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Hochschule Fuer Die Wissenschaft Des Ju–Dentums


HOCHSCHULE FUER DIE WISSENSCHAFT DES JU–DENTUMS , center for the scientific study of Judaism and rabbinical seminary in Berlin. From the first half of the 19th century, leaders of the movement for modern scholarly study of the Jewish past, notably Leopold *Zunz and Abraham *Geiger, had argued for the establishment of a faculty for Judaica at a German university. As German institutions were reluctant to respond to such an idea, the plan was formulated in 1867 to found an independent, university-level center for Jewish studies in Berlin. According to its statutes, the exclusive purpose was to be the "preservation, advancement, and dissemination" of Wissenschaft des Judentums ("scientific study of Judaism"). The institution opened in 1872 with four teachers, Abraham Geiger, Hermann *Steinthal, David *Cassel, and Israel *Lewy, and 10 students in the most inadequate rented quarters. Tuition was free and students were accepted from all countries. Although the original intent was to serve pure scholarship, the school soon developed principally, but not exclusively, into a seminary for training rabbis and religious school teachers to serve a broad spectrum of German Jewry. Despite the best efforts of its trustees, headed by Moritz *Lazarus, the financial status of the Hochschule remained highly precarious during the first decades of its existence. From 1891 the institution was constrained to accept financial aid from the Berlin community. Only after the turn of the century did its position improve, allowing for the endowment of faculty chairs and the construction of its own building near the Berlin university. In 1907 the Hochschule was also able to begin publication of a series of scholarly studies by faculty and outside scholars to supplement the articles that usually appeared bound with the yearly institutional reports. Inflation after World War i and the depression of the 1920s brought new and extreme difficulties for the school. With the name Hochschule ("College") the founders had wanted to indicate the school's high academic level. However in 1883, during a period of intense antisemitism, the government degraded its title to Lehranstalt ("Institute"). After World War i the name was again Hochschule only to be reduced again to Lehranstalt by the Nazi government in 1934. The later faculty of the school included some of the most renowned Jewish scholars, men of both liberal and traditional views on religion. Among them were Ismar *Elbogen, Eduard *Baneth, Chanoch *Albeck, Julius Guttmann, and Leo *Baeck.

The regular student body grew slowly at first, reaching 61 before World War i. Aside from candidates for Jewish professional positions, the Hochschule attracted young scholars from abroad, Jewish students from various faculties of the university, Christian students of Judaica, and auditors from the community. After some fluctuation student enrollment reached its peak of 155 in 1932 and included 27 women. From the beginning, women were allowed to audit courses and, after 1907, were formally admitted as part-time students to the teacher training program but remained barred from rabbinic ordination. During the Nazi period the Hochschule served as a focus for the vast effort of adult education undertaken by the Jewish community to provide spiritual resistance against increasing oppression. Unlike the Breslau Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Berlin Rabbinerseminar, the Hochschule was permitted to remain open even after the *Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9, 1938. Plans to transfer the institution to Cambridge failed to materialize owing to the outbreak of World War ii. Instruction at the Hochschule under the leadership of Leo Baeck continued for about a dozen students until all Jewish educational institutions were finally closed on July 19, 1942 and its valuable collection was confiscated.


R. Fuchs, in: ylbi, 12 (1967), 3–31. add. bibliography: C. Hoffmann and D. Schwartz, in: ylbi, 36 (1991), 267–304; M. Awerbuch, in: Geschichtswissenschaft in Berlin im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert: Persönlichkeiten und Institutionen (1992).

[Michael A. Meyer]

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