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Torah and Tradition. Early Modern Judaism. Enlightenment and Emancipation. In late 18 th century, Jews began to win civil rights in Europe, often at the price of their religious identity  assimilation.

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Torah and Tradition

Early Modern Judaism


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Enlightenment and Emancipation

  • In late 18th century, Jews began to win civil rights in Europe, often at the price of their religious identity  assimilation.

  • Jews who wished to remain Jewish struggled with different expressions of their Judaism  rise of distinct religious movements: Reform, Orthodox, Conservative (in chronological order).

  • In Eastern Europe, the choice was between ultra-orthodoxy and secular political movements.

Jewish Family in Tarnow, Poland, 1910


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In the Americas

  • “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship ... May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

    • George Washington to Moses Seixas (1790)

  • Jews accorded political and religious rights in Canada in 1831 – a quarter century before the same took place in England

  • Ezekiel Hart elected to legislature in 1808 and 1809, but expelled


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In Western & Central Europe

  • Le consistoire central israélite de France founded by Napoléon in 1808

  • Nonetheless, antipathy towards Jews  integration as long as they give up their Jewish characteristics

  • In Germany, Jews attempt to become more “European”

  •  anti-Jewish sentiment keeps increasing

  • See: Mendes-Flohr & Reinharz II.5 (Nathan the Wise), II.20 (Revealed Legislation), II.21 (Leviathan)

Moses Mendelssohn


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One Solution

  • Baptism as the “entrance ticket to European society”

    • Heinrich Heine


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Another Solution

  • Leopold Zunz and the Wissenschaft des Judentums(“Science of Judaism”)


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In Eastern Europe

  • Under Czarist rule, Jews restricted to Pale of Settlement & subject to forced conversions, conscription, and pogroms

  • Shtetl culture

  •  escape either to tradition or to utopian political movements

Photo by Roman Vishniac


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