Mannheimer, Isaac Noah

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MANNHEIMER, ISAAC NOAH (1793–1865), Vienna preacher and creator of a moderate, compromise Reform ritual. Born in Copenhagen, he was the son of a Hungarian ḥazzan. He received his general education at the local secular school and studied Hebrew literature and Talmud with R. Gedaliah Moses, the liberal pedagogue of Copenhagen. While attending the university of Copenhagen he continued with his talmudic studies. When in 1816 the Danish government issued regulations for Jewish religious instruction, he was appointed head teacher of religion (Hauptkatechet) and entrusted with the task of examining his students and preparing them for confirmation. The first confirmation took place with considerable fervor on May 9, 1817, with the accompaniment of organ music and in the presence of high state and university officials. He held services every Wednesday evening for adherents of Reform *Judaism that were characterized by the total elimination of the Hebrew language and the use of music by Christian composers. Mannheimer preached in the Danish language, much to the dismay of the traditional majority of the community who lodged an official protest with the government. In 1821 he went to Berlin to conduct services in the Reform synagogue, then to Vienna, and back to Copenhagen. He finally left Copenhagen to preach in 1823 in Hamburg and then went to Leipzig. At the suggestion of Lazar *Biedermann, he was asked in 1824 to officiate at the new Seitenstetten Synagogue in Vienna. Since Jews in Vienna were not permitted to constitute a community at that time, he was officially known as headmaster of the religious school. Mannheimer became one of the leading preachers of the 19th century, attracting all segments of the Jewish population; he adhered to an inspirational rather than didactic concept of preaching. His sermons, in which the aggadah was translated into modern terms, remained classical in form and content, yet they were the least rule bound and formalistic of contemporary sermons. Moreover, he was not reluctant to acknowledge his debt to Christian masters of the art of preaching. In his mature years in Vienna he rejected radical Reform and adopted a middle course in his service, eliminating some traditions without destroying their essence. He insisted on Hebrew as the language of worship, retained the prayers of Zion and Jerusalem, did not incorporate organ music into the service, and vigorously defended circumcision as a ritual of fundamental importance. In creating a form of worship known as "worship according to Mannheimer" (or "the Viennese rite") he prevented a split in the community, and became a pioneer in this type of service in the communities of Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia. His service was also imitated in some German communities.

Despite his moderate Reform tendencies, Mannheimer was strongly attacked by the *Orthodox community. He helped to foster reforms in religious education, retaining Hebrew as an important element and introduced birth, marriage, and death registers into the community. He also helped to found a number of charitable and cultural organizations and fought for the rights of the Jews in general society; with great persistence he sought to gain legal recognition of the Viennese community. Together with 24 Austrian rabbis he achieved the abolishment of the oath more *judaico, although his own modified form was not fully accepted. In 1842 he successfully defeated the proposal of Professor Rosas to limit the number of Jewish medical students.

During the revolution in 1848 Mannheimer delivered an eloquent eulogy on two of its Jewish victims who were buried together with Christian victims in a Christian cemetery (March 17). On March 31, 1848 he published a "Declaration on the Jewish Problem" and submitted an effective draft law to the political commission. In the same year the city of Brody elected him to the Reichstag, where, in cooperation with A. *Fischhof and the rabbi D.B. *Meisels, he succeeded in obtaining the removal of the "Jews' tax." Nevertheless, he warned the Jewish community against pleading on its own behalf. Jewish emancipation, he said, might be discussed, but only after it had been broached by the non-Jews. In the Reichstag he made a striking plea for abolishing the death penalty. The Vienna community, whose subservient attitude to the government he criticized, tried to restrict his liberal activity, in part out of concern that his outspokenness might embroil them with the increasingly reactionary forces in the government. They even sought to censor his utterances in the Reichstag. Reluctantly Mannheimer eventually withdrew from political life.

Mannheimer's most important literary work is the exemplary German translation of the prayer book and the festival prayers (Vienna, 1840, later in a number of editions). Of his sermons there have been published Pradikender holdne ved det mosaiske Troessamfunds Andagts övelser i Modersmaalet i Sommerhalbaaret 1819 (Copenhagen, 1819), and Gottesdienstliche Vortraege ueber die Wochenabschnitte des Jahres (vol. 1, on Genesis and Exodus, 1834); Gottesdienstliche Vortraege gehalten im Monat Tishri 5594 (1834). A posthumous edition of additional sermons was published by B. Hammerschlag (1876). Some of his sermons on Genesis and Exodus were translated in Hebrew by E. Kuttner and published under the title MeiNo'aḥ (1865). Of importance, too, are his Gutachten fuer das Gebetbuch des Hamburger Tempels (1841), and Gutachten gegen die Reformpartei in Frankfurt a. M. in Angelegenheit der Beschneidungsfrage (1843).


G. Wolf, Isak Noa Mannheimer (1863); idem, Geschichte der Kultusgemeinde in Wien (1861), 43–54; M. Rosenmann, Isak Noa Mannheimer… (19152); idem, in: azdj, 86 (1922), 30f.; M. Bisstritz (ed.), Mannheimer-Album (1864); mgwj, 61 (1917), correspondence with L. Zunz; L.A. Frankel, Zur Geschichte der Juden in Wien (1853), 66f.; L. Geiger, in: azdj, 59 (1895), 271–3; M. Grunwald, Vienna (1936), index; A. Altmann, Studies in 19thCentury Jewish Intellectual History (1964), index; S. Baron, in: paajr, 20 (1951), 1–17; G. Weil, in: jjs, 8 (1957), 91–101.

[Bernard Suler]