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HASKALAH (Heb. הַשְׂכָּלָה), Hebrew term for the Enlightenment movement and ideology which began within Jewish society in the 1770s. An adherent of Haskalah became known as a maskil (pl. maskilim). The movement continued to be influential and spread, with fluctuations, until the early 1880s. Haskalah had its roots in the general Enlightenment movement in Europe of the 18th century but the specific conditions and problems of Jewish society in the period, and hence the objectives to which Haskalah aspired in particular, all largely differed from those of the general Enlightenment movement. Haskalah continued along new and more radical lines the old contention upheld by the Maimonidean party in the *Maimonidean Controversy that secular studies should be recognized as a legitimate part of the curriculum in the education of a Jew. For Jewish society in Central Europe, and even more so in Eastern Europe, this demand conflicted with the deeply ingrained ideal of Torah study that left no place for other subjects. As in medieval times, secular studies were also rejected as tending to alienate youth from the observance of the precepts and even from loyalty to Judaism.

The Haskalah movement contributed toward *assimilation in language, dress, and manners by condemning Jewish feelings of alienation in the *galut and fostering loyalty toward the modern centralized state. It regarded this assimilation as a precondition to and integral element in *emancipation, which Haskalah upheld as an objective. The maskilim also advocated the productivization of Jewish occupation through entering *crafts and *agriculture. The emphasis placed on these common objectives naturally varied within Jewish society in different countries and with changing conditions. Greater emphasis was placed on assimilation, and it became more widespread in Western and Central Europe than in Eastern Europe. Here the struggle for secular education and productivization was continuous and strong (see also Haskalah in Russia, below).

Beginning and Background of Haskalah

Moses *Mendelssohn is generally considered to be the originator of the Haskalah movement (the "father of the Haskalah"). However, this opinion has to be corrected in that a desire for secular education had already been evinced among the preceding generation of German Jews, and some individual Jews in Poland and Lithuania, during the 1740s. Knowledge of European languages could be found among members of the upper strata of Jewish society there many years before. Mendelssohn considered that a Jewish translation of the Bible into German was "a first step toward culture" for Jews. It seems, however, that he was doubtful about encouraging the spread of Haskalah among Jewry. When in the early 1780s it was proposed to translate certain works into Hebrew so as to lead the Jewish people to abandon "its ignorance and the opposition to every sensible reform," Mendelssohn "thought that any enterprise of this sort would indeed not be harmful, but neither would it be very beneficial" (see Solomon Maimon, An Autobiography (1947; repr. 1967), 97). Mendelssohn was opposed to *education of Jewish and non-Jewish children together; he was also against the *Toleranzpatent issued by Emperor Joseph ii, fearing that the method of education proposed there would lead Jews to *apostasy.

The birth and growth of the Haskalah movement were considerably facilitated by the policies of the absolutist regimes of Germany, Austria, and Russia during the 18th century, which deprived the Jewish community leadership of its coercive authority, such as exercise of the right of *herem ("ban"). Large-scale commercial transactions undertaken by the *Court Jews at this time brought the upper classes of Jewish society in contact with non-Jewish circles, and as a result there formed a section of the Jewish community which diverged from the traditional way of life. Others open to influence by Haskalah were individual Jews, frequently Jewish peddlers who often migrated to new localities without a communal organization or rabbis, where the individual was consequently left to himself.

Haskalah had a positive impact on the status of Jewish women. Many wealthy Jews hired tutors to teach their daughters modern European languages and other accomplishments. Elite women who acquired German and French language and culture played a significant role in transmitting the ideas and literature of the Enlightenment into the Jewish community. In traditional Jewish society girls had received only minimal religious training; now, instruction in music and modern languages together with exposure to a new world of secular novels, poetry, and plays distanced young women from brothers and husbands whose lives were restricted narrowly to commerce and finance. It is not surprising that many of these wealthy and accomplished women found success in a *salon society where gentiles and Jews mixed socially. Sometimes, these social contacts led to divorces from Jewish husbands, conversions to Christianity, and marriage to gentile suitors, often from the nobility. The number of Jewish women who followed this course was small and their motives in doing so were complex. However, some of the women who abandoned Judaism were integrated into the dominant upper-class culture and society. In making the choices they did these women experienced "at an early date and in a gender-specific way the basic conflict between group loyalty and individual emancipation that would torment so many European Jews in the two centuries to follow" (Hertz, Jewish High Society, 198).

The experience of the "salon Jewesses" was not typical for most Western and Central European Jewish women as Haskalah rapidly transformed Jewish life. Generally, gender tended to limit the assimilation of Jewish women since most had few contacts with the non-Jewish world. Confined to the domestic scene, restricted in their educational opportunities, and prevented from participating in the public realms of economic and civic life, women's progress to integration was halting and incomplete in comparison to Jewish men. Nevertheless, Haskalah had a far reaching impact on gender relations, following the lead of Mendelssohn, himself, who opposed arranged marriages and advocated love matches (Biale, Eros and the Jews, 153–58).

Haskalah operated as an active trend within German Jewry in the space of one generation. Its influence first spread in *Galicia (which passed to Austria with the partition of Poland) and later in Lithuania and other provinces of the Russian *Pale of Settlement.

There were also countries where attitudes similar to those adopted by the Haskalah circles in Germany had been manifest among Jews earlier, where they were unaccompanied by disintegration of Jewish tradition. In Italy, men who had studied medicine and were well acquainted with philosophy and the classics, as well as Christian theological literature, held rabbinical positions. The prestige won by Jewish physicians of note was generally considered an asset and encouragement to the Jewish community (see Isaac Cantarini, Et Keẓ (Amsterdam, 1710) 1b). In Italy also, study of Kabbalah was compatible with secular studies (see Jacob Frances, in: I. Frances, Metek Sefatayim, ed. by H. Brody (1892), 74; Moses Hayyim *Luzzatto).

Early stirrings of a positive appreciation of secular culture among Jews had even appeared in Germany by the first half of the 18th century and were manifest earlier among some traditional scholars and leaders like *Tobias b. Moses Cohn the physician, author of Ma'aseh Tuviyyah, Jonathan *Eybeschuetz, or Jacob *Emden. More positive and active participation in general culture still combined with a traditional outlook is reflected in Israel *Zamosc and Aaron Elias Gomperz, who wrote his Ma'amar ha-Madda (1765) to point out the importance of the sciences (see also below).

The specific approach characterizing Haskalah was expressed by those to whom secular culture and philosophy became a central value which raises man to the highest spiritual level, possibly not below that of religious meditation, and for whom it symbolized the sublime aspect of man, who by his initiative can achieve progress in and dominate nature. They considered that such culture would elevate both the human and social stature of the Jew. The new spirit prompted a number of Haskalah writers to compose works popularizing science in Hebrew, like Mordecai Gumpel b. Judah Leib Schnaber (d. 1797; published under the name Marcus George Levisohn). Articles on natural sciences were published in the first Hebrew secular monthly Ha-Me'assef (see below) by Baruch Lindau (1759–1849) and Aaron Wolfsohn Halle.

Haskalah, like its parent the European Enlightenment movement, was rationalistic. It accepted only one truth: the rational-philosophical truth in which reason is the measure of all things. During the 1740s some of the youth had already begun to study Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed. Haskalah accepted Enlightenment *Deism, giving it a specifically Jewish turn. Gotthold Ephraim *Lessing, in the parable of the Three Rings in Nathan der Weise, rejected the claim of any religion to represent the absolute truth. Mendelssohn held that there was nothing in the Jewish faith opposed to reason and that the revelation on Mount Sinai did not take place to impart faith but to give laws to a nation, because faith cannot be achieved by decree, while the laws which were given on that occasion were designed to serve as the laws of a unique Jewish theocratic state. Mendelssohn thus attempted to remove Judaism from the struggle between Enlightenment and revealed religion. The attitude of such Jews toward tradition underwent a radical change. The conception of Divine Providence in favor of Israel, the belief in the election of Israel, and the religious reasons advanced for the exile of Israel were weakened and the anticipation of Israel's future redemption began to wane.

While Mendelssohn and Naphtali Herz *Wessely, the pioneer of Haskalah education, did not doubt the sanctity and the authority of the Oral Law, they tried to demote the study of Talmud from its supreme position in Jewish education. Mendelssohn, in his letter to Naphtali Herz *Homberg, stressed the importance of actions and the study of the Bible in order to preserve the society of "true theists" (i.e., Judaism), while the Talmud is not mentioned there at all. This anti-talmudic mood was widespread. Study of the Talmud was not included in the curriculum of the "Free School" founded in Berlin in 1778 (see below). Wessely expressed this approach in the words: "We were not all created to become talmudists." Representing the most radical wing of Haskalah, David *Friedlaender was openly glad that the yeshivot were declining. The Talmud was also criticized in Russia. Abraham *Buchner, a teacher in the rabbinical seminary of Warsaw, even wrote a book entitled Der Talmud in seiner Nichtigkeit ("The Talmud in its Emptiness," 2 vols., 1848). In Galicia, Joshua Heschel *Schorr claimed that although the Talmud was historically important, its legal decisions were outdated socially and spiritually and hence no longer binding. Later Moses Leib *Lilienblum, too, considered the Talmud important but demanded from the rabbis, in the name of the "spirit of life," reform in halakhah.

In Western Europe and the German states, especially the northern German states, observance of halakhah was already being neglected before the advent of the Haskalah movement. Mendelssohn reacted sharply against the tendency to ignore the burden of the precepts found among persons close to him, some of whom even denied Divine Revelation to Moses. Among the maskilim who frequented Mendelssohn's home there were, according to Solomon Dubno, "a group of men who were to be suspected of having discarded the yoke of the Torah." This negation of halakhic precepts, which was often coupled with contempt toward the whole of Judaism, also served as a factor leading to mass apostasy among the Jewish bourgeoisie of *Berlin and its surroundings.

Linguistic Assimilation

Linguistic assimilation increasingly became a hallmark of Haskalah. In Germany, as well as in Alsace-Lorraine, wealthy Jews had begun to have their children taught German and French at the close of the 17th century to facilitate both their business and social contacts with non-Jews. French became the language of the "elite" in Jewish circles, where the reading of general literature became widespread. In the 1780s there were "the daughters of Israel, who are all able to speak the language of the gentiles with eloquence, but cannot converse in Yiddish" (Ha-Me'assef (1786), 139). By the 1790s the younger generation of the Jewish bourgeoisie of Berlin had begun to adopt German as their spoken language. A negative attitude toward Yiddish developed. German writers had claimed in the past that the Jews had been able to deceive non-Jews by the use of Yiddish in business transactions, and as a result decrees had been issued compelling Jews to write their commercial documents and keep their books in German.

Apparently Mendelssohn was influenced by these claims and even thought that Yiddish was ridiculous, ungrammatical, and a cause of moral corruption. He initiated translation of the Pentateuch into German, in order to induce Jews to use this language (see *Bible: Translations, German). Wessely approved wholeheartedly of the measures which Joseph ii introduced against the use of Yiddish (Ha-Me'assef (1784), 178). David Friedlaender called for the removal of Yiddish as the language of instruction in the heder and Jewish schools; in his opinion the use of Yiddish was responsible for unethical conduct and corruption of religion. He translated the prayers into German, "the language spoken by the inhabitants of these regions," because the Yiddish translations "were repulsive to the reader in their style and contents" (Ha-Me'assef (1786), 139). The maskilZalkind *Hourwitz also suggested that the Jews be prohibited from employing either Yiddish or Hebrew for bookkeeping and business contracts, not only for transactions between Jews and Christians but also between Jews themselves, in order to prevent fraud.

A move against Yiddish in favor of the "mother tongue" (in this case, Dutch) was initiated by the maskilim in the *Netherlands during the period of French rule there. A Jewish weekly began to appear in Dutch in 1806. In 1808 a society was formed in Amsterdam for translation of the Bible and the prayer book into Dutch, as well as for the publication of textbooks in Hebrew and Dutch, the establishment of new schools, and the training of suitable teachers for them. King Louis Bonaparte issued a decree in February 1809, in force from Jan. 1, 1811, prohibiting the use of Yiddish in documents. Sermons in the synagogues were to be delivered in Dutch, while Dutch was to be the language of instruction for Jewish youth. The *consistory of the Netherlands ordered that notices in the synagogues be published in Dutch only, and all correspondence between the communities and the consistory was to be conducted in Dutch only. In France, the maskilim encountered no difficulties in their struggle against Yiddish in favor of French. French had been widely spoken among Jews before the Haskalah period. *Berr Isaac Berr preferred Mendelssohn's German translation of the Pentateuch to the one existing in Yiddish until a proper Jewish-French translation had been made. In Hungary, the maskilim were active in substituting Hungarian for the Yiddish vernacular during the 1840s. Hungarian became the language of instruction in the Jewish schools of several communities and preachers even began to employ this language in synagogues.

Development of Hebrew

Hebrew was not only of central importance to people like Jacob Emden and Jonathan Eybeschuetz, who apparently wished that Jews should be able to speak fluent Hebrew; Mendelssohn also considered the Hebrew language a national treasure. In his Kohelet Musar, 3 issues (1750), he called for an extension of its frontiers, on the example of other living languages. Cultivation of Hebrew was also one of the aims of the Biur, the commentary on the Pentateuch initiated by Mendelssohn. For these scholars Hebrew meant biblical Hebrew. Study of the Bible held a central position in the educational program of the Haskalah movement, whereas both the content of the Talmud and even more so the style of Hebrew used in the 18th century, and by earlier Ashkenazi rabbis, drove Haskalah scholars to reject the post-biblical layers in the Hebrew language. The interest shown by German gentile scholars in the Bible and its language also contributed to a certain extent to the preference of Haskalah circles for biblical Hebrew, though from the beginning some voices expressed reservations toward this extremist approach (see also Ha-Me'assef (1784), 185).

Ha-Me'assef served as the organ of the Haskalah in its Hebrew aspect. It was published regularly between 1783 and 1790, with difficulties until 1797, and revived from 1809 to 1811. It was published by the Doreshei Leshon Ever ("Friends of the Hebrew Language") in Koenigsberg founded in 1783, and renamed in 1786 Shoharei ha-Tov ve-ha-Tushiyyah ve-Doreshei Leshon Ever ("Seekers of Good and Wisdom and Friends of the Hebrew Language"). Even Ha-Me'assef published articles in German; its publication ceased through extreme assimilation of the adherents of Haskalah, in particular in Germany and Austria. German attracted younger and progressive circles. The literary contribution by the so-called *Me'assefim generation was an important stage in the development of Hebrew language and literature. Hebrew became a vehicle for secular and professional scientific expression. Maskilim also contributed much to research in grammar and purity of expression. In Eastern Europe Hebrew remained the language of Haskalah literature for a longer period, appealing to a much wider public with deeper roots in Jewish culture than in Central and Western Europe. The maskilim there further developed and enlivened Hebrew (see Haskalah in Russia, below).


The adherents of Haskalah shared the rationalist belief in the boundless efficacy of a rational education. They therefore turned to a change in the curriculum and methods of teaching as the main means of shaping a new mode of Jewish life. The first school to be guided by this ideal was founded in Berlin in 1778 and named both Freischule ("Free School") and Hinnukh Ne'arim ("Youth Education"). It was primarily designed for children of the poor and was without fee. The curriculum included study of German and French, arithmetic, geography, history, natural sciences, art, some Bible studies, and Hebrew. The school had a revolutionary effect on Jewish education, for it heralded the transfer of the center of gravity from Jewish studies to general subjects. The school was successful from the beginning; only half of its 70 first pupils came from poor homes. Wessely's welcome of Joseph ii's educational proposals for Jews (Divrei Shalom ve-Emet, 4 pts. (1782–85)) and his call to the Jews of Austria to establish schools on this pattern were an outcome both of the success of the Freischule as well as the fear that if Jews themselves did not take the initiative, Jewish children would be compelled to attend the state schools. In this work Wessely set out both a detailed program and a basic philosophy for Haskalah education. German Jews of the upper social strata were ready for this program, though it aroused much rabbinical opposition, influenced from outside Germany.

In the same year (1785), the bishop of Mainz admitted 19 Jewish boys to the general school without difficulties. Many programs for Haskalah education were proposed, some drawing on the experience of Italian Jewish and Sephardi schools, whose curricula were considered near to Haskalah aims. The question of education was widely discussed in Ha-Me'assef. Some radical maskilim demanded that German and arithmetic should be taught to begin with and Hebrew reading and writing be added at a later stage. David Friedlaender sought to introduce German as the language of instruction in all subjects and the teaching of selected chapters of the Bible of ethical value to both boys and girls. In regard to religious instruction, he also suggested that only the ethical precepts be taught.

The maskilim, who despised the old-style Polish teachers, the melammedim, whom they considered uncouth and uncultured, were not satisfied with criticism alone. On their initiative new schools sprang up in Berlin, Dessau, and Frankfurt on the Main, among other places, in which Hebrew and general studies were taught. A limited number of hours were usually devoted to Hebrew studies, while study of the Talmud was almost completely abandoned. Several educators wrote textbooks where the educational aims of the Haskalah movement found expression. The first to be written were the ToledotYisrael (Prague, 1796), on Jewish history by Peter *Beer; Imrei Shefer (Vienna, 1816) and Bne-Zion (Ger., ibid., 1812), religious and moral readers for young people by Naphtali Herz Homberg. In 1807 a confirmation ceremony for boys in German, in imitation of the Christian custom, was introduced in the school at Wolfenbuettel, whence it spread to the other Jewish schools in Germany.

The influence of Haskalah also penetrated to Orthodox circles who were compelled to respond to the demands of the times. Even R. Ezekiel *Landau agreed that it was necessary "to know language and writing"; although "Torah is the main thing," "one should grasp both." R. *David Tevele of Lissa conceded to the emperor's request "to teach the children to speak and write the German language for an hour or two." The first "integral" schools (in which Jewish and general subjects were taught) were opened by the Orthodox in Halberstadt and Hamburg (see also Samson Raphael *Hirsch; *Neo-Orthodoxy).

Haskalah brought a considerable change in the education of girls. The daughters of the wealthy elite, who generally studied under private teachers, were taught European languages and music and played an important role in introducing European culture and Enlightenment ideas into Jewish life. The maskilim also began to show concern for the education of the daughters of the poor. Schools for girls were established in the 1790s in Breslau, Dessau, Koenigsberg, and Hamburg. The curriculum generally included some Hebrew, German, the fundamentals of religion and ethics, prayers, and arithmetic; there were also schools where the writing of Yiddish, handiwork, art, and singing were taught.

Schools with curricula based on the educational ideals of Haskalah were also established in France and other Western European countries. On the example of the "integral" schools in Germany, similar schools were also founded in East European countries. In 1813 a school was founded by Josef *Perl in Tarnopol (Galicia), where in addition to Bible, Mishnah, Gemara, and Hebrew grammar, the subjects of Polish, French, arithmetic, history, and geography were also taught; the language of instruction was German and there were also classes for girls. A similar school was established in Lvov in 1845. In Warsaw, three schools in which the language of instruction was Polish were established by Jacob *Tugendhold in 1819; two schools for girls were also established here.

With the foundation of the new schools, the problem of training teachers arose. Isaac *Euchel, David Friedlaender, and Judah Loeb *Jeiteles were among the first maskilim to raise this problem. Special institutions were established, but on many occasions the rabbinical seminaries also served this purpose. The first teachers' training seminary was opened in Kassel in 1810 by the consistory of the kingdom of Westphalia, followed by others through the first half of the 19th century. A seminary for teachers and rabbis was opened in Amsterdam in 1836 and a seminary for teachers in Budapest in 1857. Secondary schools did not develop anywhere. Only the Philanthropin school at Frankfurt extended its curriculum in 1813 to include a secondary science-orientated section providing six years' studies after the four years of elementary classes. Some private institutions of a commercial-science orientation were established in Berlin. Those who went on to secondary studies generally attended non-Jewish institutions.

government intervention in jewish education

The educational ideals of Haskalah largely coincided with the aims set out for "improvement of the Jews" (see *emancipation) and their education as conceived by "enlightened" absolutist rulers. Typical were the edicts issued by Joseph ii for the Jews of Bohemia (1781), Moravia (1782), Hungary (1783), and Galicia (1789). The Jews were ordered to establish "normal" schools or to send their children to the state schools; Jews were also permitted to enter secondary schools and universities. Anyone who studied Talmud before completing the school curriculum was liable to be sentenced to a term of imprisonment; marriage was prohibited without a certificate of school attendance.

As a result of these edicts, 42 schools were opened in Moravian communities by 1784, 25 in Bohemia by 1787, and about 30 in Hungary by the end of the 1780s. In Galicia 104 schools were established but were closed down in 1806 during the period of reaction for fear of the "harmful" influence of the "anti-religious" Jewish teachers. Naphtali Herz Homberg was appointed to supervise the program in Galicia. In most German states the process of government intervention in the education of the Jews occurred at the beginning of the 19th century. Usually the Jews were ordered to establish secular schools for the education of their children or to send them to the general schools. There were also some states in Germany which at first did not authorize the Jews to establish separate schools and preferred that education be given to the Jewish children in the ḥeder or the public schools. In Prussia the general schools were opened to Jewish children in 1803; until 1847 the separate Jewish schools were recognized only as private schools. The trend toward Germanization was especially marked among the large Jewish population in the Polish region of former *Great Poland.

Some states also intervened in regard to yeshivot. They began to demand that the rabbis should have a general education and especially instruction in philosophy. In 1820 Francis i of Austria issued a decree obliging rabbis to acquire secular education and employ the language of the country in prayers and sermons. A rabbinical seminary, the first of its kind was opened in Padua in 1829. This was followed up in many states and in different forms through the first half of the 19th century (see: *Rabbinical Seminaries).

The advocates of "improvement of the Jews" (see *emancipation; C.W. von *Dohm) considered the restructuring of their occupations from moneylending and trade to productivization through taking up crafts and agriculture to be an essential element in and precondition for accomplishing both betterment of their character and their position. In the main the maskilim accepted this social and economic program as well as the criticism of Jewish life it implied. They hoped that productivization would bring a moral regeneration as well as change the image of the Jew for enlightened Christians. In the new schools established by the maskilim in Germany (see above), instruction in crafts was also introduced and some also took care that their graduates should be apprenticed to Christian craftsmen. In various German states, societies to care for the interests of Jewish apprentices were organized. In Berlin a society for the Promotion of Industry was established in 1812 following the emancipation law issued in Prussia that year. Its objective was "to awaken and promote as much as possible the creative spirit among members of the Jewish religion by means of support and encouragement" and to "courageously refute the old-established opinion that we supposedly have an exclusive tendency to commerce" (see also *Joseph ii; *Crafts). Naphtali Herz Homberg advocated manual work which he considered was necessary from the moral as well as economic aspect. Homberg based his opinion on sayings of the rabbis in the Talmud in praise of labor and condemned the prevailing attitude of contempt toward the "worker" within Jewish society. Like Mendelssohn, he did not completely reject commerce from the aspect of its utility for society, but considered that the creativity of manual labor surpassed commerce from the aspect of social morality. Phinehas Elijah *Hurwitz complained that "the majority of our people do not want their sons to be taught crafts because they say with pride and arrogance that the occupation of crafts is shameful for us." He considered that commerce contributed to hatred of the Jews and to the allegation widespread among non-Jews that the Talmud teaches the Jews how to deceive them.

Cooperating with the authorities of the enlightened absolutist states and other regimes to promote general education and productivization among Jews, with the majority agreeing on the need for improvement of the Jews and the desirability of their assimilation, Haskalah circles found it natural to emphasize the complete loyalty which Jews acknowledged to the secular rulers as their protectors, and to the country and state as the framework for their security of life and autonomy. The maskilim did not content themselves with the traditional prayers for the king. Laudatory poems were written in honor of Frederick the Great of Prussia, noted for his "love" of the Jews. The Austrian emperor, Joseph ii, was also honored with enthusiastic poems of praise and thanksgiving. Their enthusiasm for reform led a number of maskilim to advise the authorities how to "improve" the Jews without paying attention to whether these improvements were desired by them or not. Some collaborated with the authorities and bypassed the regular heads of the Orthodox communities not hesitating to slander them, a method used by Naphtali Herz Homberg and his staff of teachers in Galicia.

Trends in Ideology

An ahistoric stand, inclination to assimilation, and desire for emancipation helped to erode messianic hopes in Jewish society, at the close of the 17th and the first half of the 18th century, a trend apparent in Amsterdam, Italy, and Germany. The general anti-messianic position taken by maskilim was aided by the failure of the *Shabbetai Zevi movement. Jacob Emden quoted Jonathan Eybeschuetz as having preached that the main achievement of the Messiah for the Jews would be that "they would find clemency among the nations" – a traditional expression for attainment of a better legal and social status. The messianism of Jacob *Frank was oriented to nihilistic religious experience and to the conditions of contemporary Jewish existence in Poland. Some have regarded these attitudes as the catalysts of the anti-halakhic movement and the weakening of messianic hopes in Haskalah. Mendelssohn adhered in principle to the messianic hope, though he considered that it did not have "any influence on our civic behavior" – at least not in places where "they have treated the Jews with tolerance"; in his view the redemption would come through the Divine Will alone, though he once gave his opinion that the return of the Jewish people to Erez Israel could be a political-secular event, during a world war. A few maskilim, according to Mordecai Schnaber, equated the Messiah with the reign of universal peace and toleration. Zalkind Hourwitz in his Apologie des Juifs (Paris, 1789) thought like Mendelssohn that the effect of messianic faith on the actual behavior of Jews was similar to the influence of the certainty of death on human activity; "this does not prevent them… from building, sowing, and planting in every place where they are permitted to do so."

After emancipation was attained a further weakening of messianic faith set in. When latter-day maskilim began to combine Haskalah ideology with a nationalist Jewish attitude their anti-messianic stand became a starting point for aspirations for redemption by natural agency (see *Hibbat Zion; *Zionism). Mendelssohn, however, regarded the Torah as a kind of divine legislation intended for the Jewish society and state only; but he saw this type of Jewish unity as a society of theists; nationalism per se was absent in his theory regarding the Jews.

Many maskilim identified themselves emotionally and expressly as "Germans." In his German writings, Mendelssohn repeatedly uses the phrase "we Germans," and he criticized use of the expression "Germans and Jews" instead of "Christians and Jews" by Johann David *Michaelis. After Jewish emancipation had been attained in France in 1791, Berr Isaac Berr proclaimed: "By Divine Mercy and the government of the people, we have now become not only men, not only citizens, but also Frenchmen." The *Assembly of Jewish Notables convened by Napoleon in 1806 coined the term "Frenchmen of the Mosaic religion." It also declared that "the Jews are no longer a nation" and that "France is our fatherland." From 1807 the appellation "israélite" in France (in German "Israelit") also spread to the German states. The change expressed trends to assimilation as well as a tendency to efface former appellations for Jews that had become connected with an odious image. Both fitted in with Haskalah ideology.

Haskalah ideology was one of the foundations of the *Reform movement in the Jewish religion. The idea of reform had already been conceived by David Friedlaender in 1799. Through his influence the first steps in reform were taken by Israel *Jacobson, in the state of Westphalia. Friedlaender himself began to introduce reform in religion in Berlin after the Jews of Prussia had obtained their emancipation in 1812. He called for exclusion from the prayer book of all prayers for the return to Zion and the dirges on the destruction of the Temple, and demanded that prayers be recited in German; with this he also desired that the "society of true theists," after the expression of Mendelssohn, continue to exist. Haskalah ideology was also the basis for the efforts and achievements of the founders of the *Wissenschaft des Judentums in 1819 (see also Zacharias *Frankel; Abraham *Geiger; Marcus *Jost; Moritz *Steinschneider; Solomon Judah *Rapoport; Nachman *Krochmal; Samuel David *Luzzatto; Leopold *Zunz).

The beginnings of a renewed modern interest in Jewish history are already found in the generation of Mendelssohn and Wessely. In Ha-Me'assef, a special section was set aside for "biographies of eminent Jewish personalities" in which popular articles were written on Maimonides, Don Isaac Abrabanel, Moses Raphael de Aguilar, Isaac Orobio de Castro, and others. In these articles the first efforts were also made to bring to light ancient sources. The program of Ha-Me'assef also included the publication of works on the biographies of "living Jewish scholars." Accordingly Isaac *Euchel wrote a biography of Mendelssohn, and David *Friedrichsfeld a biography of Wessely (the two works were however published after the deaths of Mendelssohn and Wessely). In addition, a section of Ha-Me'assef was to deal with "the innovations taking place among our people which concern all the Jews, on their freedom in some countries, and the education of their youth… for the utility of youth with a quest for knowledge." Biographies of eminent Jewish personalities were also published in Shulamit. However, serious research into Jewish history on a wide scale was taken up by Haskalah circles when the poet and scholar Solomon *Loewisohn published his work Vorlesungen ueber die neuere Geschichte der Juden in Vienna in 1820, the first Haskalah attempt to present a general view of Jewish history from the earlier Diaspora period down to the time of the author.

Haskalah thus became one of the mainsprings of a renewed study of the nature of Judaism and the fate of the Jewish people. Mendelssohn attempted to demonstrate the superiority of Judaism over Christianity in his description of Judaism as a rational religion and of the practical precepts as the laws of the former Jewish state (and possibly also a future state) and as symbols of the ideals of the rational faith. Mendelssohn apparently thought that even at the millennium, when the whole world would submit to the "yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven," the Jews would still be obliged to observe the precepts because their function as "symbols," as educational factors, would never be abrogated. This was because Mendelssohn did not believe in the entire perfectibility of mankind in any period, seeing that "the whole of humanity is in constant motion, either in ascent or decline." Even though Mendelssohn did not say so explicitly, it may be assumed that his references to the election of Israel and its mission were not only intended to explain the past but also to indicate the situation in the future.

During the 19th century further attempts were made in the Haskalah camp to define the nature of Judaism. Some regarded Judaism as a "spiritual religion" in contrast to the idolatrous religions which were "religions of nature" and in contrast to Christianity, which served as the battleground between the elements in the Jewish "spiritual religion" and the idolatrous elements (Solomon *Formstecher). Others regarded Judaism as a moral religion, a religion of the heart and the emotions, in contrast to Hellenism, the religion of cold reason (S.D. Luzzatto, and others). N. Krochmal defined the faith of Israel as belief in the Infinite "Absolute Spiritual One" and considered this to be the secret of the eternity of the Jewish people. The growing development of historical consciousness supplanted traditional views on the fate of Israel in Haskalah thought. Exile was no longer conceived as a chastisement meted out by Providence, but the result of natural historical factors. In the West, emancipation was generally regarded as the end of the Exile (see *Galut). However, the difficult struggle for emancipation, which in Germany extended over several decades, awakened some doubts on the future of the Jews in Europe and here and there some far-reaching conclusions, such as emigration to America or a return to Palestine (Mordecai Manuel *Noah; *Salvador; Moses *Hess).

[Azriel Shochat/

Judith R. Baskin (2nd ed.)]

Haskalah in Russia

Haskalah was introduced into Russia from Western Europe, particularly Germany. It was brought to the communities of Lithuania and Ukraine by merchants, physicians, and itinerant Jewish scholars from the close of the 18th century. As early as the 1780s some Jews in towns of Lithuania and Poland were subscribers to the Biur of Moses Mendelssohn and Ha-Me'assef of the German maskilim. The earliest maskilim in Eastern Europe were Israel Zamosc, Solomon Dubno, Judah *Hurwitz, Judah Loeb *Margolioth, Baruch *Schick, and Mendel *Lefin. They maintained direct relations with the maskilim of Berlin, but when spreading Haskalah in their own environment they based themselves formally on the views of *Elijah b. Solomon Zalman, the Gaon of Vilna, and regarded themselves as his disciples. Baruch Schick, who published several works on mathematics and astronomy, wrote in his introduction to his translation of Euclid (Amsterdam, 1780) that he had heard the Gaon state that "in proportion to a man's ignorance of the other sciences, he will be ignorant of one hundred measures of the science of the Torah." Solomon Dubno contributed to the Biur, Mendelssohn's commentary on the Bible. Phinehas Hurwitz published the Sefer ha-Berit (Bruenn, 1797), a type of encyclopedia of various sciences, combining ethical observations and research in the spirit of moderate Haskalah. *Manasseh b. Joseph of Ilya, who was persecuted by the zealots for his free ideas, also belonged to this circle. As customary at this time, all these authors sought and obtained the written approval of outstanding rabbis for their works.

At the close of the 18th century the wealthy maskil Joshua Zeitlin established a center for maskilim and traditional Torah scholars on his estate near Shklov. In his large library they were able to dedicate themselves to their studies and religious perfection. Included in this group were Baruch Schick and Mendel Lefin of Satanov. These maskilim made use of their relations with the Russian authorities as merchants, purveyors, and physicians, and submitted proposals to the administration for the improvement of the situation of the Jews by admitting them to various crafts, by the encouragement of agricultural settlement, and by the opening of modern schools for the Jews (memoranda of Jacob Hirsch of Mogilev, 1783; of Nathan Note *Notkin of Shklov, 1797; of the physician Jacob Elijah Frank of Kreslavka (Kraslava), 1800). The maskilim already concerned themselves with spreading education among the masses during this period. While having reservations against the use of Yiddish, they wrote works in that language for the education of the people. The physician Moses Markuse published Sefer Refu'ot in Poritsk, Volhynia, in 1790 in which he offered, as well as medical advice, guidance on the education of children. In 1817 the merchant Chaim Haykl *Hurwitz of Uman published his Tsofnas Paneakh, an adaption of the work of J. Campe, Die Entdeckung von Amerika.

A small group of maskilim organized themselves in the new community which was established in St. Petersburg at the close of the 18th century. Their outlook was expressed in the Russian pamphlet Vopl docheri iudeyskoy (1802), published in a Hebrew version, Kol Shavat Bat Yehudah, in Shklov a year later. Written on the occasion of the debate on the Jewish problem which then took place within the Russian government, it took up the defense of the Jewish people, and included a plea that kindness and mercy be shown to it. A few years later its author, Judah Leib *Nevakhovich, became an apostate, as did his patron, the merchant Abraham *Peretz, the son-in-law of Nathan Note Notkin. These conversions, as well as the information concerning the epidemic of conversions among the maskilim of Germany, stiffened the hostility and suspicions felt by the mass of Jews in Russia toward the maskilim. They became a considerable obstacle in the spread of Haskalah there.

During the 1820s the Haskalah movement was revived in Lithuania and Southern Russia. Its promoters were emigrants from Galicia, such as the "Brodysts" in Odessa, as well as Jews from Courland, influenced by German culture, and the inhabitants of the townlets bordering upon Prussia and Courland (Raseiniai; Zagare). During this period the maskilim gained a hold in Vilna, one of the centers of commerce with Western Europe. The maskilim, who dressed in German style and insisted on speaking pure German among themselves instead of Yiddish, which they regarded as a corrupted German dialect, were referred to by the masses as "Deytshen" or "Berliners." One of their main aims was to establish modern Jewish schools in which the pupils would be taught general subjects and Jewish studies in the German language. In 1822, Hirsch Hurwitz (son of the above-mentioned Chaim Haykl Hurwitz) founded a school in Uman based on the "Mendelssohnian system." Of even greater importance was the foundation of a Jewish school in Odessa under the direction of Bezalel *Stern (1826). Similar schools were subsequently founded in Riga, Kishinev, and Vilna. During those years, the program of the maskilim was elaborated by Isaac Dov (Baer) *Levinsohn (Ribal) of Kremenets in his Te'udah be-Yisrael (Vilna, 1828) and Beit Yehudah (ibid., 1839). The essence of this program was the establishment of a network of elementary schools for boys and girls in which the pupils would study Jewish and general subjects, as well as some kind of a profession; it also included the foundation of high schools for the more talented children, the promotion of productivization, particularly agriculture, among the Jewish masses, and departure from Yiddish in favor of "the pure German or Russian language."

The maskilim endeavored to organize themselves under the difficult conditions for free organization in general and for the Jews in particular during the reign of Czar Nicholas I. In many towns small groups of maskilim were established, among them the Shoharei Or ve-Haskalah ("Seekers of Light and Education") society founded by Israel Rothenberg in Berdichev, the Maskilim Society in Raseiniai, and the Maskilim Group led by the author Mordecai Aaron Guenzburg in Vilna, which established its own synagogue, Taharat ha-Kodesh, in 1846. Harassed by censorship, they struggled to publish their works, which included the first Hebrew literary periodical there, Pirhei Zafon (Vilna, 1841). Among them a modern Hebrew literature began to emerge. Mordecai Aaron Guenzburg wrote stories based on Jewish, general, and Russian history, adapted from non-Jewish sources or collected from other authors in this period. During the following years, Kalman *Schulmann proceeded with this enterprise. A number of poets wrote on secular subjects in lyrical Hebrew, many expressing the ideas of Haskalah. The most prominent in this group were Abraham *Dov Lebensohn (Adam ha-Kohen), whose first collection of poems, Shirei Sefat Kodesh, was published in Leipzig in 1842, his son Micah Joseph *Lebensohn (Mikhal), and the leading Haskalah poet, Judah Leib *Gordon. Abraham *Mapu created the Hebrew novel, and his Ahavat Ziyyon (Vilna, 1853) has become a landmark in the history of Hebrew literature. Despite their opposition to Yiddish, the Haskalah authors wrote works in this language in order to propagate their ideas among the masses by means of stories and works of popular science. The most outstanding of these authors, Isaac Meir *Dick, wrote hundreds of stories which were published in Vilna and Warsaw. Israel *Axenfeld and Solomon *Ettinger wrote stories and plays in the Haskalah spirit. Many of their works could not be published because of the censorship and were circulated in manuscript.

Even in the period of oppression and anti-Jewish legislation during the reign of Nicholas i, the maskilim looked upon the Russian government as a supporting force in their struggle for the realization of their ideas. In memoranda submitted to the authorities, they called for the imposition of reforms on the masses, such as change of their traditional dress for the European clothes of the period, and the strict supervision of Hebrew printing presses which were to be reduced to two or three in the whole country in order to make this possible. The government accepted these proposals and had them enforced. The maskilim found particular satisfaction in the government's program to establish a network of governmental Jewish schools in which the language of instruction would be German (later Russian). During the early 1840s the government entrusted Max *Lilienthal, the principal of the Jewish school of Riga, with the execution of this program. He was assisted by the local maskilim in every town. During the 1840s and 1850s many such schools were founded in the towns of the Pale of Settlement. Their Jewish teachers were drawn from maskilim circles who were granted the status of government functionaries. In Vilna and Zhitomir, government rabbinical seminaries were established. Their students were exempted from military service and were trained with the aim of becoming the future teachers and rabbis of the Jewish communities. In these schools and seminaries, which were financed by special taxes imposed on the masses (*candle tax), a new class of maskilim was educated. They received their education in Russian, and their ties with the Hebrew language and Jewish tradition were flimsy.

Haskalah received considerable stimulus through economic changes, particularly when a wide class of Jews engaged in liquor contracting emerged. As a result of their contracts with government officials, they and their employees required a knowledge of the Russian language, arithmetic, and other sciences. There thus arose a whole class of thousands of families who were no longer dependent on Jewish society from the economic and social point of view. These Jews wore the non-Jewish dress, neglected the observance of the religious precepts, shaved their beards, and were drawn closer to the Russian language and culture. The maskil of the former generation had been self-taught, familiar with Jewish literature, whose principal education was drawn from German literature, as well as from the Hokhmat Yisrael ("Jewish Science") literature. In contrast, the new maskil received his education in a Russian-Jewish school or in a general Russian school and was conspicuous for his considerable alienation from Jewish tradition.

The period of the important reforms at the beginning of the reign of Alexander ii and the suppression of the Polish uprising in 1863 gave a strong impetus to the spread of Haskalah among the masses of Jewish youth. The Jewish press, whose founders, journalists, and publishers were essentially maskilim, played a decisive role in this development. Among newspapers outstanding for their struggle in favor of Haskalah were the Hebrew *Ha-Meliz (founded in 1860) and the Yiddish *Kol Mevasser (1862), issued by A. *Zederbaum and first published in Odessa. The first newspapers issued by the Russian-oriented maskilim also appeared in Odessa, *Razsvet and Sion (in 1860/61) and Den (1869–71), to which the leading Russian maskilim contributed. The older authors were joined by new ones, among them S.J. *Abramovitsh (later Mendele Mokher Seforim), who wrote in Hebrew and Yiddish, I.J. *Linetzky (Yiddish), L. *Levanda, and G. Bogrov (Russian). Their writings produced a more advanced stage in Haskalah ideology, which found its expression in the saying of the poet J.L. Gordon: "Be a man when you go out and a Jew in your home." This press called for an alliance between the Jewish maskilim and the Russian government in order to fight "those in darkness" from within, especially the Hasidim and their ẓaddikim, and to support the governmental Russification policy throughout the Pale of Settlement. During the 1860s the institution of kazyonny ravvin ("government-appointed rabbi") was introduced. Its candidates were drawn from the ranks of the maskilim who had been educated in the Russian-Jewish schools.

In 1863, on the initiative of the richest Jews of the capital (the *Guenzburg, *Polyakov, and *Rosenthal families), the Hevrat Mefizei ha-Haskalah ("*Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia") was founded in St. Petersburg. This society came to the assistance of maskilim in the provincial towns, particularly high-school students, and encouraged the publication of Haskalah literature in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian.

Most of the maskilim believed the general assumption that Russia, in the wake of the other European states, was about to declare the emancipation of the Jews. The rights which had been granted to certain Jewish circles, such as the large-scale merchants (1859), intellectuals (1861), craftsmen (1865), and members of the medical profession (physicians, pharmacists, male nurses, midwives, etc.), seemed to point in that direction. The introduction of the general obligation of military service (1874), which included important concessions in the conditions and period of service for those with a Russian education, prompted many parents to send their children to the Russian schools. While in 1870 only 2,045 Jewish children studied in Russian secondary schools, by 1880 their numbers had increased to 8,000.

During this period there were two marked trends among the maskilim. One called for a rapid association with the Russian nation, even to the point of assimilation. The Hebrew language (and all the more so Yiddish) was merely regarded as a temporary instrument for spreading Haskalah among the retarded masses. At most, adherents to this trend recognized the need for the promotion of Wissenschaft des Judentums in the Russian language. This was the path which had been adopted by West European Jewry and along which Russian Judaism was also to be led. On the other hand, the standard-bearers of a nationalist ideology which called for the fostering of the Hebrew language and loyalty to Jewish nationalism also raised their voices. The voice of this trend was the newspaper – *Ha-Shahar (1868–84), published by Peretz *Smolenskin in Vienna but particularly addressed to Russian Jewry. Smolenskin sharply criticized the Mendelssohnian Haskalah and called for the promotion of Jewish nationalist values. During this period, however, he was a lone voice. To the majority of the maskilim it appeared that the historical evolution which had taken place in Western Europe would also overtake Russian Jewry. Some opinions considered this evolution to be natural and desirable, even drawing some far-reaching conclusions from it (A.U. *Kovner), while others expressed their regrets with regard to it (J.L. Gordon, in Le-Mi Ani Amel, 1871).

A significant change, however, occurred in the lives of the Russian Jews during the 1870s. The breakthrough into the general economy and Russian culture by the Jews resulted in the emergence of a powerful anti-Jewish movement, whose spokesmen included leading Russian intellectuals (Aksakov; Dostoyevski). A press inciting the Russian masses against the Jews and warning them of "domination" by the Jews, especially intellectuals, over the country was created. The reaction that set in in Russia in the wake of Alexander ii's assassination at first resulted in anti-Jewish pogroms (1881–83) and later in severe restrictions of Jewish rights. One of these, the *numerus clausus, was especially designed to bar the way of the Jewish youth to the Russian schools.

The maskilim reacted to this situation in various ways. Those of the older generation attempted to adhere to their policies and placed their faith in "progress" which would eventually be victorious and bring the anticipated emancipation. This circle of Jewish-Russian intelligentsia centered around the newspaper *Voskhod (St. Petersburg, 1881–1906). A considerable section of Jewish youth joined the Russian revolutionary movement with the hope that the fall of the czarist regime would eliminate all restrictions, and that the Jews would be assimilated and rapidly absorbed within the Russian people so that the Jewish problem would automatically disappear. Another section of the older generation and the intellectual Jewish youth resorted to Jewish nationalism. They established the *Ḥibbat Zion movement which considered that the solution of the Jewish problem in Russia lay in the emigration of the Jews to Ereẓ Israel where they would engage in productive occupations. They called for an alliance with the Jewish masses who were attached to their traditions and language in order to realize this project. The organ of this sector was the Jewish-Russian newspaper Razsvet (1879–83) and later Ha-Meliẓ. Haskalah, as an ideological trend on the Jewish scene, now ceded its place to the new trends, all of which – even if they violently criticized Haskalah from various directions – had received many of their ideas from it.

Even if from the historical point of view Russian Haskalah was a continuation of the Central European it nevertheless possessed an originality stemming from the particular character of Russian Jewry. The large number of Jews in that country and their great concentrations in the towns and townlets of the Pale of Settlement prevented the Haskalah movement from degenerating into a rapid course of assimilation and disintegration, as had occurred in Western Europe. In Russia the new Hebrew literature became a permanent fact and not an ephemeral phenomenon as in the West. Haskalah produced, even if in opposition to its own ideology, a secular literature in Yiddish, especially of Yiddish fiction. It gave rise to an alert Jewish press in three languages, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian. It also bequeathed to the nationalist movement, and particularly to the Zionist movement, the idea of productivization of the Jewish masses and their transition to labor in general and agricultural work in particular.

In the last three decades of the 19th century, the Haskalah in Eastern Europe had a significant literary impact on Jewish women as both readers and writers. As in Western and Central Europe, women preceded men in their knowledge of European languages and culture and as readers of secular Jewish literature in both Yiddish and Hebrew, particularly fiction and poetry. Often, women readers introduced new ideas into their families which contributed to the undermining of the values of traditional society. Reading of worlds and opportunities previously unimagined, they exerted a strong influence against the cultural constraints of their restricted society, sometimes encouraging the men in their circles to defect from the limitations of the yeshivah world (I. Parush, Reading Jewish Women).

Numerous female authors wrote and published poetry and prose in Hebrew, Yiddish, and particularly Russian periodicals between 1870 and 1914. Some came from the shtetl; others, the daughters of prosperous middle-class urban Jews, attended gymnasia, learned European languages, and earned university degrees. Among women writing in Hebrew was Sarah Feiga Meinkin Foner (1855–1936) of Dvinsk, Latvia, the first woman to publish a Hebrew novel (The Love of the Honest (Vilna, 1881–83)). She went on to write children's stories, a novella, and a memoir (C. Balin, "To Reveal Our Hearts," 22–23). Miriam Markel-Mosessohn (1839–1920), an excellent Hebraist who became a protégée of Judah Leib Gordon, mainly devoted herself to translating European literature into Hebrew and journalism, apparently believing it was inappropriate for a woman to write original works in Hebrew.

[Yehuda Slutsky /

Judith R. Baskin (2nd ed.)]


Z. Yavetz, n: Keneset Yisrael, 1 (1896), 89–152; S. Bernfeld, Dor Hakham (1896); idem, Dor Tahppukhot, 2 vols. (1897); Graetz, Hist, 5 (1895); Dubnow, Weltgesch, 8 (1928); 9 (1929); Y. Kaufmann, Golah ve-Nekhar, 2 (1930); B. Offenburg, Das Erwachen des deutschen Nationalbewusstseins in der preussischen Judenheit (1933); M. Wiener, Juedische Religion im Zeitalter der Emanzipation (1933); J. Katz, Die Entstehung der Judenassimilation in Deutschland und deren Ideologie (1935); idem, Tradition and Crisis (1961), 260–74; A. Orinovsky, in: Rishonim: Kovez Mukdash la-"Kursim ha-Pedagogiyyim ha-Grodna'iyyim" (1936), 174–89; Baron, Social, 3 (1937); P. Sandler, Ha-Be'ur la-Torah shel Moshe Mendelssohn (1941); G. Scholem, Mi-Tokh Hirhurim al Hokhmat Yisrael (1945; repr. from: Lu'ah ha-Arez (1945), 94ff.); Y. Fleishman, in: Erkhei ha-Yahadut (1953); E. Simon, in: Sefer ha-Yovel…Mordekhai Menahem Kaplan (1953), 149–87; R. Mahler, Divrei Yemei Yisrael, Dorot Aharonim, 2 (1954), 57–88, 223–43; 3 (1955), 34–94, 169–72; 4 (1956), 9–90; idem, Ha-Hasidutve-ha-Haskalah (1961); B. Dinur, Be-Mifneh ha-Dorot (1955), 231–54; idem, in: Tarbiz, 20 (1959), 241–64; B. Katz, Rabbanut, Hasidut, Haskalah, 1 (1956), 140–266; 2 (1958), 122–251; Zinberg, Sifrut, 3 (1958), 260–335; 5 (1959), 13–143, 258–99; 6 (1960); J. Klausner, in: YahadutLita, 1 (1960), 405–12; M. Eliav, Ha-Hinnukh ha-Yehudi be-Germanyah bi-Ymei ha-Haskalah ve-ha-Emanzipazyah (1960); Y. Slutski, in: Zion, 25 (1960), 212–37; A. Schochat, Im Hillufei Tekufot (1960); idem, in: Ha-Molad, 23 (1965/66), 328–34; I.E. Barzilay, Shelomo Yehudah Rapoport (Shir) 17901867 (Eng. 1969); idem, in: paajr, 24 (1955), 39–68; 25 (1956), 1–38; idem, in: jsos, 21 (1959), 165–92; S. Ettinger, in: H.H. Ben-Sasson (ed.), Toledot Am Yisrael, 3 (1969); Z. Rejzen, Fun Mendelssohn bis Mendele (1923); M. Erik, Etyudn tsu der Geshikhte fun der Haskole (1934); H.S. Kazdan, Fun Heder un Shkoles bis cysh-O (1956), 19–64. haskalah in russia: J.S. Raisin, The Haskalah Movement in Russia (1913); S. Spiegel, Hebrew Reborn (1930); D. Patterson, The Hebrew Novel in Czarist Russia (1964); J. Meisel, Haskala, Geschichte der Aufklaerungsbewegung unter den Juden in Russland (1919); S. Tsinberg (Zinberg), Istoriya yevreyskoy pechati v Rossii (1915); E. Tcherikower, Istoriya Obshchestva dlya rasprostraneniya prasveshcheniya mezhdu yevreyami v Rossii (1913); P. Marek, Ocherki po istorii Prosveshcheniya (1909); 9 (19582), 130–4, 225–38; Klausner, Sifrut, 3–4 (1953–54); R. Mahler, Divrei Yemei Yisrael, Dorot Aharonim, 4 (1956), 53–68; Y. Slutski, Ha-Ittonut ha Yehudit-Rusit ba-Me'ah ha-19 (1970); J. Shatzky, Kultur Geshikhte fun der Haskole in Lite (1950); I. Sosis, Di Geshikhte fun di Yidishe Gezelshaftlekhe Shtremungen in Rusland in 19th Yorhundert (1929); M. Erik, Etyudn tsu der Geshikhte fun der Haskole (1934). add. bibliography: D. Biale, Eros and the Jews (1992); D. Hertz, Jewish High Society in Old Regime Berlin (1988); C.B. Balin, "To Reveal Our Hearts": Jewish Women Writers in Tsarist Russia (2000); I. Parush, Reading Jewish Women: Marginality and Modernization in Nineteenth-Century European Jewish Society (2004).

Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment)

views updated Jun 08 2018


HASKALAH (JEWISH ENLIGHTENMENT). "Haskalah" is the Hebrew term for the Enlightenment movement and ideology that began in European Jewish society in the 1770s and continued until the 1880s. A proponent of the Haskalah was known as a maskil ('an enlightened Jew'; pl. maskilim ). The Haskalah shared many aspects of the European Enlightenments, but as a national variant of the general movement it also addressed specific Jewish concerns of the period. The Haskalah was a feature of Ashkenazic Jewish society, the branch of world Jewry with origins in medieval French and German lands whose descendents inhabited German lands, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the partitioned lands of Poland. Beginning in Prussia, and spreading eastward to Austrian Galicia and tsarist Russia, the Haskalah, like the European Enlightenment, was an optimistic, self-conscious intellectual movement that urged European Jews to dare to liberate themselves from their past and fashion their own lives, in the spirit of Immanuel Kant's well-known answer to the question, "Was ist Aufklärung?"; in the Jewish case, maskilim exhorted their brethren to unfetter themselves from and transform the culture of early modern Ashkenazic Judaism. Maskilim, like other European enlighteners, turned back to a classical era in search of an unbenighted rational past free of superstition and religious intolerance. But, in contrast to philosophes and Aufklärer, who, in Peter Gay's interpretation, found their model in the ancient Greco-Roman world, Jewish enlighteners favored the "golden age" of medieval Iberian-Jewish culture, seeking to remake early modern Ashkenazic Jewish culture in its image.


Contemporary European Jewish society, in the minds of the maskilim, had become insular, valorizing the study of Talmud and its commentaries to the exclusion of the Hebrew Bible, biblical grammar, Hebrew poetry, and humanistic subjects, such as mathematics, geography, natural science, and history, that were indispensable to modern European life. According to the maskilim' s critique, the ideal of the Torah Sage (talmid hakham), together with the exclusionary legislation of the non-Jewish political authorities, had resulted in a distorted Jewish economic profile concentrated solely in trade and other "unproductive" professions. Moreover, early modern Ashkenazic Jewry's attachment to minhag (religious custom), in addition to its observance of traditional Jewish law, had deepened its parochialism, leading to an explosion of new Jewish rituals that hindered participation in broader European society. Maskilim resoundingly judged Yiddish, Ashkenazic Jewry's capacious vernacular composed of German, Hebrew, Slavic, and Romance-language components, as incapable of elevating Jewish culture and unsuitable for expressing the values of modern Jewish life. Perforce, the Haskalah was decidedly male, for early modern Jewish life was gendered, and only Jewish men received the requisite education in traditional Jewish languages and texts for a full-scale enlightened critique of their culture.

Marked by a didactic commitment to regenerate and revitalize Ashkenazic Jewish culture as a means of preserving Jewish life in the modern world, the Haskalah gave voice to a new kind of European Jew, a secular intelligent. The worldview of the maskilim, individuals in the process of "enlightening" themselves, was shaped by an ideology of creative tension between the worlds of traditional Jewish culture and European society and values, what the Prussian maskil Naphtali Herz Wessely (17251805) called Torat ha-Adam (secular knowledge) and Torat ha-Elohim (sacred knowledge) in his programmatic educational pamphlet, Divrei Shalom ve-Eme (Words of peace and truth, 1782). In contrast to activists in the European Enlightenment who were already Europeans, the maskilim not only waged a self-conscious battle to regenerate Ashkenazic Jewish culture, but also struggled to justify Jewish participation in European society as men, like all other men, endowed with the universal faculty of reason. The Haskalah, in its defense of Jewish particularism, qualified the universalism of the Enlightenment.

The figure of Moses Mendelssohn (17291786), son of a poor Jewish scribe from Dessau who settled in Berlin, the center of the Prussian Enlightenment, epitomized the new type of European Jew. Mendelssohn remained devout throughout his life, yet acquired a vast reservoir of secular and non-Jewish knowledge that he applied to philosophical, political, and exegetical writings, penned in both flawless German and impeccable Hebrew. His Jerusalem, or on Religious Power and Judaism (1783), a philosophic defense of the compatibility of the observance of Jewish law with the ideals of Enlightenment natural religion, expressed the Haskalah's conservative attitude toward revelation and inherited traditions, a posture characteristic of the moderate German Aufklärung' s debt to the philosophy of Christian Wolff. Shaped in the Prussian context, the Haskalah lacked the anticlericalism and critique of the religious establishment that motivated the French philosophe's conception of Enlightenment.

The generation of Prussian maskilim after Mendelssohn institutionalized the movement by establishing periodicals (Ha-Me'assef/ the Gatherer), publishing houses (Hevrat Hinukh Ne'arim/Society for the Education of the Youth), reading circles (Hevrat Dorshei Leshon Ever/The Society for the Promotion of the Hebrew Language, 1782, Königsberg), and schools (Jüdische Freischule/ Jewish Elementary School, 1778), with new textbooks (Lesebuch für jüdische Kinder/ Reader for Jewish children, 1779), activities supported by the maskilim and a small group of economically elite Jews with privileges to live in Prussia's cities. By the 1790s, the Haskalah in Prussia encountered the political demands of the centralizing absolutist state, which sought to dissolve all premodern corporations, including the Jewish communal authority (kahal), and the acculturating aspirations of the rising Jewish bourgeoisie, resulting in its radicalization. Prussian Jewish intellectuals soon focused their efforts on political emancipation and cultural acceptance, rather than on inner reform, embodied by the maskil David Friedländer's 1799 letter to Pastor Teller asserting his willingness to convert to Christianity with the provision that he not accept the divinity of Christ. The shift in emphasis was tellingly marked by the failure of Hebrew periodical literature to sustain itself in Prussian lands, giving way to new German periodicals (Sulamith) focused on the struggle for political rights.


The social and political environment of central and eastern Europe, with their demographically rich Ashkenazic Jewish populations and laggard state-building multiethnic empires, became fertile ground for the dissemination of the Jewish Enlightenment. Although subject to the centralizing political demands of absolutist Austria and Russia to integrate the Jewish community into the life of the state, the quest for political emancipation and religious reform was largely absent among maskilim in the East. Rather, the Haskalah in Austrian Galicia and Russia focused on communal regeneration, particularly as it faced the entrenchment of traditional Jewish culture by Hasidism, the extraordinarily successful Jewish spiritual movement that, born in the mid-eighteenth century, had transformed eastern European Jewry. Using the didactic tools of the general Enlightenment (periodical literature, satire, ethical anthologies, curriculum reform), the battle of east European maskilim, such as Mendel Lefin (17491826), Joseph Perl (17731839), Nachman Krochmal (17851840), and Isaac Baer Levinsohn (17881860), against Hasidism gave birth to modern secular Hebrew and Yiddish prose literature, new forms of Bible commentary, and historical writing.

Although always a self-selected intellectual minority within Ashkenazic Jewry, the maskilim represented a radical break with traditional patterns of Jewish life and engendered sharp opposition from traditional rabbinic authorities in central and eastern Europe. Nonetheless, recent scholarly interpretations of the Jewish Enlightenment emphasize its conservatism in comparison with the other responses of European Jewry to modernity (that is, Jewish nationalism, socialism, revolution, migration, political emancipation, and communal self-liquidation/assimilation). Flowering almost a full century after the European Enlightenments, the Haskalah's Hebraism and religious moderation laid the foundation for contemporary constructions of liberal Jewish identity.

See also Enlightenment ; Jews and Judaism ; Mendelssohn, Moses ; Philosophes ; Prussia .


Breuer, Edward. The Limits of Enlightenment: Jews, Germans and the Study of Scripture in the Eighteenth Century. Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1996.

Feiner, Shmuel. Haskalah and History: The Emergence of a Modern Jewish Historical Consciousness. Translated by Chaya Naor and Sondra Silverston. Oxford and Portland, Ore., 2002.

Feiner, Shmuel, and David Sorkin, eds. New Perspectives on the Haskalah. Oxford, 2001.

Katz, Jacob, ed. Toward Modernity: The European Jewish Model. New York and Oxford, 1987.

Mahler, Raphael. Hasidism and the Jewish Enlightenment: Their Confrontation in Galicia and Poland in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century. Philadelphia and New York, 1985.

Sorkin, David. Moses Mendelssohn and the Religious Enlightenment. Berkeley, 1996.

Stanislawski, Michael F. For Whom Do I Toil?: Judah Leib Gordon and the Crisis of Russian Jewry. New York, 1988.

Nancy Sinkoff


views updated May 14 2018


Hebrew term (haśkālâ, literally "the bringing of understanding," hence "enlightenment"), first used by Judah Jeiteles, designating the movement among East-European Jews from c. 1750 to c. 1880 to add to the traditional Jewish Talmudic studies the knowledge of the literature and culture of Western Europe. As a distinctly Jewish movement, Haskalah resembled only in part the general movement of the enlightenment, with which it was connected. The leaders of the movement, who were called Maskilim (Heb. maśkîlîm, those who bring understanding), were convinced that Jewish Emancipation would not be effective unless the Jewish religion were modernized and Westernized. It thus sought a compromise between strict orthodoxy and complete assimilation.

Germany. Although the modernizing movement had forerunners in the 17th century among the Jews of Holland and Italy, the cradle of Haskalah as such was in Berlin, where the Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (172986) in 1750 published a short-lived periodical written in Hebrew but modern in content. In 1778 he established in Berlin a Jewish school that combined the traditional subjects of the ghetto eder (elementary school) with the study of German, French, and secular sciences, "the studies of man," as the Maskilim called the humanities. In 1783 he published his German translation (printed in Hebrew characters) of the Pentateuch, accompanied by a rationalistic commentary. In his treatise Jerusalem (1783) he stated that Judaism, though a revealed religion, does not contain any truth that could not be attained by rational thinking. Religious observance, not belief, was for Mendelssohn the hallmark of Judaism.

In the reign of frederick ii (the Great), King of Prussia, Polish intellectuals who were often tutors in wealthy immigrant Jewish families intermingled with followers of Mendelssohn in Germany, furthering the movement toward Western culture but retaining Jewish orthodoxy in rationalized form. They regarded the modernization of Jewish education as a prerequisite for the emergence of Jewry from its medieval ghetto into the full freedom of European civilization. A group of young Maskilim formed a society for the promotion of the Hebrew language and founded a literary monthly, Ha-Meassēf (The Miscellany), published from 1783 to 1811. Thus Hebrew became the vehicle of the Haskalah movement. The pioneer Maskilim learned to use the holy tongue with ease, a noteworthy achievement because Hebrew had long since degenerated into confused scholastic jargon. Although the Haskalah inspired also a rich literature in Yiddish and other languages, the Maskilim, who opposed assimilation movements and addressed themselves to Jewry as a whole, made a point of using Hebrew.

Russia. The Haskalah reechoed convincingly in the Russian Empire in the early 19th century, where the first generation of Hebrew writers sought to defend the new secular ideas against the fierce opposition of orthodox Jewry. The outstanding figure of this period was I. B. Levinsohn (17881860) in the Ukraine, whose work, Teûdâ be-Yiśraēl (Testimony in Israel), printed in Vilna in 1828, virtually inaugurated the Haskalah movement in Russia. The book was published with a grant of 1,000 rubles from the Russian government, which regarded it as a contribution to their policy of assimilation. In this work, as well as in his Bêt Yehûdâ (The House of Judah, 1839), Levinsohn undertook to convince his fellow Jews that the program of the Haskalah, which advocated the study of the Hebrew language and grammar, the acquisition of secular sciences, and the pursuit of handicrafts and agriculture, was not opposed to the Jewish religion. In proposing that at least one-third of the people be encouraged to engage in agriculture, Levinsohn was a forerunner of one aspect of Zionism. Russian Jewry, as a whole, did not support Levinsohn's ideas. The orthodox leadership rejected them outright, considering the Haskalah a dangerous innovation and a threat to the preservation of Judaism, being convinced that it would ultimately lead to atheism or conversion to Christianity.

Two outstanding authors are representative of the second generation of Russian Haskalah, Abraham Mapu (180867) and Judah Leib Gordon (183192). The former introduced historical romance into Hebrew letters. The subject matter of two of his novels is drawn from biblical times, while his Ayiāvûa (The Hypocrite) depicts the life of his own generation, denouncing corrupted community leaders and bigoted rabbis, while presenting in favorable light the young Maskil perplexed between religion and science. With Mapu the Haskalah became militant. The same offensive tone appeared in the work of Gordon, one of the greatest Hebrew poets since the Middle Ages. He attacked the tyrants of the Jewish community as responsible for the backward condition of his beloved people and declared that his desire was not to destroy the Jewish religion, but to seek the golden means to unite pure faith with reason and the needs of the time.

Meanwhile, independently of the Haskalah movement, profound changes had taken place in Russian Jewry. The young generation of the 1860s and 1870s had abandoned not only Jewish practices but Judaism itself. The Maskilim, with their plea for national consciousness, were now considered outdated. Peretz Smolenskin (184285), the most representative author of the expiring Haskalah, still struggled for the spread of light and knowledge but recognized that secular knowledge and the mastery of languages were not the panacea for all the ills of the House of Israel. In his opinion, Jews who pretended to be adherents of the Mosaic faith only were no longer Jews. "In Judaism," declared Smolenskin, "religion and national belonging are inseparable; the Torah is not only the religious guide of the Jews but also the witness of their peoplehood." If in an earlier time Maskilim endeavored to save the man in the Jew, Smolenskin wanted to save the Jew in the now enlightened and emancipated man. By asserting the distinctiveness of the Jewish people and by considering the Hebrew language as the mainstay of its national consciousness, Smolenskin paved the way for Zionism

Bibliography: s. bernfeld, Encyclopedia Judaica (Berlin 192834) 3:667681. p. wiernik, Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. j. singer (New York 190106) 6:256258. j. s. raisin, Universal Jewish Encyclopedia 5:242245; The Haskalah Movement in Russia (Philadelphia 1913). s. halkin, Modern Hebrew Literature (New York 1950). m. waxman, A History of Jewish Literature, 5 v. in 6 (New York 1961) v. 3. l. greenberg, The Jews in Russia, 2 v. (New Haven 194451), bibliog. 1:190199, esp. 196.

[m. j. stiassny]


views updated Jun 08 2018

Haskalah (Heb., ‘enlightenment’). The Enlightenment movement of the late 18th and 19th cents. in Judaism. Those who espoused the Haskalah were known as Maskilim. Related to the secular Enlightenment, Moses Mendelssohn is generally considered to be the ‘father of the Haskalah’.

Prominent Haskalah thinkers included Naphtale Herz Wessely, the educationalist, who believed that Jewish children ‘were not all created to become Talmudists’, and David Friedlaender who rejoiced in the decline of the yeshivot. Throughout Europe, rich Jews rejected Yiddish and taught their children the language of their host nation.

In their desire for acceptance and emancipation, the Maskilim were particularly patriotic towards their host countries, and the messianic hope was weakened. Members of the Assembly of Jewish Notables, set up by Napoleon in 1806, described themselves as ‘Frenchmen of the Mosaic religion’. The diaspora was no longer seen as a punishment for Israel's wickedness, but the result of historical and geographical factors. Judaism was understood as a spiritual and moral creed, and from this thinking grew the Reform movement with its updated Prayer Book and its rejection of the absolute claims of halakhah.


views updated May 11 2018


Hebrew term for enlightenment.

Haskalah is the name of the movement for the dissemination of modern European culture among the Jews. The movement began in the mid-1700s in Berlin with the work of the German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (17291786). Advocates argued that to achieve emancipation, the Jews must adopt the modern values and social customs of the countries in which they lived. In the mid-1800s, modern European culture for the Jews generally meant German and French culture and secular education, although efforts were made in this period by groups of Jews throughout Europe.

One consequence of this process was the secular use of the Hebrew language to spread the new ideas, leading to an eventual revitalization of the language. Another effect was the creation of a stratum of Jews versed in both the intellectual traditions of modern Europe and traditional Judaism. It was from subsequent generations of these Jews that the ideas of modern Zionism originated. Finally, for many Jews, acquiring modern European culture meant the abandonment of traditional Jewish customs, resulting in assimilation.

See also hebrew; zionism.


Ackerman, Walter. Out of Our People's Past: Sources for the Study of Jewish History. New York: United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education, 1977.

martin malin