Gesellschaft zur Foerderung der Wissenschaft des Judentums

views updated


GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FOERDERUNG DER WISSENSCHAFT DES JUDENTUMS (Ger. "Society for the Advancement of Jewish Scholarship"), Jewish scholarly society in Berlin, Germany, 1902–1938. The primary objective of the Gesellschaft was to raise the level of Jewish academic scholarship, thereby earning the respect of disenfranchised Jewish intellectuals and Christian Protestant scholars alike. As Jewish theology was not a recognized academic discipline at German universities, the founders attempted to create a financially viable forum for Jewish scholars to conduct research and to publish their works. The immediate incentive for the establishment of the Gesellschaft was the unequaled success enjoyed by Harnack's Das Wesen des Christentums and the perceived inability of the Jewish scholarly community to counter his unfavorable portrayal of post-biblical Judaism.

While Hermann *Cohen was the driving force behind foundation of the Gesellschaft, the initiative came from Rabbi Leopold Lucas of Glogau. The society's first chairman was historian Martin Philippson. Membership was open to both individuals and organizations, with a membership exceeding 1,700 in the early 1920s.

In pursuit of the advancement of Jewish scholarship, the Gesellschaft held annual meetings featuring scholarly lectures and published and subsidized scholarly volumes. It adopted the prestigious *Monatsschrift fuer die Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums, as its official organ, rescuing the publication from financial ruin by broadening its appeal to the general public. Equally important and innovative was the monetary support of individual Jewish scholars and the financing of research trips to various countries.

The most lofty endeavor of the Gesellschaft, which was never completed, was the "Grundriss der Gesamtwissenschaft des Judentums," projected to be a systematic and comprehensive collection of Jewish scholarship to encompass 36 volumes. The first volume to be published was Leo Baeck's classic Das Wesen des Judentums (1905). Among the other important publications were M. Guedemann, Juedische Apologetik (1906); M. Philippson, Neueste Geschichte des juedischen Volkes (1907–11); G. Caro, Die Sozial-und Wirtschaftsgeschichte der Juden (1908–20); K. Kohler, Grundriss einer systematischen Theologie des Judentums (1910); S. Krauss, Talmudische Archäologie, 3 vols. (1910, 1911, 1912); I. Elbogen, Der juedische Gottesdienst (1913); E. Mahler, Handbuch der jüdischen Chronologie (1916); H. Cohen, Die Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums (1919); A. Lewkowitz, Das Judentum und die geistigen Stömungen des 19. Jahrhunderts (1935); the incomplete Corpus Tannaiticum and Germania Judaica; and two volumes of a trilogy on Maimonides (1908, 1914).

The establishment of the society marked an important step towards the professionalization of *Wissenschaft des Judentums, and can be regarded as a limited success; for more than a generation it provided impetus and organization for all branches of Jewish scholarship, earning respect in both Jewish and non-Jewish academic circles. The society was forced to cease its activities following the *Kristallnacht riots.


L. Lucas, in: mgwj, 71 (1927), 321–31; I. Elbogen, mgwj, 72 (1928), 1–5; Z.W. Falk, "Juedisches Lernen und die Wissenschaft des Judentums," in: K.E. Groetzinger (ed.), Judentum im deutschen Sprachbereich (1991), 347–56; F.D. Lucas and M. Heitmann, in: Stadt des Glaubens: Geschichte und Kultur der Juden in Glogau (1991); C. Wiese, in: Wissenschaft des Judentums und protestantische Theologie im wilhelminischen Deutschland: Ein Schrei ins Leere? (1999); D. Adelmann, "Die Religion der Vernunft im Grundriss der Gesamtwissenschaft des Judentums," in: H. Holzhey, G. Motzkin and H. Wiedebach (eds), Religion of Reason out of the sources of Judaism: Tradition and the Concept of Origin in Hermann Cohen's Later Work (2000), 3–35; H. Soussan, "Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaft des Judentums, 1902–1915," in: lbiyb, 46 (2001).

[Henry Soussan (2nd ed.)]