JOEL, MANUEL (1826–1890), rabbi and scholar. Joel, who was born in Birnbaum, Poznan province, was the son of the local rabbi. He studied classics and philosophy at Berlin and obtained a doctorate at Halle. In Berlin he came under the influence of Leopold *Zunz and M. *Sachs. Joining the staff of the *Juedisch-Theologisches Seminar in Breslau on its foundation in 1854, he taught classical languages, religious philosophy, and homiletics there. In 1864 he was appointed rabbi of the Breslau community, succeeding A. *Geiger. At the *rabbinical assemblies of Kassel (1868) and Leipzig (1869), he defended moderation in Reform against Geiger's radicalism and stressed the need for preserving the Jewish character of synagogue worship and respect for the historical past. He also expressed these views in a number of publications, particularly in his prayer book (1872) and his sermons (1867, 1893–98), which were highly influential.
Joel's scholarly importance lies mainly in the field of religious philosophy. He wrote on Ibn Gabirol, Maimonides, Crescas, and Levi b. Gershom, investigating their Greek and Arabic sources, and their influence, in turn, on Christian scholasticism and Spinoza. These essays were collected in his two-volume Beitraege zur Geschichte der Philosophie (1876). His two-volume Blicke in die Religionsgeschichte… (1880–83) was an important and influential contribution to comparative religion. Joel presented (apart from his sermons) his own religious philosophy, based on Kant and also on Schleiermacher's religion of emotion, in his Religionsphilosophische Zeitfragen (1876) and in a posthumously published article "Mosaismus und Heidentum" (in jjgl, 7 (1904), 35ff.), as a belief in revelation as the "thinking of the heart."
I. Heinemann, Manuel Joels wissenschaftliches Lebenswerk (1927); idem, in: G. Kisch (ed.), Breslau Seminary (1963), 255ff.; M. Brann, Geschichte des juedisch-theologischen Seminars in Breslau (1904), 86ff., 126f. (bibl.).
[Encyclopaedia Judaica (Germany)]