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Neo-Orthodoxy

Neo-Orthodoxy.
1. A modernist faction among the Orthodox Jewish community. As a movement, Neo-Orthodoxy was established in the late 19th cent. under the leadership of Samson Raphael Hirsch. He taught the principle of Torah ʿim derekh erez (‘Torah [in harmony] with the way of life’) i.e. careful observance of mitzvot (commandments) and customs combined with a positive attitude to secular life where no conflict obtained.

2. A Protestant Christian reaction against 19th-cent. liberalism in theology. The reaction was not organized, and is particularly associated with K. Barth. Quintessentially, Neo-Orthodoxy rejected the liberal belief that it is possible to argue from experience to God, or, more extremely, that theology is disguised anthropology. For Neo-Orthodoxy, the word and revelation of God constitute a disjunctive act which cannot be subordinated to human judgement: this self-revelation is uniquely embodied in Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.

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Neo-Orthodoxy

NEO-ORTHODOXY

NEO-ORTHODOXY , name of the modernistic faction of German *Orthodoxy, first employed in a derogatory sense by its adversaries. Its forerunners were to be found among the more conservative disciples of Moses *Mendelssohn and N.H. *Wessely, like Solomon *Pappenheim and Naḥman b. Simḥah Barash. At the time of the controversy over the *Hamburg Temple (1818), the participants in the campaign against the reformers included some rabbis who adopted a stance similar to that later advocated by the Neo-Orthodox; for example those of Amsterdam, Hanau, Rawicz, and other communities, who produced the polemic, Elleh Divrei ha-Berit (1819). Other forerunners were the new Orthodox preacher of Hamburg, Isaac *Bernays; Jeremiah *Heinemann (1788–1855) of Berlin, the editor of Jedidja (1817–31); and Solomon Plessner (1797–1883) of Breslau, the author of various apologetic works.

However, the ideology of Neo-Orthodoxy crystallized later and its institutions were only established during the second half of the 19th century. In essence, the movement is connected with Samson Raphael *Hirsch and his doctrine of Torah im derekh ereẓ ("Torah together with the conduct of life," meaning in this context secular culture), which he expressed in his major writings. In 1851 he became rabbi of the Orthodox separatist community of Frankfurt and was able to realize his ideas and plans in a suitable environment. During the second half of the 19th century, the rabbinical leadership had already suffered defeat in the campaign against reformers and assimilationists. The small groups which remained faithful to tradition referred to themselves as "remnants." At the same time, the rising tide of the Reform movement was curbed. The process of Jewish integration into general society was well advanced and was no longer conditional on their "religious" reform. Moreover, the radical line adopted by such Reform leaders as Abraham *Geiger and Samuel *Holdheim during those years had alienated important elements among the non-Orthodox (Leopold *Zunz, Zacharias *Frankel, and others).

The development of a trend combining features from both *Reform and *Orthodoxy thus became feasible. From the Reform movement it adopted the aim of integration within modern society, not only on utilitarian grounds but also through the acceptance of its scale of values, aiming at creating a symbiosis between traditional Orthodoxy and modern German-European culture; both in theory and in practice this meant the abandonment of Torah study for its own sake (as in the classical yeshivah) and adopting instead an increased concentration on practical halakhah. Other Reform features were the replacement of Hebrew by German as the language of Jewish culture; the acceptance of the Haskalah program in educational matters; the struggle for emancipation and the positive appreciation of the Exile; the exchange of the material idea of "Return to Zion" for that of the "Universal Mission"; German patriotism; the renouncement of a particular Jewish appearance (involving readiness to cut off the beard and the side-locks, to uncover the head when not at worship, etc.); the education of women, including their participation in religious life and their political emancipation; the abolition of the coercive powers of the community; and the acceptance of the liberal concept of freedom of conscience. From Orthodoxy the faction took: dogmatism (emunat ḥakhamim, "faith in the rabbis"); reservation toward the preoccupations of the Wissenschaft des Judentums and opposition to the principle of freedom of research; the acceptance of the authority of the Shulḥan Arukh and the traditions and customs of the late 18th-century German communities; acceptance of the Orthodox position on laws which came into being as a result of its campaign against the reformers, such as those against the demands for changes in synagogue usage; excessive strictness in the observation of the precepts and customs; and acquiescence in the disruption of the Jewish community and the sectarian nature of those remaining true to Orthodoxy. The second most important leader of this trend was Azriel (Israel) *Hildesheimer, who founded a rabbinical seminary (1873) and broke the monopoly of the non-Orthodox in Jewish studies. He thus made possible the integration of the intelligentsia into the neo-Orthodox circle, in contrast to Hirsch, whose system was tailored to the requirements of the ordinary community members, the so-called ba'alei batim. Hildesheimer was more attached to ancient rabbinic Judaism than Hirsch and his attitude to Jewish affairs in general was more positive, while his approach to general culture was less enthusiastic. As a result of this, the role Hildesheimer played in world Jewish affairs led to the creation of contacts between the German Neo-Orthodoxy, East European Jewry, and the *Ḥibbat Zion movement. In 1876 a law (the Austrittsgesetz) was passed which enabled an individual to secede from a church or community without changing his religious affiliation. This facilitated the secession (Austritt) of Orthodox minorities from communities where they considered that coexistence with the reformist leadership was impossible. In many places this situation induced the reformers to make far-reaching concessions to the Orthodox minority. German Orthodoxy thus became split over the question of whether the new law should be exploited in order that they might secede from all communities administered by reformers. To Hirsch, the Austritt concept became a supreme religious principle, while Seligmann Baer (or Dov Baer) *Bamberger, his Orthodox opponent, showed reserve toward both the modernism and the extremist separatism of Hirsch, and preferred to preserve the unity of the community. After some time, German Orthodoxy was again divided on another issue: the attitude toward *Zionism. One section joined the *Agudat Israel movement, while the other showed a preference for the *Mizrachi and *Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi and later for the *Po'alei Agudat Israel.

bibliography:

(Note: there is no critical work on the subject.) J. Wohlgemuth, in: Festschrift… David Hoffmann (1914), 435–58 (Ger. section); L. Ginzburg, Students, Scholars and Saints (1928), 252–62; M. Wiener, Juedische Religion im Zeitalter der Emanzipation (1933); O. Wolfsberg, in: Sinai, 4 (1939), 164–82; 14 (1944), 65–81; idem, in: Y.L. Fishman (ed), Sefer ha-Mizrachi (1946), 150–68 (second pagination); S. Gronemann, Zikhronotav shel Yekke (1946); S. Japhet, in: hj, 10 (1948), 99–122; J. Rosenheim, ibid., 135–46; H. Schwab, History of Orthodox Jewry in Germany (1950); I. Heinemann, Ta'amei ha-Mitzvot be-Sifrut Yisrael, 2 (1956), 91ff.; idem, in: hj, 10 (1948), 123–34; 13 (1951), 29–54; J. Immanuel (ed.), Ha-Rav Shimshon Rafa'el Hirsch, Mishnato ve-Shitato (1962); B. Kurzweil, in: Haaretz (Sept. 26, 1965).

[Moshe Shraga Samet]

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Neo-Orthodoxy

NEO-ORTHODOXY

A Protestant theological movement, originating in the dissent of such men as Karl barth from the liberal Protestant view of religion. To Barth and his associates, to whose thought the name dialectical, or crisis, theology was first given, religion based on experience is no religion at all. Against the religion of experience, therefore, they invoked those tenets of the Reformation that tend to make the qualitative distance between God and man appear infinite and not susceptible of being overcome.

The "orthodoxy" of these positions, then, consists in adherence to themes such as the incompetence of human reason in attaining knowledge of God. In fact, this noetic armature of the doctrine of man's depravity is the rallying point of this school of thought, with a correlative, the absolute need of divine grace for man's salvation. Theologians of this persuasion emphasize also the inflexibility of God's judgment against sin.

The "new" factors of what typifies neo-orthodoxy consist in methods and emphases either not available to or eschewed by Protestant orthodoxy of the 17th and 18th centuries. Adherents of the latter tended to be fundamentalist in their view of the Biblical text, in contrast to the neo-orthodox, who avail themselves of the benefits of modern criticism in their use of the Bible. Even in strictly doctrinal matters the new school could be called "impressionistic," in the sense that some doctrines of the Reformation receive an entirely personal treatment at their hands, e.g., predestination according to Barth. Neoorthodoxy, essentially a protest against the humanistic elements that had, to the mind of its proponents, spoiled Protestantism and made it "liberal," is unintelligible outside this context. This accounts, for example, for the tendency among these theologians habitually to express the attributes of God in such a way that every "Yes" is balanced off by an equally emphatic "No."

If reaction against creeping anthropomorphism, thought by the neo-orthodox to be the malady of liberal Protestantism, is the point of the movement's origin, it is, paradoxically, also the factor of cohesionfor neoorthodoxy is by no means a single, carefully articulated thought system. Certain names are, to be sure, identified with it, but not with the rigor of a species to its genus. Each of the two major branches of the Reformation is represented among the neo-orthodox. Among the Calvinists, Barth is most characteristically so. In fact, in the spectrum of neo-orthodoxy Barth holds a place quite clearly distinguishable. Distrust of natural theology as a possible path to God and the correlative suspicion of the theological relevance of the analogy of being were epitomized in his thought. The critical freedom with which the neo-orthodox viewed their progenitors in the Reformation came to a climax in him too, for it was evident throughout his Church Dogmatics that only the Scriptures were, in principle, to be accepted as normative and this to the exclusion even of the authority of John Calvin. In Barth the transcendent majesty of God and the lightning power of his word were trumpeted to the extent that his critics questioned the possibility of his putting into true focus the doctrines of reconciliation (justification) and redemption (the term he uses for the final liberation of man in God).

G. Aulén made the most systematic case for neoorthodoxy outside the Lutheran tradition (he himself belonged to the school of Lund). What Barth shouted from rooftops, however, Aulén, together with others such as E. Brunner, recited in a lower register. The touchstone is the attitude toward the use of reason in gaining knowledge about God. Aulén was not so absolute as Barth; neither was he enamored, however, of any mixing of theology and metaphysics.

P. tillich and R. niebuhr were sometimes called neo-orthodox; it appears, however, that the United States may not have the right climate for purebred orthodoxy. These two theologians, though they evolved with and in the same direction as Barth for some time, finally came to adopt a position whereby theology was seen as exercising a mediating function between the church and the world. In this case it would have to accord reason an important function in the verifying of theological data.

Bibliography: w. m. horton, Christian Theology, an Ecumenical Approach (rev. and enl. ed. New York 1958). j. macquarrie, Twentieth-Century Religious Thought (New York 1963).

[m. b. schepers]

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