJewish History
to Juda ism ’s understand ing
o f itself.3
For Graetz, the modern era opened with the achievements
o f the enlightened Moses Mendelssohn, so decided a contrast
to the contemporaneous founde r o f Hasidism, whom Graetz
depicted as having led East European Jews only deeper into
obscurantism and superstition (Graetz was notorious for his low
opinion o f mysticism and Hasidism). For all his disdain o f East
European Jewish folk culture, however, Graetz insisted that Jew ­
ish history was the story o f a living people with a common his­
torical memory and messianic hope as well as common religious
law and convictions. T h e Jewish people was not merely a re ­
ligious association o r a “chu rch” in the Protestant denom ina­
tional sense. Graetz’s spiritual nationalism accepted emancipa­
tion in Europe without qualification bu t rejected the Reformers’
notion that the national integument, a preservative at one stage
in Jewish history, was no longer compatible with the evolving
modern Jewish condition. When he was criticized in 1879 by
the anti-Semitic nationalistic Prussian historian Heinrich von
Treitschke, who attacked the eleventh volume o f the
on the grounds that Graetz did not view with favor the in te­
gration o f Jews in German society, Graetz reaffirmed a Judaism
fully in accord with the philosophical idealism o f his youth. Thus
in “The Significance o f Judaism for the Present and the Fu­
tu re ,” written at the end o f his life, Graetz defined Judaism
as a moral force well on the way to being completely purified
o f medievalism and uncultivated extrusions. He quoted with
approval Ernest Renan’s
that Judaism was “a minimum
o f a religion,” explaining tha t this meant Judaism was a doctrine
o f ethical monotheism which rejected inequality, unchastity, and
unselfishness, exemplified pu re religious rationalism, and op ­
posed all forms o f idolatry, ancient and modern .4
3. See the epilogue written by Graetz himself for the fifth vol. o f the English
translation o f his
especially p. 718:
History o f the Jews,
V (Phil­
adelphia: Jewish Publication Society o f America, 1895).
4. Heinrich Graetz, “The Significance o f Judaism for the Present and the
Jewish Quarterly Review,
I (1889), pp. 8-11. Despite his sympathy
with the views o f Moses Hess in
Rome and Jerusalem,
Graetz did not condone