Bamberger, Seligmann Baer

views updated


BAMBERGER, SELIGMANN BAER (Isaac Dov ha-Levi ; 1807–1878), rabbinical scholar and leader of German Orthodoxy. Born in the Bavarian village of Wiesenbronn, Bamberger studied at the yeshivah of Fuerth and in his native village. Bamberger opposed the proponents of Reform at a meeting of Jewish communities of Lower Franconia in 1834, and at an assembly of notables called by the Bavarian government in 1836 where he represented A. *Bing, the district rabbi of Wuerzburg. In 1840 he was elected to succeed Bing in the face of fierce opposition from the Reformers. Bamberger continued the local yeshivah, founded an elementary school in 1855, and a teachers' training college in 1864.

By the middle of the 19th century, the Frankfurt Jewish community was dominated by the Reform movement. As a result, the community closed the mikveh and refused financial support to the Orthodox community. In response, the Orthodox Jews withdrew from the larger community and formed the Religiongesellschaft, appointed Samson Raphael *Hirsch their rabbi, and began a 25-year struggle for official autonomy. In July 1876, the Orthodox community was officially recognized by the State. The Reform-led general Jewish community offered to restore all the support it had previously rescinded, but the group led by Hirsch refused the offer. To help settle the controversy, Orthodox community members turned to Bamberger. Contrary to their expectations, Bamberger ruled that it was unnecessary to secede from the Reform-led community since it was providing for all of the needs of the Orthodox. Throughout the ensuing year, Hirsch and Bamberger engaged in a public, somewhat acrimonious polemic. The central issue of their argument was whether or not the Reform Jews were to be considered heretics. Hirsch said yes, while Bamberger said no. In the end, only a small portion of the entire Orthodox community seceded with Hirsch from the larger Reform-led community. Ironically, Hirsch, who represented the more modern Orthodox perspective, became the forerunner of 20th century ultra-Orthodox communities who try to cut themselves off as much as possible from the surrounding non-Orthodox and secular Jewish community. Despite his religious conservatism, Bamberger's position became the basis for modern Orthodox openness and acceptance of the surrounding non-Orthodox and secular Jewish community.

The "Wuerzburger Rav," as he was called, was one of the last great German-style talmudists, and his literary work was chiefly devoted to subjects of practical halakhah; Melekhet Shamayim (on the writing of Torah Scrolls etc., 18602); Amirah le-Veit Ya'akov (laws of interest to women, originally German in Hebrew characters, 1858); Moreh la-Zoveḥim (handbooks for shoḥatim, 18642); Naḥalei Devash (on the law of ḥaliẓah, 1867). Bamberger also wrote a commentary on Isaac ibn Ghayyat's halakhic compendium (Sha'arei Simḥah, 2 pts., 1861–62) and a treatise on the Al Tikrei formula in Talmud and Midrash (Korei be-Emet, 2 pts., 1871–78). His responsa appeared posthumously in Zekher Simḥah (1925), Neti'ah shel Simḥah (1928), and Yad ha-Levi (1965), all published by one or another of his descendants. Together with A. Adler and M. Lehmann, Bamberger published a German translation of the Pentateuch (1873, 19137) on behalf of the Orthodox-Israelitische Bibelanstalt to counter L. Philippson's Bible translation, against which he had published a polemical pamphlet (1860).


Bamberger became the founder of a widespread rabbinical family. Five of his six sons became rabbis, and his three daughters all married rabbis. His son simon simḤah (1832–1897) was rabbi at Fischach and Aschaffenburg (Bavaria). He published Ḥinnukh la-Ne'arim (on the laws of ẓiẓit and tefillin; with Yiddish translation, 18823); Pekuddat ha-Levi'im (Aaron b. Joseph of Barcelona's commentary on Alfasi, Berakhot and Ta'anit, with notes, 1874); Avodat ha-Levi'im (Jonathan b. David of Lunel's commentary on Alfasi, Ḥullin, 1871). solomon (1835–1918) was rabbi at Lengnau, Niederlangenthal, and Sennheim (the latter two in Alsace). His talmudic research dealt mainly with Nathan b. Jehiel's Arukh (Limmud Arukh on various talmudic tractates, 1868–97; Hegyon Shelomo, 1878). moses loeb (1838–1899) was district rabbi at Kissingen, Bavaria. seckel isaac (1839–1885) was dayyan at Frankfurt. nathan (1842–1919) succeeded his father as rabbi and seminary principal at Wuerzburg. He published Likkutei ha-Levi, on the religious customs of Wuerzburg (1907), and collaborated with his brother Simon Simḥah on Pekuddat ha Levi'im. He also wrote a memoir of his father (1897).

In the third generation: seckel (1863–1934), son of Simon Simḥah and district rabbi at Kissingen, wrote a halakhic tract on the immersion of vessels (Tevilat Kelim, with German translation, 1887); an edition of the Midrash Lekaḥ Tov on the Song of Songs and Ruth (1887); and a translation with commentary of Avot (1897, 19353). moses loeb (ii; 1869–1924), also a son of Simon Simḥah, was rabbi at Schoenlanke (Pomerania, now Trzcianka, Poland). He edited J. Ettlinger's essays and addresses (1899) and Joseph ibn Naḥmias' commentary on Esther (1891–93), Proverbs (1911), and Jeremiah (1913). He also wrote on book censorship in the duchy of Baden (1902), on the history of the Jews of Wuerzburg (1905), and of Schoenlanke (1912). selig (1872–1936), son of Solomon and rabbi of the Hamburg Klaus, edited and translated into German a large number of halakhic, aggadic, and liturgical texts. He also edited Maimonides' commentary on tractate Ḥallah (1895). solomon menaḤem (1869–1920), son of Seckel Isaac, was rabbi at Bingen, Burgpreppach, and Hanau. He was a cofounder of the *Juedisch-Literarische Gesellschaft. simon simḤah (ii; 1871–1961), son of Nathan and rabbi at Aschaffenburg (Bavaria), wrote on circumcision (Beschneidungsakt, 1913) and the creation (Die Schoepfungsurkunde, 1903).

The next generation included simon simḤah (iii; 1899–1957), son of Seckel Isaac, rabbi at Stuttgart and later in Israel, and his brother moses loeb (iii; 1902–1960), rabbi in Mainz and Nottingham and founder-principal of the Jewish Boarding School in Gateshead, England. Erich *Fromm, the social psychologist, and Saul Esh, the historian, were also descendants of S.B. Bamberger, as was the bookseller-publisher Nathan Wolf Bamberger (1888–1948), who in 1934 co-founded in Jerusalem the firm of Bamberger and Wahrmann which specialized in rare Jewish books.


S. Esh (ed.), Bamberger Family (1964, with bibliographies); N. Bamberger, Seligmann Baer Bamberger (Ger., 1897); M. Auerbach, in: Jeschurun, 15 (1928), 524–38; H. Schwab, History of Orthodox Jewry in Germany (1951), 73–81; idem, Chachme Ashkenaz (Eng., 1964), 19–23; S. Bamberger, Zekher… Yiẓḥak Dov Bamberger (1958); M.L. Bamberger, in: L. Jung (ed.), Jewish Leaders (1964), 179–95. add. bibliography: L. Trepp, in: Bits of Honey (1993), 289–310; S. Robinson, in: Le'ela, 43 (1997), 16–19.