Page 181 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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ISAAC BARZILAY
Leopold Zunz
On the Occasion of the Bicentennial
Anniversary of His Birth
T
h e
f o l l o w i n g
p a g e s
offer some observations on a number of
items in the writings of Leopold Zunz (1794-1886). He intro­
duced us to an ocean of varied information concerning the cul­
ture and history of the Jews from earliest times to about the
middle of the nineteenth century. Since almost all of the non-
Jewish scholars who pursued this field of study were Christian
theologians who harbored a passionate hatred and contempt
for the Jews, their views and teachings contained deliberate dis­
tortions and falsehoods. The present age, Zunz felt, requires
that the Jews repossess their own records and correct the cal­
umnies and bigotries that were spread about them by their en­
emies. This, he felt, was imperative now, in view of the changes
both Christian and Jewish societies were undergoing. Heavy
darkness still prevailed in the world. Jewish life and property
were still exposed to hate and violence, yet, compared with me­
dieval brutality, improvements became noticeable. John Toland
in England, Gotthold Efraim Lessing and Dohm in Germany,
Gregoire and Mirabeau in France, Spinoza and Leibniz in Hol­
land, along with liberal developments of recent times, both in
Europe and overseas — all were rays of light, giving hope for
better days that may be lying ahead.
Zunz devoted much attention to bibliography of all times and
places. Disregarding ancient and medieval times, we shall in­
dicate briefly the major Christian studies of Judaism from
Johann Buxtorf (first half of the 17th century) to the early 18th
century. The reason for it is that Zunz saw in the scholarly ac­
tivity of Buxtorf the beginning of a new period. He wrote about
him: