Hildesheimer, Hirsch

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HILDESHEIMER, HIRSCH (1855–1910), German historian and author. Hildesheimer was born in Eisenstadt, Hungary, and received his early religious education from two students of his father, Rabbi Esriel *Hildesheimer, and later under Rabbi Benjamin Hirsch Auerbach in Halberstadt. In 1876, he studied history, classical philosophy, and geography at Berlin University, attending his father's rabbinical seminary at the same time. He later studied at Leipzig under Theodor *Mommsen and received his doctorate there in 1879.

In 1880, Hildesheimer was appointed lecturer in Jewish history and the geography of Ereẓ Israel at the rabbinical seminary, but he had little time for scholarship owing to his communal work. He zealously fought against organized antisemitism and blood libels. The last years of his life were devoted to the defense of sheḥitah against it detractors. Hildesheimer procured 300 opinions from veterinary surgeons and professors of physiology and anatomy, all declaring sheḥitah to be the most humane method of slaughtering animals. He was regarded as the leading authority on such problems, questions and appeals being addressed to him from all over the world. Hildesheimer was also active in the *Ḥibbat Zion movement, and his interest in the colonization of Ereẓ Israel was displayed in his efforts to promote the ideals of the *Esra Society in Berlin of which he was a cofounder. Theodor Herzl proposed that he should lecture on the role of charity in Ereẓ Israel at the First Zionist Congress in Basle. Hildesheimer did not attend the Congress, however, fearing that public activity would harm any practical efforts for settlement in Ereẓ Israel, and he withdrew from the Zionist Organization. He participated in the Verein fuer juedische Geschichte und Litteratur, and it was due to him that the school system of the *Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden remained based on Orthodox Judaism.

Apart from numerous articles published in Die Juedische Presse, which he edited from 1883 until his death, Hildesheimer wrote Beitraege zur Geographie Palaestinas (1886), an important study of the historical geography of Ereẓ Israel His work in this field was continued by his pupil, Samuel *Klein. He also wrote Gutachten ueber das rituelle Schaechten (1894) in defense of Sheḥitah and Die Blutbeschuldigung (1891) against the blood libel.


D. Strumpf, in: L. Jung (ed.), Guardians of Our Heritage (1958). add. bibliography: H. Hildesheimer, Ein Gedenkbuch (1911); M. Breuer, Modernity within Tradition (1992), passim.