Herzfeld, Levi

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HERZFELD, LEVI (1810–1884), rabbi and historian. Herzfeld, who was born in Ellrich, Germany, studied Talmud under Abraham *Bing in Wuerzburg and Samuel *Eger at Braunschweig and at Berlin University. He first served as dayyan under Eger, whose successor as the chief rabbi of the duchy of Braunschweig he became in 1842. As a spokesman of moderate Reform, Herzfeld, in association with L. *Philippson, convened the first Rabbinical Conference in Braunschweig (1844) and also took a leading part in the two following conferences of 1845 and 1846. He and Philippson headed the Institut zur Foerderung der israelitischen Literatur (1860–73). Herzfeld's main importance as a writer of Jewish history lies in that he was the first to pay attention to its economic aspects, particularly in his Metrologische Voruntersuchungen zu einer Geschichte des… altjuedischen Handels (1863–65) and his Handelsgeschichte der Juden des Altertums (1879, 18942). While the latter work's apologetic intent to disprove the antisemitic image of the Jews as a parasitic people of middlemen is evident, the Handelsgeschichte is distinguished by its meticulous analysis of the sources and has not been superseded by any other comprehensive work of its type. Herzfeld also wrote on art in Jewish history (Zwei Vortraege ueber die Kunstleistungen der Hebraeer und alten Juden, 1864). In his three-volume Geschichte des Volkes Israel von der Zerstoerung des ersten Tempels bis zur Einsetzung des Makkabaeers Schimon zum hohenPriester und Fuersten (1847–57), he stressed the connection between political and religious history. Herzfeld also published Ecclesiastes, with a German translation and commentary (1838); proposals for a reform of Jewish matrimonial law (Vorschlaege, 1846); and a Reform prayer book (18743), with some studies on its preparation.


G. Karpeles, in: L. Herzfeld, Handelsgeschichte… (18942), introduction; S.W. Baron, History and Jewish Historians (1964), 322ff.; Wilhelm, in: blbi, 12 (1960), 259ff.; M. Eschelbacher, in: ajr-information (Feb. 1961), 10.

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