The theory of the Catholic Church that it had a duty to protect man from endangering his eternal salvation through exposure to heretical books and ideas made its form of censorship the
most intolerant, and the power of the Church enabled it to become all pervasive. Although the Church had denounced and burned books early in its history, the first instance of Jews being forced to eliminate supposed blasphemies against Christianity dates from the mid-13th century. After the disputation of Barcelona in 1263, James, the king of Aragon, ordered that the Jews must within three months eliminate all the passages in their writings which were found objectionable. Non-compliance with this order was to result in heavy penalties and the destruction of the works concerned. The official intrusion of the Church into Jewish life came to a head with its persecution of the Talmud (see
*Talmud, Burning of
). Listed in 1559 in the Index auctorum et librorum prohibitorum issued by Pope Paul IV, the Talmud was subjected to innumerable disputations, attacks, and burnings. In March 1589 Sixtus V extended the ban in his Index to "Books of the Jews" containing anything which might be construed as being against the Catholic Church. In 1595 the Index expurgatorius (Sefer ha-Zikkuk) of Hebrew books was established. This Index listed books which could not be read without having individual passages revised or deleted before publication. Official revisers, who often were apostate Jews, were appointed to effect this revision according to the rules laid down in De correctione librorum, which appeared with the Index of Clement VIII in 1596. Objectionable passages in Hebrew books and even expressions such as "Talmud" and "goi" were deleted, altered, and at times torn out. Four hundred and twenty Hebrew books, beginning with Ẓeror ha-Mor by Abraham Saba (Constantinople, 1514) and ending with Sefer Seliḥot ke-Minhag Ashkenazim (Venice, n.d.), are listed in a manuscript of the Sefer ha-Zikkuk (published by N. Porges, in Festschrift … A. Berliner (1903), 273–95). There are thousands of Hebrew books with signs of the censor's work, words or whole passages blacked out with ink, and censors' signatures at the end of the volumes. Quite a number of textual errors in the standard editions of Hebrew texts owe their origin to such censorial activity. The last edition of the papal Index librorum prohibitorum in 1948 still included works written by Jews, converted Jews, and non-Jews dealing with Jewish subjects. Among the Hebrew books still on the list were Ein Yisrael (Ein Ya'akov) by Jacob ibn Ḥabib, published with Sefer Beit Leḥem Yehudah by Leone Modena and banned in 1693 and again in 1694; Sha'arei Ẓiyyon (1662) by Nathan Nata Hannover, the publication of which resulted in the trial of its publisher Shabbetai Bass of Dyhernfurth, banned in 1775; the kabbalistic work Eshel Abraham (1701) by Mordecai b. Judah Leib Ashkenazi, forbidden by the Church authorities in 1702; and the aggadic collections Yalkut Shimoni and Yalkut Re'uveni which contain various kabbalistic interpretations of the Bible. Christian censors deleted the entire tractate Avodah Zarah from the Basle edition of the Talmud (1578–80). The Latin translation of Hilkhot Avodah Zarah of Maimonides' Yad (De Idolatria liber cum interpretatione latina et notis Dionysii Vosii, Amsterdam, 1641) was placed on the Index in 1717. Among other well-known books placed on the Index were Manasseh Ben Israel's De resurrectione mortuorum (Amsterdam, 1636); Baruch Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, published anonymously in 1670; Spinoza's other work, banned under the heading Opera Posthuma, as was the German translation of the Tractatus (Theologisch-Politische Abhandlungen von Spinoza, 1826) by J.A. Kalb; and the works of Spinoza's followers. Among historical books found unacceptable by the Church was an excerpt from Josephus prepared by Johann Baptist Otte, Spicilegium sive excerpta ex Flavio Josepho (Amsterdam, Leyden, 1726), which was placed on the Index in 1743. Some of the most famous names in philosophy and literature figure in the prohibited lists, among them Jews such as Edmond Fleg, whose L'Enfant prophète (1926) and Jésus, raconté par le juif errant (1933) were placed on the Index in 1940.
The 19th century saw the introduction of severe censorship of Hebrew and Yiddish literature in Russia and Poland. Ḥasidic literature in particular was burned and destroyed. The Polish censors prevented the importing of Hebrew books not printed in Poland, and examiners visited Polish cities to make sure that this regulation was obeyed. In Prague, Jesuits had controlled the censorship of Hebrew books by means of a Commissio inquisitionis Judaicae pravitatis. Only with permission given by the consistorium appointed by the archbishop could Hebrew books be printed. The power of censorship remained in the hands of the consistorium until the end of the 18th century, when the Landesgubernium took it over. The Nazi and fascist persecutions were directed at not only the Jews but also their literary and scientific work, which was confiscated, banned, and burned en masse. In Germany the confiscation of thousands of books, which began with the order signed by Hindenburg on February 28, 1933, "for the protection of the nation and the state," ended with the Gestapo's list of forbidden books containing 12,400 titles and 149 authors. On May 10, 1933, the works of Jewish authors were burned in many cities of Germany; among the many authors whose works were burned were Alfred Adler, Sholem Asch, Max Brod, Ilya Ehrenburg, Sigmund Freud, Lion Feuchtwanger, Heinrich Heine, Franz Kafka, Else Lasker-Schueler, Emil Ludwig, Jakob Wasserman, Franz Werfel, and Arnold and Stefan Zweig. In Hungary, books dealing with antisemitism in Hungary and with the
, the law limiting the number of Jewish students enrolled in universities, were confiscated in September 1919, following the counterrevolution. In 1940 a general censorship was introduced in Hungary, and everything deemed unacceptable by fascist authorities was banned, including the works of Jewish writers. In June 1944, when 600,000 Jews were deported from Hungary to the extermination camps of Poland, 500,000 Hebrew and Jewish books and the works of Jewish writers composed in different European languages were destroyed.
Censorship in the proportion of the Christian world was unknown to Judaism. Even the restrictions against the Apocrypha
(Sefarim Ḥiẓoniyyim) referred to its use in public study only. The Talmud quotes the Wisdom of
, although the reading of it is forbidden by rabbinic authorities. Opposition to Greek culture was expressed because of a fear of Hellenization. The Aramaic translation of Job, the first book described in the Talmud, was suppressed (Shab. 115a). The "books of the Minim" (probably referring to the books of the early Christians) were also considered objectionable (Tosef., Shab. 13 (14):5). On June 21, 1554, a rabbinic ordinance was adopted by a synod in Ferrara, Italy, establishing a system of internal control over the printing of Hebrew books. Fourteen rabbis representing the Italian Jews resolved that no Hebrew book be printed without the authorization of three recognized rabbis and the lay leaders of the nearest large community. The action in Ferrara was repeated in Padua in 1585; similar steps were taken by the Council of the Four Lands in Poland and the Jewish community of Frankfurt in 1603 and by the Sephardi community in Amsterdam in 1639. In the past 400 years there have been a number of reasons for censorship within the Jewish community. Salacious and trivial publications were banned by rabbis. A classic example of a distinct prohibition is
's interdiction in his Shulḥan Arukh (OH 307:16) of
of Rome's erotic Maḥbarot. Books that contained what were considered incorrect halakhic decisions and explications; books written or published by apostates; books printed on the Sabbath; and prayer books in which changes opposed by the rabbis were made by the editor or publisher were banned. The banning of books was used as a weapon in ideological struggles. There were objections to the study of philosophy for fear of misleading the masses and to the study of Kabbalah; books were banned in the fight against the Shabbateans, the Frankists, Ḥasidism, Haskalah, and the Reform movement. There were political considerations against political and cultural emancipation – the fear that assimilation and apostasy would come in their wake; Zionism, viewed by some rabbis as a dangerous ideology because of its secular aspects, resulted in efforts to control its publications.
F.H. Reusch, Der Index der verbotenen Buecher, 2 vols. (1883–85); A. Berliner, Censur und Confiscation hebraeischer Buecher im Kirchenstaate (Rabbiner-Seminar zu Berlin, Jahresbericht (1889–90) and Suppl., 1891); J. Hilgers, Der Index der verbotenen Buecher (1904); idem, Die Buecherverbote in Papstbriefen (1907); E. Gagnon, La censure des livres (1945); R. Burke, What is the Index? (1952); H.C. Gardiner, Catholic Viewpoint on Censorship (1958); M. Carmilly-Weinberger, Sefer ve-Sayif (1966); W. Popper, Censorship of Hebrew Books (1899, repr. 1968); D.J. Silver, Maimonidean Criticism and the Maimonidean Controversy, 1180–1240 (1965); R. Mahler, Der Kamf Tsvishn Haskole un Khasidus (1942), 138–63; B. Katz, in: Ha-Toren, 9 (1922–23); no. 9, 41–48; no. 10, 43–51; no. 12, 48–60; I. Sonne, Expurgation of Hebrew Books (1943).
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