Page 189 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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SELTZER / GRAETZ, DUBNOW, BARON
1 8 1
veyed the elements and interconnections that would have to
be included in a truly comprehensive presentation o f Jewish
history, the
Jiidische Weltgeschichte
which Dubnow envisioned but
was not able to carry ou t satisfactorily. Similarly, Baron had
a grasp o f sociological theoreticians, such as Max Weber, that
was fa r more sophisticated than Dubnow’s despite Dubnow’s
insistence on the term “sociological,” so that it was Baron and
not Dubnow who applied these perspectives to Jewish demog­
raphy and economic history. One can conclude, therefore , that
Baron synthesized the intellectual-religious history o f Graetz
and the communal-social history o f Dubnow, overcoming the
one-sided approaches o f each, eliminating the blatant ideolog­
ical
tendenz
his illustrious predecessors brough t to their writing,
in effect annihilating the scientific value o f their work.
Graetz, Dubnow, and Baron epitomize modern Jewish history
writing at its most substantial, purposeful, and daring, as it g rad ­
ually shifted from a romanticism and idealism to quantification
and a “socioreligious” focus. Few scholars would dare any more
to reduplicate their most ambitious undertaking . Baron may
have been the last Jewish historian to have known so much about
so many d iffe ren t domains o f Jewish and general learning that
he could set ou t to write with confidence
the
social and religious
history o f the Jews in volume after volume o f detailed recon­
struction. Even the greatest o f 20th-century Jewish scholars,
such as Gershom Scholem and Yehezkel Kaufmann, decided
that was quite enough for a scholarly career to concentrate on
one subject o f Jewish research and clarify with new dep th its
peculiar structure and content.
What has been gained and what has been lost in the em er­
gence o f a specialized, non-ideological Jewish historical schol­
arship? Given the vastness and the growing complexity o f the
overlapping levels o f Jewish history, we may never again be
able to formulate with scientific exactitude a few clear and sim­
ple tru ths that all should learn from Jewish history, tru ths that
could enable us to reforge Jewish identity in its fu tu re travails.
Graetz presupposed and found a fine compatibility between the
teachings o f Judaism and insights gained th rough a study o f
the Jewish past. Dubnow’s was one o f the most extreme positions
in modern Jewish though t — that Jews can find in their history
the content o f Jewishness and that the essence o f Jewishness
is
a certain historical consciousness. Baron, in his enormous con­