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Verein Fuer Kultur Und Wissenschaft Des Judentums

VEREIN FUER KULTUR UND WISSENSCHAFT DES JUDENTUMS

VEREIN FUER KULTUR UND WISSENSCHAFT DES JUDENTUMS ("Kulturverein "), Society for the Culture and Science of Judaism, founded in Germany in 1819. It was initiated by Eduard *Gans, Leopold *Zunz, Isaac Marcus *Jost, Moses *Moser, and others. At a later date, Heinrich *Heine also joined the society. Founded in the aftermath of the anti-Jewish riots that took place in 1819 (see *Hep! Hep!), young Jewish intellectuals, most of them university students, proposed as the object of the society the investigation of the nature of Judaism by modern scientific methods in order to bring to light the universal value of Jewish culture and controvert the stereotype of the inferior image of the Jew. The society sponsored an institute for the scientific study of Judaism, which arranged lectures on Jewish history and culture and published (1822–23) a periodical Zeitschrift fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums, edited by Zunz. The first issue contained a programmatic lecture by Immanuel Wohlwill (Wolf), in which he dealt with the great idea embodied in Judaism since the revelation on Sinai, an issue that found its consummate expression in the teachings of *Spinoza. After Spinoza, the idea was eclipsed by the alleged backwardness of the Jews and their failure to keep up with the general advance of culture. It was the task of the society to restore to the idea of Judaism its ancient glory and to adapt it to the scientific spirit of the times. This led to the idea of the Jewish mission: "The Jews must once again show their mettle as doughty fellow-workers in the common task of mankind. They must raise themselves and their principle to the level of a science … and if one day a bond is to join the whole of humanity, then it is the bond of science, the bond of pure reason …" The society also established a school at which Heine lectured on Jewish history. The society failed to gain the recognition of either Jews or non-Jews and folded in May 1824. Some of its members, among them its president, Eduard Gans, chose to become baptized in order to gain the acceptance of Christian society. Despite its demise, however, the society succeeded in furthering scientific study of the Jewish heritage, especially as a result of the research into rabbinic literature carried out by Zunz.

add. bibliography:

M.A. Meyer, The Origins of the Modern Jew (1968), 144–82; I. Schorsch, From Text to Context (1994); R. Livneh-Freudenthal, in: Streams into the Sea (2001), 153–77; N. Roemer, Jewish Scholarship and Culture in Nineteenth-Century Germany (2005), 26–34.

[Michael Graetz /

Nils Roemer (2nd ed.)]

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