Manual Judaism in Germany

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In what some critics viewed as a bizarre spectacle, a Jew would sit in an open glass box taking questions from visitors about Jewish life and Israel. Broder, a leading expert on German anti-Semitism and columnist for the large daily Die Welt , said in an interview, "The remembrance of Auschwitz has deteriorated into a trite ritual, which is about saving the dead Jews. And this ritual of saving the dead Jews is used as a moral alibi. The remembrance of the Holocaust is an excuse to not have to deal with a potential second Holocaust in the Middle East.

He has long criticized many German intellectuals and politicians for playing down or ignoring the Iranian threat and its hard-core anti-Semitism. Neither Iranian faced prosecution , though Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany.


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Critics argue that "Israel criticism," as it is called in Germany, has become a national pastime. There are no similar debates about, for example, Russia criticism. Merkel is the first German chancellor to identify the use of rabidly anti-Israel rhetoric as a cover for anti-Semitism. There were countervailing currents to outbreaks of anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel during Operation Protective Edge among sections of the media and German elites. There has been growing opprobrium against classical anti-Semitism, but contemporary anti-Semitism, largely defined as hostility, continues.

Shrinking the gap between combating contemporary forms of anti-Semitism and societal indifference to those manifestations remains a tall order. Take the example of Hezbollah in Germany. For Jews in Germany, the group represents a sincere threat. Since , Hezbollah has staged a yearly al-Quds Day march in Berlin calling for the destruction of Israel.

For Jews to feel comfortable in 21st-century Germany, rising anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiments will need to be blunted. The pressing question is whether Merkel will match her characteristically tough speech against anti-Semitism with policy prescriptions — and whether Germans are listening. Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola. Sign up for free access to 1 article per month and weekly email updates from expert policy analysts. Create a Foreign Policy account to access 1 article per month and free newsletters developed by policy experts. Thank you for being an FP Basic subscriber.

To get access to this special FP Premium benefit, upgrade your subscription by clicking the button below. Thank you for being an FP reader. To get access to this special FP Premium benefit, subscribe by clicking the button below. But is Angela Merkel doing anything about it? Adam Berry, Getty Images News.

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German Jews during the Holocaust

The bishops , who were continually harping at the synods on the anti-Semitic decrees of the canonical law, finally brought it about that the majority Christian populace was filled with mistrust against the Jewish unbelievers. This feeling, among both princes and people, was further stimulated by the attacks on the civic equality of the Jews.

Beginning with the tenth century, Holy Week became more and more a period of persecution for them. Yet the Saxon Ottonian emperors, beginning with Henry the Fowler did not treat the Jews badly, exacting from them merely the taxes levied upon all other merchants. Although they were as ignorant as their contemporaries in secular studies, they could read and understand the Hebrew prayers and the Bible in the original text.

Halakic studies began to flourish about At that time Rabbi Gershom ben Judah was teaching at Metz and Mayence, gathering about him pupils from far and near. This continuous study of the Torah and the Talmud produced such a devotion to their faith that the Jews considered life without their religion not worth living; but they did not realize this clearly until the time of the Crusades , when they were often compelled to choose between life and faith. The wild excitement to which the Germans had been driven by exhortations to take the cross first broke upon the Jews, the nearest representatives of an execrated opposition faith.

Entire communities, like those of Treves, Speyer, Worms, Mayence, and Cologne, were slain, except where the slayers were anticipated by the deliberate self-destruction of their intended victims. About 12, Jews are said to have perished in the Rhenish cities alone between May and July These outbreaks of popular passion during the Crusades influenced the future status of the Jews. To salve their consciences the Christians brought accusations against the Jews to prove that they had deserved their fate; imputed crimes, like desecration of the host, ritual murder, poisoning of wells, and treason, brought hundreds to the stake and drove thousands into exile.

They were accused of having caused the inroads of the Mongols, even though they suffered equally with the Christians. When the Black Death swept over Europe in —, the Jews were accused of well poisoning , and a general slaughter began throughout the Germanic and contiguous provinces, causing a massive exodus east to Poland , where they at first were warmly greeted by the Polish King , forming the future foundations of the largest Jewish community in Europe.

Nevertheless, the legal and civic status of the Jews was undergoing a transformation.

Berlin Jewish youth give their take on anti-semitism - Journal

They found a certain degree of protection with the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire , who claimed the right of possession and protection of all the Jews of the empire in virtue of being the successor of the emperor Titus , who was said to have acquired the Jews as his private property. The German emperors claimed this "right of possession" more for the sake of taxing the Jews than of protecting them.

Ludwig the Bavarian especially exerted his ingenuity in devising new taxes. The emperors of the house of Luxemburg devised still other means of taxation. They turned their prerogatives in regard to the Jews to further account by selling at a high price to the princes and free towns of the empire the valuable privilege of taxing and mulcting the Jews. On the reorganization of the empire in , Charles IV, by the Golden Bull, granted this privilege to the seven electors of the empire.

From this time onward the Jews of Germany gradually passed in increasing numbers from the authority of the emperor to that of the lesser sovereigns and of the cities. For the sake of sorely needed revenue the Jews were now invited, with the promise of full protection, to return to those districts and cities from which they had shortly before been cruelly expelled; but as soon as they had acquired some property they were again plundered and driven away.

These episodes thenceforth constituted the history of the German Jews. Emperor Wenceslaus was most expert in transferring to his own coffers gold from the pockets of rich Jews. He made compacts with many cities, estates, and princes whereby he annulled all outstanding debts to the Jews in return for a certain sum paid to him, adding that anyone who should nevertheless help the Jews to collect their debts should be dealt with as a robber and peacebreaker, and be forced to make restitution. This decree, which for years injured the public credit, impoverished thousands of Jewish families during the close of the fourteenth century.

Nor did the fifteenth century bring any amelioration. What happened in the time of the Crusades happened again.

Jews in Germany - New World Encyclopedia

During the war upon the Hussite heretics became the signal for the slaughter of the unbelievers. The Jews of Austria , Bohemia , Moravia, and Silesia passed through all the terrors of death, forced baptism , or voluntary immolation for the sake of their faith. When the Hussites made peace with the Church, the pope sent the Franciscan monk Capistrano to win the renegades back into the fold and inspire them with loathing for heresy and unbelief; 41 martyrs were burned in Breslau alone, and all Jews were forever banished from Silesia.

The Franciscan monk Bernardinus of Feltre brought a similar fate upon the communities in southern and western Germany. The end of the fifteenth century, which brought a new epoch for the Christian world, brought no relief to the Jews. They remained the victims of a religious hatred that ascribed to them all possible evils. When the established Church, threatened in its spiritual power in Germany and elsewhere, prepared for its conflict with the culture of the Renaissance , one of its most convenient points of attack was rabbinic literature.

At this time, as once before in France , Jewish converts spread false reports in regard to the Talmud. But an advocate of the book arose in the person of Johannes Reuchlin - , the German humanist, who was the first one in Germany to include the Hebrew language among the humanities.

His opinion, though strongly opposed by the Dominicans and their followers, finally prevailed when the humanistic Pope Leo X permitted the Talmud to be printed in Italy. The feeling against the Jews themselves, however, remained the same. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries they were still subject to the will of the princes and free cities, both in Catholic and in Protestant countries.

The emperors even occasionally expelled their kammerknechte from their crown lands, although they still assumed the office of protector. Emperor Leopold I expelled them in from Vienna and the Archduchy of Austria, in spite of their vested rights and the intercession of princes and ecclesiastics; the exiles were received in the Margraviate of Brandenburg. The Great Elector Frederick William — , deciding to tolerate all religious beliefs impartially, protected his new subjects against oppression and slander.

In spite of the civic and religious restrictions to which they were subjected even here, the Jews of this flourishing community gradually attained to a wider outlook, although their one-sided education, the result of centuries of oppression, restricted them in European culture and kept them in intellectual bondage. This trend accelerated throughout the eighteenth century as parts of Germany began to readmit Jews, and with the worsening conditions in Poland after the Partition of Poland in and between Prussia , Austria , and Russia.

The Jews had kept their piety and their intellectual activity. They were devoted to the study of the Halakah. The German Jews contributed much to the spread and completion of these commentaries. Beginning with the 12th century they worked independently, especially in the fields of Haggadah and ethics. Eleasar of Worms c. Isaac of Vienna c. Even the horrors of the Black Death could not completely destroy this literary activity.

To this period of decline belong also a number of large collections of responsa and useful commentaries on earlier halakic works. As it was difficult to produce any new works in the field of the Halakah, and as the dry study of well-worn subjects no longer satisfied, scholars sought relief in the interpretations and traditions embodied in the Cabala.

The end and aim of existence were now sought in the aspiration of the soul toward its fountainhead, combined with the endeavor to saturate the earthly life with the spirit of God. By a continuous attitude of reverence to God, by lofty thoughts and actions, the Jew was to rise above the ordinary affairs of the day and become a worthy member of the kingdom of God. Every act of his life was to remind him of his religious duties and stimulate him to mystic contemplation. The oppressions under which the Jews suffered encouraged an austere view of life. Cut off from all participation in public and municipal life, they had to seek in their homes compensation for the things denied them outside.

Their family life was intimate, beautified by faith, industry, and temperance. They were loyal to their community. In consequence of their complete segregation from their Christian fellow citizens, the German speech of the ghetto was interladen with Hebraisms, and also with Slavonic elements since the seventeenth century. Although this output was one-sided, presupposing almost no secular knowledge, its importance in the history of Jewish culture must not be underestimated.

The study of the Bible, Talmud, and halakic legal works, with their voluminous commentaries, preserved the plasticity of the Jewish mind, until a new Moses came to lead his coreligionists out of intellectual bondage toward modern culture. Moses Mendelssohn located with true insight the point of departure for the regeneration of Jewish life. The Middle Ages, which could take from the Jews neither their faith nor their past intellectual achievements, had yet deprived them of the chief means namely, the vernacular of comprehending the intellectual labors of others.

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This book became the manual of the German Jews, teaching them to write and speak the German language, and preparing them for participation in German culture and secular science. Mendelssohn lived to see the first fruits of his endeavors. In the periodical Der Sammler was issued with the view of providing general information for adults and enabling them to express themselves in pure, harmonious German.

A youthful enthusiasm for new ideals at that time pervaded the entire civilized world; all religions were recognized as equally entitled to respect, and the champions of political freedom undertook to restore the Jews to their full rights as men and citizens. As early as he issued the Patent of Toleration for the Jews of Lower Austria, thereby establishing the civic equality of his Jewish subjects. Prussia conferred citizenship upon the Prussian Jews in , though this by no means included full equality with other citizens.

The German federal edicts of merely held out the prospect of full equality; but it was not realized at that time, and even the promises that had been given were modified. In Austria many laws restricting the trade and traffic of Jewish subjects remained in force down to the middle of the nineteenth century, in spite of the patent of toleration.

Some of the crown lands, as Styria and Upper Austria, forbade any Jews to settle within their territory; in Bohemia , Moravia, and Silesia many cities were closed to them. The Jews were, in addition, burdened with heavy taxes and imposts. In the German kingdom of Prussia , also, the government modified materially the promises made in the disastrous year The promised uniform regulation of Jewish affairs was time and again postponed.

There was at that time no official authorized to speak in the name of all German Jews. Nevertheless, a few courageous men came forward to maintain their cause, foremost among them being Gabriel Riesser, a Jewish lawyer of Hamburg died , who demanded full civic equality for his race from the German princes and peoples. He aroused public opinion to such an extent that this equality was granted in Prussia on April 6, , and in Hanover and Nassau on September 5 and on December 12, respectively.

After the establishment of the North German Union by the law of July 3, , all existing restrictions imposed on the followers of different religions were abolished; this decree was extended to all the provinces of the German empire after the events of The intellectual development of the Jews kept pace with their civic enfranchisement.

Recognizing that pursuit of modern culture would not at once assure them the civic status they desired, their leaders set themselves to reawaken Jewish self-consciousness by applying the methods of modern scholarship to the study of Jewish sources, and to stimulate the rising generation by familiarizing them with the intellectual achievements of their ancestors, which had been accumulating for thousands of years; and at the same time they sought to rehabilitate Judaism in the eyes of the world.

Nor was the traditional law neglected. Jacob Levy compiled lexicographical works to the Talmud and Midrashim.

Michael Sachs and Joseph Perles investigated the foreign elements found in the language of the Talmud. Zacharias Frankel wrote an introduction to the Mishnah and to the Jerusalem Talmud, and David Hoffmann and Israel Lewy investigated the origin and development of the Halakah. Religio-philosophical literature was also assiduously cultivated, and the original Arabic texts of Jewish religious philosophers were made accessible. Hirschfeld the works of Judah ha-Levi. Joel and I. Guttmann investigated the works of Jewish thinkers and their influence on the general development of philosophy , while S.

Hirsch attempted to develop the philosophy of religion along the lines laid down by Hegel , and Solomon Steinheim propounded a new theory of revelation in accordance with the system of the synagogue. The enfranchisement of the Jews and the reflorescence of Jewish science led to a reorganization of their institutions with a view to transmitting the ancient traditions intact with the new generations.

Opinions differed widely as to the best methods of accomplishing this object. While Geiger and Holdheim were ready to meet the modern spirit of liberalism, Samson Raphael Hirsch defended the customs handed down by the fathers. In general, it was easier to agree upon the means of training children for the Reformed worship and awakening the interest of adults in Jewish affairs.

Jews in Germany

The religious schools were an outcome of the desire to add religious instruction to the secular education of Jewish children prescribed by the state. As the Talmudic schools, still existing in Germany in the first third of the 19th century, were gradually deserted; rabbinical seminaries were founded, in which Talmudic instruction followed the methods introduced by Zacharias Frankel in the Jewish Theological Seminary opened at Breslau in Since then special attention has been devoted to religious literature.

Textbooks on religion and specifically on Biblical and Jewish history, as well as aids to the translation and explanation of the Bible and the prayer-books, were compiled to meet the demands of modern pedagogics. Pulpit oratory began to flourish as never before, foremost among the great German preachers being M. Sachs and M. Nor was synagogal music neglected, Louis Lewandowski especially contributing to its development. The public institutions of the Jewish communities served to supplement the work of teachers and leaders, and to promote Jewish solidarity. This was the primary object of the Jewish press, created by Ludwig Philippson.

In he founded the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums, which has been followed by a number of similar periodicals. They had succeeded in preserving a certain unity of religious opinion and conviction among the Jews, with the gratifying result of unity of action for the common good. Societies for the cultivation of Jewish literature were founded, as well as associations of teachers, rabbis, and leaders of congregations.

In response to the Enlightenment and the emancipation, elements within German Jewry sought to reform Jewish belief and practice, starting the Jewish Reform Movement. In light of modern scholarship, these German Jews denied divine authorship of the Torah , declared only those biblical laws concerning ethics to be binding, and stated that the rest of halakha Jewish law need no longer be viewed as normative. Circumcision was abandoned, rabbis wore vestments modeled after Protestant ministers, and instrumental accompaniment—banned in Jewish Sabbath worship since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.

The traditional Hebrew prayer book the Siddur was replaced with a German text which truncated or altogether excised most parts of the traditional service. Reform synagogues began to be called temples, a term reserved in more traditional Judaism for the Temple in Jerusalem. The practice of Kashrut keeping kosher was abandoned as an impediment to spirituality. The early Reform movement renounced Zionism and declared Germany to be its new Zion. This anti-Zionist view is no longer held; see below. One of the most important figures in the history of Reform Judaism is the radical reformer Samuel Holdheim.

In , Hep-Hep riots—according to one interpretation from the Latin Hierosolyma est perdita Jerusalem is lost , the rallying cry of the Crusaders, but more likely derived from the traditional herding cries of the German Folk—destroyed Jewish property and killed many Jews. The Revolution of swung the pendulum back towards freedom for the Jews, but the financial crisis of created another era of repression.