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Adolf Jellinek

(1820/21 - 1893)

Adolf Jellinek was a Vienna preacher and scholar. He was born in a village near Uhersky Brod (Ungarisch Brod), Moravia, into a family which he believed to be of *Hussite origin. After attending the yeshivah of Menahem *Katz (Wannfried) in Prostejov (Prossnitz), in 1838 he moved to Prague where he was influenced by Solomon Judah *Rapoport, Michael Jehiel *Sachs, and Wolfgang *Wessely. Moving to Leipzig in 1842, he studied philosophy and Semitics at the university there, assisted Julius *Fuerst in editing the Orient, and in 1845 was appointed preacher in the new synagogue which was established under the guidance of Zacharias *Frankel. Although he opposed the radical views of his brother, Herman *Jellinek, he enthusiastically hailed the freedom resulting from the 1848 revolution. Together with Christian clergymen he then founded the Kirchlicher Verein fuer alle Religionsbekenntnisse, an association open to all religious denominations, and would have represented it at the Frankfurt German National Assembly (1848) but for the intervention of the Saxonian minister of religious affairs. He was also on the board of an association (Verein zur Wahrung der deutschen Interessen an den oestlichen Grenzen) formed to support Germans in the Slav countries. In 1857 he was appointed preacher at the new Leopoldstadt synagogue in Vienna, remaining there until he went to the Seitenstetten synagogue in 1865.

In 1862 Jellinek founded the Beit ha-Midrash Academy where public lectures were delivered by himself, Isaac Hirsch *Weiss, and Meir *Friedmann. A scholarly periodical, also called Beit ha-Midrash, was published under its auspices. His eldest son, GEORGE J. JELLINEK (1851–1911), a professor of public law at Basle and Heidelberg, was baptized after Jellinek's death.

Jellinek was considered the greatest preacher of his day and some 200 of his sermons were published, some were translated into Hebrew and into other languages. Their most striking characteristic was that, while related to actual problems of the day, they made brilliant and original use of aggadah and Midrash. Personally lenient in matters of ritual, he advocated a moderately liberal line, striving for unity in the community. Thus although he wanted to install an organ in the synagogue "to attract the indifferent," he took I.N. *Mannheimer's advice and abandoned the idea. He also opposed the omission from the prayer book of references to Zion and prayers for the restoration of sacrifices. Due to the conciliatory attitude of both Jellinek and the leader of the Orthodox group, Solomon Benjamin *Spitzer, a split in the community was avoided. Jellinek was an unsuccessful candidate for the Diet of Lower Austria in 1861. In a eulogy (1867) delivered after the execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, in which he alluded to the execution of his own brother, he suggested the abolition of capital punishment for political offenses and advocated a reform of court procedures. He expressed his views on political matters regularly in the *Neuzeit, which he edited from 1882. Jellinek was Baron Maurice de *Hirsch's trustee for his philanthropic activities in Galicia. With the rise of modern antisemitism, he turned his energies to apologetics, which he wanted to include as a subject in his Beit ha-Midrash, and he persuaded Joseph Samuel *Bloch to write his Israel und die Voelker. He was hostile to the emerging Jewish nationalist movement, and when Leo *Pinsker approached him he refused to back his ideas. Like many Reform rabbis of his day, he did not view Jews as a nation. They were meant to be dedicated to their European fatherland while pursuing the fulfillment of Judaism's religious goals. Thus, "Zion" became a symbol for the ultimate redemption of all mankind.

Jellinek also produced a large number of scholarly works in numerous fields. He had taken an early interest in the study of Kabbalah (one of the very few who did in that golden age of modern Jewish scholarship) and translated A. Franck's La Cabbale into German (1844). Jellinek's original contributions in this field were Moses b. Schemtob de Leon und sein Verhaeltnis zum Sohar (1851); Auswahl kabbalistischer Mystik (1853); Beitraege zur Geschichte der Kabbala (1852); Thomas von Aquino in der juedischen Literatur (1853); and Philosophie und Kabbala (1854). He also edited Abraham Abulafia's Sefer ha-Ot (1887), in which he showed that *Moses b. Shem Tov de Leon and not Abulafia wrote the Zohar. In his Leipzig period Jellinek also edited Menahem de Lonzano's Ma'arikh (1853), a dictionary of foreign words in Talmud, Midrash, and Zohar; wrote "Sefat Ḥakhamim" (1846–47) on talmudic idioms (in L. Benjacob, Devarim Attikim); and edited, with an introduction and commentary, Baḥya b. Joseph ibn Paquda's Ḥovot ha-Levavot (1846). In Vienna Jellinek's main scholarly effort was directed toward the publication of 99 smaller, largely unknown Midrashim (Beit ha-Midrash, 6 vols., 1853–78, 1938), many of which were of prime importance for the study of early Kabbalah, such as the Heikhalot Rabbati, Nistarot R. Shimon bar Yoḥai, etc. In a number of smaller publications (1877–84), Jellinek dealt with a variety of historical, philosophical, talmudic, and bibliographical subjects such as the persecutions during the First Crusade, the disputation of Barcelona in 1263, the Talmud commentators, those of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, and others. Other publications of this period include: Simeon b. Ẓemaḥ Duran's commentary on Avot (1855); Judah Messer Leon's Nofet Ẓufim (1863); Solomon Alami's Iggeret Musar (1872); Worms-Wien (1880); and Der juedische Stamm in nichtjuedischen Sprichwoertern (3 vols., 1882–86).


M. Rosenmann, Adolf Jellinek (Ger., 1931), incl. bibl.; A.M. Jost, Adolf Jellinek und die Kabbala (1852); M. Grunwald, Vienna (1936), index; J. Fraenkel (ed.), Jews of Austria (1967), index; S.W. Baron, in: PAAJR, 20 (1951), 33 n. 125; H. Tietze, Die Juden Wiens (1935), index; Klausner, Sifrut, 5 (1955), index; M.G. Mehrer, in: Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden in der Tschechoslowakei, 3 (1932/33), 143–51; Z. Szajkowski, in: JSOS, 19 (1957), 36–38; A. Kober, ibid., 10 (1948), 159–60; S.W. Baron, ibid., 11 (1949), 200–1; G. Kohut, in: AJHSP, 33 (1934), 237f.; I. Schorsch, in: YLBI, 11 (1966), 42–66, passim. ADD BIBLIOGRAPHY: M.L. Rozenblit, in: Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, 35 (1990), 103–31.

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