Wohlgemuth, Joseph

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WOHLGEMUTH, JOSEPH (1867–1942), rabbi, educator, and theologian. Wohlgemuth, born in Memel, as a child moved with his family to Hamburg, where his grandfather, Isaiah Wohlgemuth, became stipendiary rabbi (Klausrabbiner). Wohlgemuth studied at the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary and at the university, teaching at the same time and for many years afterward at the Adass Yisroel religious school. In 1895 he was appointed tutor and lecturer in religious philosophy, homiletics, and practical halakhah at the seminary, where he exercised considerable influence on several generations of students for the Orthodox rabbinate. In 1932 broken health forced him to retire to a sanatorium in Frankfurt.

Wohlgemuth's published works include: Die Unsterblichkeitslehre in der Bibel (1899); Beitraege zu einer juedischen Homiletik (1904); Das juedische Religionsgesetz in juedischer Beleuchtung (2 vols., 1911–19), a study of the problem of Ta'amei ha-Mitzvot (the ideology of the practical commandments); Bildungsprobleme in der Ostjudenfrage (1916); Das Tier und seine Wertung im Judentum (1930); and Grundgedanken der Religionsphilosophie Max Schelers (1931). His Der badische Gebetbuchentwurf… (1907) and Gesetzestreues und liberales Judentum (1913) are a defense of Orthodoxy against Reform. In Der Weltkrieg im Lichte des Judentums (1915), he extolled Germany's "civilizing mission." Wohlgemuth also translated (with J. Bleichrode (1899, 19397) M.Ḥ. Luzzatto's ethical guide, Mesillat Yesharim (1906) into German. In 1914 he founded the monthly *Jeschurun, which under his editorship became (to 1930) the leading Orthodox periodical in the spheres of Jewish scholarship and thought, and to which he contributed important articles – both on scholarly subjects and on current affairs. A Festschrift was issued in honor of his 60th birthday (Juedische Studien, 1928).

His son, judah ari wohlgemuth (1903–1957), educator and author, taught at Jewish schools in Telsiai, Lithuania, and Riga, Latvia, before spending eight years with his family in a labor camp in Siberia. Wohlgemuth published Vom Denken und Glauben unserer Zeit (1935); Fragt immer: gut oder boese (1954), dealing with the religious and philosophical problems raised by the Holocaust; and a trilingual poem, "Pesaḥ be-Novosibersk 1942" (1963), written in exile in Siberia.


J.A. Wohlgemuth, in: L. Jung (ed.), Guardians of Our Heritage (1958), 533–50; Y. Aviad, Deyokena'ot (1962), 209–12; I. Gruenfeld, Three Generations (1958), index; H. Schwab, History of Orthodox Jewry in Germany (1950), index; idem, Chachme Ashkenaz (1964), 125–6.