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Juedisch-Theologisches Seminar, Breslau

JUEDISCH-THEOLOGISCHES SEMINAR, BRESLAU, first modern rabbinical seminary in Central Europe. Founded in 1854 with the funds which Jonas Fraenkel, a prominent Breslau businessman, had willed for the purpose, the seminary became the model for similar colleges set up in Europe and the U.S. Its first head was Z. *Frankel, to the disappointment of A. *Geiger, who had conceived the idea of the seminary and won Jonas Fraenkel's support for it. The seminary also trained teachers until 1887, and this training was resumed in the 1920s and 1930s. However, the seminary's basic aim was to teach "positive historical Judaism." The "positive" stood for a faithful adherence to the practical precepts of Judaism, while "historical" permitted free inquiry into the Jewish past, including even Bible criticism, though with some self-imposed limitations.

Thus the Breslau seminary, under Frankel's guidance, took a middle position between dogmatic Orthodoxy, as represented by S.R. *Hirsch and A. *Hildesheimer's Rabbinical Seminary, and Geiger's *Lehranstalt (Hochschule) fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums, officially an academic institution without ideology, but in fact largely a training college for Reform rabbis. Many of its graduates became rabbis in Liberal or Reform congregations, some in Orthodox ones.

After his death in 1875, Frankel was succeeded by L. Lazarus. However, when the latter died in 1879, the administrative functions were henceforth exercised by the lecturers collectively. The one who taught Talmud and rabbinics held the post of "seminary rabbi" and was alone entitled to bestow rabbinical ordination. The seminary graduated about 250 rabbis between 1854 and 1938. Many students of the college made a name for themselves in Jewish scholarship and/or public life.

The seminary issued annual reports (until 1937) containing scholarly contributions by the staff. There was a close association between the college and the *Monatsschrift fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums. The library, based on the Saraval Collection, grew to over 30,000 volumes and contained more than 400 valuable manuscripts (see D.S. Loewinger and B.D. Weinryb, Catalogue of Hebrew Manuscripts in the Library of the Juedisch-Theologisches Seminar in Breslau, 1965).

The years after World War I saw considerable expansion, with teachers' and youth leaders' training courses. Modern Hebrew, too, was given a place in the curriculum. In 1931 the Prussian government approved the addition to the seminary's original name of that of Hochschule fuer juedische Theologie. Nazi rule in Germany from 1933 led to a decrease in the number of regular students, and some of the lecturers sought refuge abroad. The pogrom of November 1938 led to the sack of the seminary and the destruction of the greater part of its library. By order of the police, all teaching activities had to cease and many students were sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Nonetheless, some more or less clandestine work continued until February 21, 1939, when the seminary ordained (for the last time) two students.


G. Kisch (ed.), The Breslau Seminary, Memorial Volume (Eng. and Ger., 1963); M. Brann, Geschichte des juedisch-theologischen Seminars in Breslau (Festschrift zum 50-jaehrigen Jubilaeum, 1904); Festschrift zum 75-jaehrigen Bestehen des juedischtheologischen Seminars, 2 vols. (1929).

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