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Ettinger, Shmuel


ETTINGER, SHMUEL (1919–1988), Israeli historian. Born in Kiev, U.S.S.R., Ettinger immigrated to Ereẓ Israel in 1936 and studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he received his doctorate in 1956 for his study "The Jewish Colonization of the Ukraine, 1569–1648." In 1952, while still a research student, he joined the teaching staff of the Hebrew University, and in 1965 he became professor of modern Jewish history. He was a visiting professor at Oxford University in 1969–70.

Ettinger's major fields of research include Russian Jewish history (from its beginnings until the Soviet era), the attitude of 17th- and 18th-century European thought toward Judaism and Jews, modern Jewish historiography, and the roots and development of modern antisemitism.

His research on the Muscovite state and its attitude toward the Jews and on the Jewish settlement in the Ukraine constituted a basic contribution to the critical study of the history of the Jews in Russia. In his study of the ḥasidic movement and its historical influence he emphasized the role of the ḥasidic leadership as a powerful formative factor in the continued existence of Jewish autonomy under the centralist regimes of Russia and Austria after the partitions of Poland. The importance of his methodical contribution to the study of the origins of modern antisemitism lies in his unmasking the inherent nature of the critical, and even antagonistic attitude toward Judaism in the major trends of modern European social thought: from the English deism and French rationalism of the 17th and 18th centuries to the romanticism, nationalism, social Darwinism, and even liberalism and socialism of the 19th century. As a representative of the Jerusalem school of Jewish studies, Ettinger emphasized a conceptual framework revolving around the unity and continuity of Jewish history. Within this framework he regarded the centrality of the redemptive principle as an historical motive force even in its secular manifestations, especially in the social and national radicalism of modern Jewish history. His research method, in which he regarded himself as continuing along the path of B.Z. Dinur and Y. Baer, was characterized by the tension between a broad teleological view of Jewish history and its central tendencies, and a rare command of critical investigative methods directed toward detailed elements of historical reality in a wide variety of areas.

Ettinger's studies were published mainly in the journals Zion, He-Avar, Molad, Gesher, Scripta Hierosolymitana, Cahiers d'Histoire Mondiale, and the publications of the Israel Historical Society. He published two works of a general nature on modern Jewish history: a volume of his university lectures, Toledot Am Yisrael mi-Yemei ha-Absolutism ad La-Hakamat Medinat Yisrael ("History of the Jewish People from the Era of Absolutism until the Establishment of the State of Israel," last edition 1968), and Toledot Am Yisrael ba-Zeman he-Ḥadash ("History of the Jewish People in Modern Times," 1969), the latter being the third volume of a series on Jewish history by teachers of the Hebrew University. The latter volume is aimedat a broader reading public and deals in greater detail with the period from the 1880s until after the Six-Day War. During the 1960s, a parallel series in Russian was prepared and published under his editorship (Ocherki po Istorii Yevreiskogo Naroda, last edition 1972). He also published a volume of theoretical essays, excerpts from the diary and correspondence of the historian Graetz (Ẓvi Graetz, Darkhei ha-Historiah ha-Yehudit, 1969), and a history textbook for Israeli high schools.

Ettinger served on the editorial board of Zion, the journal for Jewish history (editorial secretary 1955–59, and editor from 1960) and on the executive board of the Israeli Historical Society and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People. He was among the initiators and directors of many research projects, among them the Center for Eastern European Jewish Studies, which he headed.

Closely related to his scientific work was his intensive public activity, devoted mainly to two areas: the educational system of Israel, at every level, and the national awakening of the Jews in Soviet Russia and their spiritual and social integration in Israel.

[Otto Dov Kulka]

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