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HASKALAH (Heb. הַשְׂכָּלָה), Hebrew term for the Enlightenment movement and ideology which began within Jewish society in the 1770s. An adherent of Haskalah became known as a maskil (pl. maskilim). The movement continued to be influential and spread, with fluctuations, until the early 1880s. Haskalah had its roots in the general Enlightenment movement in Europe of the 18th century but the specific conditions and problems of Jewish society in the period, and hence the objectives to which Haskalah aspired in particular, all largely differed from those of the general Enlightenment movement. Haskalah continued along new and more radical lines the old contention upheld by the Maimonidean party in the *Maimonidean Controversy that secular studies should be recognized as a legitimate part of the curriculum in the education of a Jew. For Jewish society in Central Europe, and even more so in Eastern Europe, this demand conflicted with the deeply ingrained ideal of Torah study that left no place for other subjects. As in medieval times, secular studies were also rejected as tending to alienate youth from the observance of the precepts and even from loyalty to Judaism.

The Haskalah movement contributed toward *assimilation in language, dress, and manners by condemning Jewish feelings of alienation in the *galut and fostering loyalty toward the modern centralized state. It regarded this assimilation as a precondition to and integral element in *emancipation, which Haskalah upheld as an objective. The maskilim also advocated the productivization of Jewish occupation through entering *crafts and *agriculture. The emphasis placed on these common objectives naturally varied within Jewish society in different countries and with changing conditions. Greater emphasis was placed on assimilation, and it became more widespread in Western and Central Europe than in Eastern Europe. Here the struggle for secular education and productivization was continuous and strong (see also Haskalah in Russia, below).

Beginning and Background of Haskalah

Moses *Mendelssohn is generally considered to be the originator of the Haskalah movement (the "father of the Haskalah"). However, this opinion has to be corrected in that a desire for secular education had already been evinced among the preceding generation of German Jews, and some individual Jews in Poland and Lithuania, during the 1740s. Knowledge of European languages could be found among members of the upper strata of Jewish society there many years before. Mendelssohn considered that a Jewish translation of the Bible into German was "a first step toward culture" for Jews. It seems, however, that he was doubtful about encouraging the spread of Haskalah among Jewry. When in the early 1780s it was proposed to translate certain works into Hebrew so as to lead the Jewish people to abandon "its ignorance and the opposition to every sensible reform," Mendelssohn "thought that any enterprise of this sort would indeed not be harmful, but neither would it be very beneficial" (see Solomon Maimon, An Autobiography (1947; repr. 1967), 97). Mendelssohn was opposed to *education of Jewish and non-Jewish children together; he was also against the *Toleranzpatent issued by Emperor Joseph II, fearing that the method of education proposed there would lead Jews to *apostasy.

The birth and growth of the Haskalah movement were considerably facilitated by the policies of the absolutist regimes of Germany, Austria, and Russia during the 18th century, which deprived the Jewish community leadership of its coercive authority, such as exercise of the right of *herem ("ban"). Large-scale commercial transactions undertaken by the *Court Jews at this time brought the upper classes of Jewish society in contact with non-Jewish circles, and as a result there formed a section of the Jewish community which diverged from the traditional way of life. Others open to influence by Haskalah were individual Jews, frequently Jewish peddlers who often migrated to new localities without a communal organization or rabbis, where the individual was consequently left to himself.

Haskalah had a positive impact on the status of Jewish women. Many wealthy Jews hired tutors to teach their daughters modern European languages and other accomplishments. Elite women who acquired German and French language and culture played a significant role in transmitting the ideas and literature of the Enlightenment into the Jewish community. In traditional Jewish society girls had received only minimal religious training; now, instruction in music and modern languages together with exposure to a new world of secular novels, poetry, and plays distanced young women from brothers and husbands whose lives were restricted narrowly to commerce and finance. It is not surprising that many of these wealthy and accomplished women found success in a *salon society where gentiles and Jews mixed socially. Sometimes, these social contacts led to divorces from Jewish husbands, conversions to Christianity, and marriage to gentile suitors, often from the nobility. The number of Jewish women who followed this course was small and their motives in doing so were complex. However, some of the women who abandoned Judaism were integrated into the dominant upper-class culture and society. In making the choices they did these women experienced "at an early date and in a gender-specific way the basic conflict between group loyalty and individual emancipation that would torment so many European Jews in the two centuries to follow" (Hertz, Jewish High Society, 198).

The experience of the "salon Jewesses" was not typical for most Western and Central European Jewish women as Haskalah rapidly transformed Jewish life. Generally, gender tended to limit the assimilation of Jewish women since most had few contacts with the non-Jewish world. Confined to the domestic scene, restricted in their educational opportunities, and prevented from participating in the public realms of economic and civic life, women's progress to integration was halting and incomplete in comparison to Jewish men. Nevertheless, Haskalah had a far reaching impact on gender relations, following the lead of Mendelssohn, himself, who opposed arranged marriages and advocated love matches (Biale, Eros and the Jews, 153–58).

The spread and main centers of the Haskalah in Europe. From H.H. Ben-Sasson (ed.), History of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv, 1969. The spread and main centers of the Haskalah in Europe. From H.H. Ben-Sasson (ed.), History of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv, 1969.

Haskalah operated as an active trend within German Jewry in the space of one generation. Its influence first spread in *Galicia (which passed to Austria with the partition of Poland) and later in Lithuania and other provinces of the Russian *Pale of Settlement.

There were also countries where attitudes similar to those adopted by the Haskalah circles in Germany had been manifest among Jews earlier, where they were unaccompanied by disintegration of Jewish tradition. In Italy, men who had studied medicine and were well acquainted with philosophy and the classics, as well as Christian theological literature, held rabbinical positions. The prestige won by Jewish physicians of note was generally considered an asset and encouragement to the Jewish community (see Isaac Cantarini, Et Keẓ (Amsterdam, 1710) 1b). In Italy also, study of Kabbalah was compatible with secular studies (see Jacob Frances, in: I. Frances, Metek Sefatayim, ed. by H. Brody (1892), 74; Moses Hayyim *Luzzatto).

Early stirrings of a positive appreciation of secular culture among Jews had even appeared in Germany by the first half of the 18th century and were manifest earlier among some traditional scholars and leaders like *Tobias b. Moses Cohn the physician, author of Ma'aseh Tuviyyah, Jonathan *Eybeschuetz, or Jacob *Emden. More positive and active participation in general culture still combined with a traditional outlook is reflected in Israel *Zamosc and Aaron Elias Gomperz, who wrote his Ma'amar ha-Madda (1765) to point out the importance of the sciences (see also below).

The specific approach characterizing Haskalah was expressed by those to whom secular culture and philosophy became a central value which raises man to the highest spiritual level, possibly not below that of religious meditation, and for whom it symbolized the sublime aspect of man, who by his initiative can achieve progress in and dominate nature. They considered that such culture would elevate both the human and social stature of the Jew. The new spirit prompted a number of Haskalah writers to compose works popularizing science in Hebrew, like Mordecai Gumpel b. Judah Leib Schnaber (d. 1797; published under the name Marcus George Levisohn). Articles on natural sciences were published in the first Hebrew secular monthly Ha-Me'assef (see below) by Baruch Lindau (1759–1849) and Aaron Wolfsohn Halle.

Haskalah, like its parent the European Enlightenment movement, was rationalistic. It accepted only one truth: the rational-philosophical truth in which reason is the measure of all things. During the 1740s some of the youth had already begun to study Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed. Haskalah accepted Enlightenment *Deism, giving it a specifically Jewish turn. Gotthold Ephraim *Lessing, in the parable of the Three Rings in Nathan der Weise, rejected the claim of any religion to represent the absolute truth. Mendelssohn held that there was nothing in the Jewish faith opposed to reason and that the revelation on Mount Sinai did not take place to impart faith but to give laws to a nation, because faith cannot be achieved by decree, while the laws which were given on that occasion were designed to serve as the laws of a unique Jewish theocratic state. Mendelssohn thus attempted to remove Judaism from the struggle between Enlightenment and revealed religion. The attitude of such Jews toward tradition underwent a radical change. The conception of Divine Providence in favor of Israel, the belief in the election of Israel, and the religious reasons advanced for the exile of Israel were weakened and the anticipation of Israel's future redemption began to wane.

While Mendelssohn and Naphtali Herz *Wessely, the pioneer of Haskalah education, did not doubt the sanctity and the authority of the Oral Law, they tried to demote the study of Talmud from its supreme position in Jewish education. Mendelssohn, in his letter to Naphtali Herz *Homberg, stressed the importance of actions and the study of the Bible in order to preserve the society of "true theists" (i.e., Judaism), while the Talmud is not mentioned there at all. This anti-talmudic mood was widespread. Study of the Talmud was not included in the curriculum of the "Free School" founded in Berlin in 1778 (see below). Wessely expressed this approach in the words: "We were not all created to become talmudists." Representing the most radical wing of Haskalah, David *Friedlaender was openly glad that the yeshivot were declining. The Talmud was also criticized in Russia. Abraham *Buchner, a teacher in the rabbinical seminary of Warsaw, even wrote a book entitled Der Talmud in seiner Nichtigkeit ("The Talmud in its Emptiness," 2 vols., 1848). In Galicia, Joshua Heschel *Schorr claimed that although the Talmud was historically important, its legal decisions were outdated socially and spiritually and hence no longer binding. Later Moses Leib *Lilienblum, too, considered the Talmud important but demanded from the rabbis, in the name of the "spirit of life," reform in halakhah.

In Western Europe and the German states, especially the northern German states, observance of halakhah was already being neglected before the advent of the Haskalah movement. Mendelssohn reacted sharply against the tendency to ignore the burden of the precepts found among persons close to him, some of whom even denied Divine Revelation to Moses. Among the maskilim who frequented Mendelssohn's home there were, according to Solomon Dubno, "a group of men who were to be suspected of having discarded the yoke of the Torah." This negation of halakhic precepts, which was often coupled with contempt toward the whole of Judaism, also served as a factor leading to mass apostasy among the Jewish bourgeoisie of *Berlin and its surroundings.

Linguistic Assimilation

Linguistic assimilation increasingly became a hallmark of Haskalah. In Germany, as well as in Alsace-Lorraine, wealthy Jews had begun to have their children taught German and French at the close of the 17th century to facilitate both their business and social contacts with non-Jews. French became the language of the "elite" in Jewish circles, where the reading of general literature became widespread. In the 1780s there were "the daughters of Israel, who are all able to speak the language of the gentiles with eloquence, but cannot converse in Yiddish" (Ha-Me'assef (1786), 139). By the 1790s the younger generation of the Jewish bourgeoisie of Berlin had begun to adopt German as their spoken language. A negative attitude toward Yiddish developed. German writers had claimed in the past that the Jews had been able to deceive non-Jews by the use of Yiddish in business transactions, and as a result decrees had been issued compelling Jews to write their commercial documents and keep their books in German.

Apparently Mendelssohn was influenced by these claims and even thought that Yiddish was ridiculous, ungrammatical, and a cause of moral corruption. He initiated translation of the Pentateuch into German, in order to induce Jews to use this language (see *Bible: Translations, German). Wessely approved wholeheartedly of the measures which Joseph II introduced against the use of Yiddish (Ha-Me'assef (1784), 178). David Friedlaender called for the removal of Yiddish as the language of instruction in the heder and Jewish schools; in his opinion the use of Yiddish was responsible for unethical conduct and corruption of religion. He translated the prayers into German, "the language spoken by the inhabitants of these regions," because the Yiddish translations "were repulsive to the reader in their style and contents" (Ha-Me'assef (1786), 139). The maskil Zalkind *Hourwitz also suggested that the Jews be prohibited from employing either Yiddish or Hebrew for bookkeeping and business contracts, not only for transactions between Jews and Christians but also between Jews themselves, in order to prevent fraud.

A move against Yiddish in favor of the "mother tongue" (in this case, Dutch) was initiated by the maskilim in the *Netherlands during the period of French rule there. A Jewish weekly began to appear in Dutch in 1806. In 1808 a society was formed in Amsterdam for translation of the Bible and the prayer book into Dutch, as well as for the publication of textbooks in Hebrew and Dutch, the establishment of new schools, and the training of suitable teachers for them. King Louis Bonaparte issued a decree in February 1809, in force from Jan. 1, 1811, prohibiting the use of Yiddish in documents. Sermons in the synagogues were to be delivered in Dutch, while Dutch was to be the language of instruction for Jewish youth. The *consistory of the Netherlands ordered that notices in the synagogues be published in Dutch only, and all correspondence between the communities and the consistory was to be conducted in Dutch only. In France, the maskilim encountered no difficulties in their struggle against Yiddish in favor of French. French had been widely spoken among Jews before the Haskalah period. *Berr Isaac Berr preferred Mendelssohn's German translation of the Pentateuch to the one existing in Yiddish until a proper Jewish-French translation had been made. In Hungary, the maskilim were active in substituting Hungarian for the Yiddish vernacular during the 1840s. Hungarian became the language of instruction in the Jewish schools of several communities and preachers even began to employ this language in synagogues.

Development of Hebrew

Hebrew was not only of central importance to people like Jacob Emden and Jonathan Eybeschuetz, who apparently wished that Jews should be able to speak fluent Hebrew; Mendelssohn also considered the Hebrew language a national treasure. In his Kohelet Musar, 3 issues (1750), he called for an extension of its frontiers, on the example of other living languages. Cultivation of Hebrew was also one of the aims of the Biur, the commentary on the Pentateuch initiated by Mendelssohn. For these scholars Hebrew meant biblical Hebrew. Study of the Bible held a central position in the educational program of the Haskalah movement, whereas both the content of the Talmud and even more so the style of Hebrew used in the 18th century, and by earlier Ashkenazi rabbis, drove Haskalah scholars to reject the post-biblical layers in the Hebrew language. The interest shown by German gentile scholars in the Bible and its language also contributed to a certain extent to the preference of Haskalah circles for biblical Hebrew, though from the beginning some voices expressed reservations toward this extremist approach (see also Ha-Me'assef (1784), 185).

Ha-Me'assef served as the organ of the Haskalah in its Hebrew aspect. It was published regularly between 1783 and 1790, with difficulties until 1797, and revived from 1809 to 1811. It was published by the Doreshei Leshon Ever ("Friends of the Hebrew Language") in Koenigsberg founded in 1783, and renamed in 1786 Shoharei ha-Tov ve-ha-Tushiyyah ve-Doreshei Leshon Ever ("Seekers of Good and Wisdom and Friends of the Hebrew Language"). Even Ha-Me'assef published articles in German; its publication ceased through extreme assimilation of the adherents of Haskalah, in particular in Germany and Austria. German attracted younger and progressive circles. The literary contribution by the so-called *Me'assefim generation was an important stage in the development of Hebrew language and literature. Hebrew became a vehicle for secular and professional scientific expression. Maskilim also contributed much to research in grammar and purity of expression. In Eastern Europe Hebrew remained the language of Haskalah literature for a longer period, appealing to a much wider public with deeper roots in Jewish culture than in Central and Western Europe. The maskilim there further developed and enlivened Hebrew (see Haskalah in Russia, below).


The adherents of Haskalah shared the rationalist belief in the boundless efficacy of a rational education. They therefore turned to a change in the curriculum and methods of teaching as the main means of shaping a new mode of Jewish life. The first school to be guided by this ideal was founded in Berlin in 1778 and named both Freischule ("Free School") and Hinnukh Ne'arim ("Youth Education"). It was primarily designed for children of the poor and was without fee. The curriculum included study of German and French, arithmetic, geography, history, natural sciences, art, some Bible studies, and Hebrew. The school had a revolutionary effect on Jewish education, for it heralded the transfer of the center of gravity from Jewish studies to general subjects. The school was successful from the beginning; only half of its 70 first pupils came from poor homes. Wessely's welcome of Joseph II's educational proposals for Jews (Divrei Shalom ve-Emet, 4 pts. (1782–85)) and his call to the Jews of Austria to establish schools on this pattern were an outcome both of the success of the Freischule as well as the fear that if Jews themselves did not take the initiative, Jewish children would be compelled to attend the state schools. In this work Wessely set out both a detailed program and a basic philosophy for Haskalah education. German Jews of the upper social strata were ready for this program, though it aroused much rabbinical opposition, influenced from outside Germany.

In the same year (1785), the bishop of Mainz admitted 19 Jewish boys to the general school without difficulties. Many programs for Haskalah education were proposed, some drawing on the experience of Italian Jewish and Sephardi schools, whose curricula were considered near to Haskalah aims. The question of education was widely discussed in Ha-Me'assef. Some radical maskilim demanded that German and arithmetic should be taught to begin with and Hebrew reading and writing be added at a later stage. David Friedlaender sought to introduce German as the language of instruction in all subjects and the teaching of selected chapters of the Bible of ethical value to both boys and girls. In regard to religious instruction, he also suggested that only the ethical precepts be taught.

The maskilim, who despised the old-style Polish teachers, the melammedim, whom they considered uncouth and uncultured, were not satisfied with criticism alone. On their initiative new schools sprang up in Berlin, Dessau, and Frankfurt on the Main, among other places, in which Hebrew and general studies were taught. A limited number of hours were usually devoted to Hebrew studies, while study of the Talmud was almost completely abandoned. Several educators wrote textbooks where the educational aims of the Haskalah movement found expression. The first to be written were the Toledot Yisrael (Prague, 1796), on Jewish history by Peter *Beer; Imrei Shefer (Vienna, 1816) and Bne-Zion (Ger., ibid., 1812), religious and moral readers for young people by Naphtali Herz Homberg. In 1807 a confirmation ceremony for boys in German, in imitation of the Christian custom, was introduced in the school at Wolfenbuettel, whence it spread to the other Jewish schools in Germany.

The influence of Haskalah also penetrated to Orthodox circles who were compelled to respond to the demands of the times. Even R. Ezekiel *Landau agreed that it was necessary "to know language and writing"; although "Torah is the main thing," "one should grasp both." R. *David Tevele of Lissa conceded to the emperor's request "to teach the children to speak and write the German language for an hour or two." The first "integral" schools (in which Jewish and general subjects were taught) were opened by the Orthodox in Halberstadt and Hamburg (see also Samson Raphael *Hirsch; *Neo-Orthodoxy).

Haskalah brought a considerable change in the education of girls. The daughters of the wealthy elite, who generally studied under private teachers, were taught European languages and music and played an important role in introducing European culture and Enlightenment ideas into Jewish life. The maskilim also began to show concern for the education of the daughters of the poor. Schools for girls were established in the 1790s in Breslau, Dessau, Koenigsberg, and Hamburg. The curriculum generally included some Hebrew, German, the fundamentals of religion and ethics, prayers, and arithmetic; there were also schools where the writing of Yiddish, handiwork, art, and singing were taught.

Schools with curricula based on the educational ideals of Haskalah were also established in France and other Western European countries. On the example of the "integral" schools in Germany, similar schools were also founded in East European countries. In 1813 a school was founded by Josef *Perl in Tarnopol (Galicia), where in addition to Bible, Mishnah, Gemara, and Hebrew grammar, the subjects of Polish, French, arithmetic, history, and geography were also taught; the language of instruction was German and there were also classes for girls. A similar school was established in Lvov in 1845. In Warsaw, three schools in which the language of instruction was Polish were established by Jacob *Tugendhold in 1819; two schools for girls were also established here.

With the foundation of the new schools, the problem of training teachers arose. Isaac *Euchel, David Friedlaender, and Judah Loeb *Jeiteles were among the first maskilim to raise this problem. Special institutions were established, but on many occasions the rabbinical seminaries also served this purpose. The first teachers' training seminary was opened in Kassel in 1810 by the consistory of the kingdom of Westphalia, followed by others through the first half of the 19th century. A seminary for teachers and rabbis was opened in Amsterdam in 1836 and a seminary for teachers in Budapest in 1857. Secondary schools did not develop anywhere. Only the Philanthropin school at Frankfurt extended its curriculum in 1813 to include a secondary science-orientated section providing six years' studies after the four years of elementary classes. Some private institutions of a commercial-science orientation were established in Berlin. Those who went on to secondary studies generally attended non-Jewish institutions.


The educational ideals of Haskalah largely coincided with the aims set out for "improvement of the Jews" (see *emancipation) and their education as conceived by "enlightened" absolutist rulers. Typical were the edicts issued by Joseph II for the Jews of Bohemia (1781), Moravia (1782), Hungary (1783), and Galicia (1789). The Jews were ordered to establish "normal" schools or to send their children to the state schools; Jews were also permitted to enter secondary schools and universities. Anyone who studied Talmud before completing the school curriculum was liable to be sentenced to a term of imprisonment; marriage was prohibited without a certificate of school attendance.

As a result of these edicts, 42 schools were opened in Moravian communities by 1784, 25 in Bohemia by 1787, and about 30 in Hungary by the end of the 1780s. In Galicia 104 schools were established but were closed down in 1806 during the period of reaction for fear of the "harmful" influence of the "anti-religious" Jewish teachers. Naphtali Herz Homberg was appointed to supervise the program in Galicia. In most German states the process of government intervention in the education of the Jews occurred at the beginning of the 19th century. Usually the Jews were ordered to establish secular schools for the education of their children or to send them to the general schools. There were also some states in Germany which at first did not authorize the Jews to establish separate schools and preferred that education be given to the Jewish children in the ḥeder or the public schools. In Prussia the general schools were opened to Jewish children in 1803; until 1847 the separate Jewish schools were recognized only as private schools. The trend toward Germanization was especially marked among the large Jewish population in the Polish region of former *Great Poland.

Some states also intervened in regard to yeshivot. They began to demand that the rabbis should have a general education and especially instruction in philosophy. In 1820 Francis I of Austria issued a decree obliging rabbis to acquire secular education and employ the language of the country in prayers and sermons. A rabbinical seminary, the first of its kind was opened in Padua in 1829. This was followed up in many states and in different forms through the first half of the 19th century (see: *Rabbinical Seminaries).

The advocates of "improvement of the Jews" (see *emancipation; C.W. von *Dohm) considered the restructuring of their occupations from moneylending and trade to productivization through taking up crafts and agriculture to be an essential element in and precondition for accomplishing both betterment of their character and their position. In the main the maskilim accepted this social and economic program as well as the criticism of Jewish life it implied. They hoped that productivization would bring a moral regeneration as well as change the image of the Jew for enlightened Christians. In the new schools established by the maskilim in Germany (see above), instruction in crafts was also introduced and some also took care that their graduates should be apprenticed to Christian craftsmen. In various German states, societies to care for the interests of Jewish apprentices were organized. In Berlin a society for the Promotion of Industry was established in 1812 following the emancipation law issued in Prussia that year. Its objective was "to awaken and promote as much as possible the creative spirit among members of the Jewish religion by means of support and encouragement" and to "courageously refute the old-established opinion that we supposedly have an exclusive tendency to commerce" (see also *Joseph II; *Crafts). Naphtali Herz Homberg advocated manual work which he considered was necessary from the moral as well as economic aspect. Homberg based his opinion on sayings of the rabbis in the Talmud in praise of labor and condemned the prevailing attitude of contempt toward the "worker" within Jewish society. Like Mendelssohn, he did not completely reject commerce from the aspect of its utility for society, but considered that the creativity of manual labor surpassed commerce from the aspect of social morality. Phinehas Elijah *Hurwitz complained that "the majority of our people do not want their sons to be taught crafts because they say with pride and arrogance that the occupation of crafts is shameful for us." He considered that commerce contributed to hatred of the Jews and to the allegation widespread among non-Jews that the Talmud teaches the Jews how to deceive them.

Cooperating with the authorities of the enlightened absolutist states and other regimes to promote general education and productivization among Jews, with the majority agreeing on the need for improvement of the Jews and the desirability of their assimilation, Haskalah circles found it natural to emphasize the complete loyalty which Jews acknowledged to the secular rulers as their protectors, and to the country and state as the framework for their security of life and autonomy. The maskilim did not content themselves with the traditional prayers for the king. Laudatory poems were written in honor of Frederick the Great of Prussia, noted for his "love" of the Jews. The Austrian emperor, Joseph II, was also honored with enthusiastic poems of praise and thanksgiving. Their enthusiasm for reform led a number of maskilim to advise the authorities how to "improve" the Jews without paying attention to whether these improvements were desired by them or not. Some collaborated with the authorities and bypassed the regular heads of the Orthodox communities not hesitating to slander them, a method used by Naphtali Herz Homberg and his staff of teachers in Galicia.

Trends in Ideology

An ahistoric stand, inclination to assimilation, and desire for emancipation helped to erode messianic hopes in Jewish society, at the close of the 17th and the first half of the 18th century, a trend apparent in Amsterdam, Italy, and Germany. The general anti-messianic position taken by maskilim was aided by the failure of the *Shabbetai Zevi movement. Jacob Emden quoted Jonathan Eybeschuetz as having preached that the main achievement of the Messiah for the Jews would be that "they would find clemency among the nations" – a traditional expression for attainment of a better legal and social status. The messianism of Jacob *Frank was oriented to nihilistic religious experience and to the conditions of contemporary Jewish existence in Poland. Some have regarded these attitudes as the catalysts of the anti-halakhic movement and the weakening of messianic hopes in Haskalah. Mendelssohn adhered in principle to the messianic hope, though he considered that it did not have "any influence on our civic behavior" – at least not in places where "they have treated the Jews with tolerance"; in his view the redemption would come through the Divine Will alone, though he once gave his opinion that the return of the Jewish people to Erez Israel could be a political-secular event, during a world war. A few maskilim, according to Mordecai Schnaber, equated the Messiah with the reign of universal peace and toleration. Zalkind Hourwitz in his Apologie des Juifs (Paris, 1789) thought like Mendelssohn that the effect of messianic faith on the actual behavior of Jews was similar to the influence of the certainty of death on human activity; "this does not prevent them… from building, sowing, and planting in every place where they are permitted to do so."

After emancipation was attained a further weakening of messianic faith set in. When latter-day maskilim began to combine Haskalah ideology with a nationalist Jewish attitude their anti-messianic stand became a starting point for aspirations for redemption by natural agency (see *Hibbat Zion; *Zionism). Mendelssohn, however, regarded the Torah as a kind of divine legislation intended for the Jewish society and state only; but he saw this type of Jewish unity as a society of theists; nationalism per se was absent in his theory regarding the Jews.

Many maskilim identified themselves emotionally and expressly as "Germans." In his German writings, Mendelssohn repeatedly uses the phrase "we Germans," and he criticized use of the expression "Germans and Jews" instead of "Christians and Jews" by Johann David *Michaelis. After Jewish emancipation had been attained in France in 1791, Berr Isaac Berr proclaimed: "By Divine Mercy and the government of the people, we have now become not only men, not only citizens, but also Frenchmen." The *Assembly of Jewish Notables convened by Napoleon in 1806 coined the term "Frenchmen of the Mosaic religion." It also declared that "the Jews are no longer a nation" and that "France is our fatherland." From 1807 the appellation "israélite" in France (in German "Israelit") also spread to the German states. The change expressed trends to assimilation as well as a tendency to efface former appellations for Jews that had become connected with an odious image. Both fitted in with Haskalah ideology.

Haskalah ideology was one of the foundations of the *Reform movement in the Jewish religion. The idea of reform had already been conceived by David Friedlaender in 1799. Through his influence the first steps in reform were taken by Israel *Jacobson, in the state of Westphalia. Friedlaender himself began to introduce reform in religion in Berlin after the Jews of Prussia had obtained their emancipation in 1812. He called for exclusion from the prayer book of all prayers for the return to Zion and the dirges on the destruction of the Temple, and demanded that prayers be recited in German; with this he also desired that the "society of true theists," after the expression of Mendelssohn, continue to exist. Haskalah ideology was also the basis for the efforts and achievements of the founders of the *Wissenschaft des Judentums in 1819 (see also Zacharias *Frankel; Abraham *Geiger; Marcus *Jost; Moritz *Steinschneider; Solomon Judah *Rapoport; Nachman *Krochmal; Samuel David *Luzzatto; Leopold *Zunz).

The beginnings of a renewed modern interest in Jewish history are already found in the generation of Mendelssohn and Wessely. In Ha-Me'assef, a special section was set aside for "biographies of eminent Jewish personalities" in which popular articles were written on Maimonides, Don Isaac Abrabanel, Moses Raphael de Aguilar, Isaac Orobio de Castro, and others. In these articles the first efforts were also made to bring to light ancient sources. The program of Ha-Me'assef also included the publication of works on the biographies of "living Jewish scholars." Accordingly Isaac *Euchel wrote a biography of Mendelssohn, and David *Friedrichsfeld a biography of Wessely (the two works were however published after the deaths of Mendelssohn and Wessely). In addition, a section of Ha-Me'assef was to deal with "the innovations taking place among our people which concern all the Jews, on their freedom in some countries, and the education of their youth… for the utility of youth with a quest for knowledge." Biographies of eminent Jewish personalities were also published in Shulamit. However, serious research into Jewish history on a wide scale was taken up by Haskalah circles when the poet and scholar Solomon *Loewisohn published his work Vorlesungen ueber die neuere Geschichte der Juden in Vienna in 1820, the first Haskalah attempt to present a general view of Jewish history from the earlier Diaspora period down to the time of the author.

Haskalah thus became one of the mainsprings of a renewed study of the nature of Judaism and the fate of the Jewish people. Mendelssohn attempted to demonstrate the superiority of Judaism over Christianity in his description of Judaism as a rational religion and of the practical precepts as the laws of the former Jewish state (and possibly also a future state) and as symbols of the ideals of the rational faith. Mendelssohn apparently thought that even at the millennium, when the whole world would submit to the "yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven," the Jews would still be obliged to observe the precepts because their function as "symbols," as educational factors, would never be abrogated. This was because Mendelssohn did not believe in the entire perfectibility of mankind in any period, seeing that "the whole of humanity is in constant motion, either in ascent or decline." Even though Mendelssohn did not say so explicitly, it may be assumed that his references to the election of Israel and its mission were not only intended to explain the past but also to indicate the situation in the future.

During the 19th century further attempts were made in the Haskalah camp to define the nature of Judaism. Some regarded Judaism as a "spiritual religion" in contrast to the idolatrous religions which were "religions of nature" and in contrast to Christianity, which served as the battleground between the elements in the Jewish "spiritual religion" and the idolatrous elements (Solomon *Formstecher). Others regarded Judaism as a moral religion, a religion of the heart and the emotions, in contrast to Hellenism, the religion of cold reason (S.D. Luzzatto, and others). N. Krochmal defined the faith of Israel as belief in the Infinite "Absolute Spiritual One" and considered this to be the secret of the eternity of the Jewish people. The growing development of historical consciousness supplanted traditional views on the fate of Israel in Haskalah thought. Exile was no longer conceived as a chastisement meted out by Providence, but the result of natural historical factors. In the West, emancipation was generally regarded as the end of the Exile (see *Galut). However, the difficult struggle for emancipation, which in Germany extended over several decades, awakened some doubts on the future of the Jews in Europe and here and there some far-reaching conclusions, such as emigration to America or a return to Palestine (Mordecai Manuel *Noah; *Salvador; Moses *Hess).


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Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.