Schorr, Joshua Heschel

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SCHORR, JOSHUA HESCHEL (commonly known as Osias Schorr ; 1818–1895), scholar, editor, and second-generation Galician Haskalah leader. Born in Brody, Galicia, to a prominent and affluent family, Schorr became a successful merchant, but devoted much of his time to Jewish scholarship. In his youth he was befriended (through correspondence) by Samuel David *Luzzatto and later financed the publication of a number of Luzzatto's works. In the 1850s Luzzatto broke with Schorr because of the latter's radicalism. Schorr's initial writings were translated from their original Hebrew and published in German Jewish periodicals. The earliest articles centered on social and literary themes and appeared in Ludwig*Philippson's Die Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums. His first major article appeared in *Jost's Israelitische Annalen, and constituted an early attempt to formulate a theoretical basis for reforming Jewish law without denying the principle of authority. In the early 1840s he frequently contributed to Zion, a Hebrew periodical which appeared in Germany. Schorr's major writings, however, were published in *He-Ḥalutz, a yearbook which he edited and which appeared intermittently between 1851 and 1887. Intended as the literary organ of a small group of radical maskilim who advocated social and religious reforms, He-Ḥalutz became devoted almost entirely to scholarly articles after publication of Volume 5 in 1860. Subsequent to the publication of Volume 6 in 1861, the periodical was written exclusively by Schorr. During the years 1879–84 Schorr again became involved in the struggle between Galician maskilim and adherents of Orthodoxy, against whom he published many satirical verses in Ivri Anokhi, a Hebrew periodical issued in Brody. He corresponded with the leading Jewish scholars of his day, including Abraham Geiger, Abraham Krochmal, Leopold Zunz, Marcus Jost, and Moritz Steinschneider, as well as Bernard Felsenthal, a prominent American Reform rabbi. Schorr's writings advocating religious and social reforms were of two kinds: first, satirical diatribes attacking the alleged ignorance and obscurantism of the Orthodox, and often influenced by the style of his friend, Isaac *Erter; and, second, scholarly polemics seeking to demonstrate that talmudic and rabbinical laws are products of a specific time and are, therefore, without absolute authority. In the polemical articles his technique was to point out errors and contradictions in talmudic and later halakhic literature, and he did not limit his critical approach to post-biblical texts. Schorr was one of the earliest Hebrew scholars to apply critical methods to the Bible, including the Torah itself, which aroused the wrath of his Orthodox opponents. To the Jewish masses of Eastern Europe he became the very symbol of heresy and, as such, appears as a quasi-fictional character in the works of S.Y. *Agnon. Influencing an entire generation of East European maskilimMoses Leib *Lilienblum and Judah Leib *Gordon, for example, acknowledged their debt to him – Schorr also had some effect on a number of American Reform rabbis. Toward the end of the 19th century he became an eccentric recluse. He left his valuable library of manuscripts and early prints and a substantial estate to the Viennese Rabbinical Seminary.


Klausner, Sifrut, 4 (1953), 58–77; E. Spicehandler, in: huca, 31 (1960), 181–222; 40–41 (1970), 503–28; idem, in: sbb, 2 (1955–56), 20–36 (bibl.).

[Ezra Spicehandler]