The Berlin Jewish Community

The Berlin Jewish Community : Enlightenment, Family and Crisis, 1770-1830

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The Berlin Jewish community was both the pioneer in intellectual modernization and the first to experience a crisis of modernity. This original and imaginative book connects intellectual and political transformation with the social structures and daily activities of the Jewish community. Steven M. Lowenstein has used extraordinarily rich documentation about the life of Berlin Jewry in the period and assembled a collective biography of the entire community of Berlin Jews. He has examined tax lists, subscription lists, genealogical records, and address lists as well as kosher meat accounts to give us a vivid picture of daily life. On another level in detailing the complexity of Jewish life in Berlin during this period, this book illuminates the connections between the "peaceful stage" of enlightenment and the crisis that followed.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 312 pages
  • 158 x 232 x 32mm | 639.56g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 8 pp halftones, maps, tables
  • 0195083261
  • 9780195083262

Back cover copy

Berlin Jewry was the first major Jewish community to undergo the process of modernization which has since swept most of world Jewry. The process of adaptation to the cultural, linguistic and political life of the majority culture first proposed by intellectuals of the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskala) was accompanied by a thoroughgoing crisis of Jewish identity. Berlin Jewry was soon faced by patterns of illegitimacy, marital breakdown and conversion to Christianity on a scale never witnessed before. Scholars have long debated the severity of the crisis of Berlin Jewry as well as its connection to the philosophy and practice of the Jewish Enlightenment. The Berlin Jewish Community endeavors to settle much of the debate through a collective biography of all 3,500 Jews in Berlin at the time. The extraordinarily rich documentation about the life of Berlin Jewry in the period makes it possible to trace the personal and family connections between those involved in modernizing activities with those involved in the later crisis. The results of this study show that one in four families had members that converted and that pro-Enlightenment families were more likely to have converted relatives than were traditionalists. This correlation is not simply a matter of Enlightenment "responsibility" for the crisis, but rather was produced by a very complex and often contradictory process of moving from traditional to modern Jewish life. In this original and imaginative book, Steven M. Lowenstein presents definitive data on the dimensions and social dynamics of the crisis of Berlin Jewry at the end of the eighteenth century. It will be of interest to scholars and students of modern Jewish history, Germanhistory, social history, and modern Jewish religious and intellectual developments.show more

Review quote

This is a very thorough and systematic work ... this book provides a genuinely Jewish approach, and its findings form a very welcome addition to our knowledge. * Christopher Harvie, University of Tubingen, British Journal for Eighteenth-century Studies, vol. 19, part 2, Autumn 1996 *show more