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Jost, Isaac Marcus


JOST, ISAAC MARCUS (1793–1860), German educator and historian. Jost was born in Bernburg, central Germany. He received his primary education at the Samson-Schule in Wolfenbuettel, where he became an intimate friend of Leopold Zunz. After studies at the universities in Goettingen and Berlin, he became head of a private high school in Frankfurt on the Main. The school was attended by both Jewish and Christian boys until the Prussian government prohibited this "revolutionary" project; the school then became exclusively Jewish. From 1835 onward he taught at the Philanthropin high school in Frankfurt. In 1853 he founded an orphanage for Jewish girls in Frankfurt. In conjunction with his educational activities Jost published a Pentateuch for young people (1823) and a vocalized Mishnah text (1832–34), with translation and notes; he also published a textbook of English (18433), a dictionary of Shakespeare (1830), and a manual of German style (18522).

In Frankfurt he edited (with M. Creizenach) the short-lived Hebrew journal Zion (1841–42), and from 1839 to 1841 the Israelitische Annalen. He founded, with Ludwig Philippson and others, the Institut zur Foerderung der Israelitischen Literatur, which published the Jahrbuch fuer Geschichte der Juden und des Judentums (4 vols., 1860–69).

A moderate supporter of the Reform movement, he helped prepare the second Rabbinical Conference at Frankfurt in 1845 and acted as its secretary. Jost, however, opposed extremist tendencies and vigorously defended the use of Hebrew in synagogue and school.

Jost was a pioneer in the field of modern Jewish historiography and his works in this field include: Geschichte der Israeliten seit der Zeit der Maccabaeer bis auf unsere Tage (9 vols., (1820–28)); Neuere Geschichte der Israeliten von 1815 bis 1845 (3 vols., 1846–47); Allgemeine Geschichte des Israelitischen Volkes (2 vols., 1832); and Geschichte des Judenthums und seiner Sekten (3 vols., 1857–59). Jost wrote his work while others were still laying the foundations of the new Science of Judaism; Zunz himself shrank from writing a comprehensive history, and Graetz soon afterward wrote Geschichte der Juden, which exhibited far greater brilliance and scholarship. However, the adverse criticism by A. Geiger, H. Graetz, and S.D. Luzzatto tended to overlook the real merits of Jost's pioneering work with its high standard of objective scholarship. Although a rationalist who felt little sympathy with the religious view of Jewish history and who concentrated mainly on writing political history to the almost complete exclusion of cultural history, Jost anticipated later historiography by his critical approach to the sources, the individual treatment of Jewish history in different countries, and his recognition of the importance of social institutions for the understanding of history. His Neuere Geschichte has, in addition, great value as a contemporary record.


J. Pascheles, Sippurim, 3 (1854), 141ff. includes an autobiography by Jost; H. Zirndorf, Isaac Markus Jost und seine Freunde (1886), includes bibliography; S.W. Baron, History and Jewish Historians (1964), 240ff. add. bibliography: R. Michael, Y.M. Jost (Heb., 1983); U. Wyrwa, in: K. Hoedl (ed.), Historisches Bewusstsein (2004), 99–108.

[Marcus Pyka (2nd ed.)]

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