Jews and the German State: The Political History of a Minority, 1848-1933

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He was the first to speak out against the use of excommunication as a religious threat. At the height of his career, in , Mendelssohn was publicly challenged by a Christian apologist, a Zurich pastor named John Lavater , to defend the superiority of Judaism over Christianity.

From then on, he was involved in defending Judaism in print. Speculating that no religious institution should use coercion and emphasized that Judaism does not coerce the mind through dogma, he argued that through reason, all people could discover religious philosophical truths, but what made Judaism unique was its revealed code of legal, ritual, and moral law.

He said that Jews must live in civil society, but only in a way that their right to observe religious laws is granted, while also recognizing the needs for respect, and multiplicity of religions. He campaigned for emancipation and instructed Jews to form bonds with the gentile governments, attempting to improve the relationship between Jews and Christians while arguing for tolerance and humanity.

He became the symbol of the Jewish Enlightenment, the Haskalah. In the late 18th century, a youthful enthusiasm for new ideals of religious equality began to take hold in the western world. Austrian Emperor Joseph II was foremost in espousing these new ideals. As early as , he issued the Patent of Toleration for the Jews of Lower Austria , thereby establishing civic equality for his Jewish subjects. Before , when general citizenship was largely nonexistent in the Holy Roman Empire, its inhabitants were subject to varying estate regulations.

In different ways from one territory of the empire to another, these regulations classified inhabitants into different groups, such as dynasts, members of the court entourage, other aristocrats, city dwellers burghers , Jews, Huguenots in Prussia a special estate until , free peasants , serfs , peddlers and Gypsies , with different privileges and burdens attached to each classification. Legal inequality was the principle. The concept of citizenship was mostly restricted to cities, especially free imperial cities.


Citizenship was often further restricted to city dwellers affiliated to the locally dominant Christian denomination Calvinism, Roman Catholicism, or Lutheranism. City dwellers of other denominations or religions and those who lacked the necessary wealth to qualify as citizens were considered to be mere inhabitants who lacked political rights, and were sometimes subject to revocable residence permits. In the 18th century, some Jews and their families such as Daniel Itzig in Berlin gained equal status with their Christian fellow city dwellers, but had a different status from noblemen, Huguenots, or serfs.

They often did not enjoy the right to freedom of movement across territorial or even municipal boundaries, let alone the same status in any new place as in their previous location. With the abolition of differences in legal status during the Napoleonic era and its aftermath, citizenship was established as a new franchise generally applying to all former subjects of the monarchs.

Prussia conferred citizenship on the Prussian Jews in , though this by no means resulted in full equality with other citizens. Jewish emancipation did not eliminate all forms of discrimination against Jews, who often remained barred from holding official state positions. The German federal edicts of merely held out the prospect of full equality, but it was not genuinely implemented at that time, and even the promises which had been made were modified.

However, such forms of discrimination were no longer the guiding principle for ordering society, but a violation of it. In Austria, many laws restricting the trade and traffic of Jewish subjects remained in force until the middle of the 19th century in spite of the patent of toleration. Some of the crown lands, such as Styria and Upper Austria, forbade any Jews to settle within their territory; in Bohemia, Moravia, and Austrian Silesia many cities were closed to them. The Jews were also burdened with heavy taxes and imposts.

Professor Peter Pulzer

In the German kingdom of Prussia, the government materially modified the promises made in the disastrous year of The promised uniform regulation of Jewish affairs was time and again postponed. In the period between and , no less than 21 territorial laws affecting Jews in the older eight provinces of the Prussian state were in effect, each having to be observed by part of the Jewish community. At that time, no official was authorized to speak in the name of all Prussian Jews, or Jewry in most of the other 41 German states , let alone for all German Jews.

Nevertheless, a few men came forward to promote their cause, foremost among them being Gabriel Riesser d. He won over public opinion to such an extent that this equality was granted in Prussia on April 6, , in Hanover and Nassau on September 5 and on December 12, respectively, and also in his home state of Hamburg , then home to the second-largest Jewish community in Germany. After the establishment of the North German Confederation by the law of July 3, , all remaining statutory restrictions imposed on the followers of different religions were abolished; this decree was extended to all the states of the German empire after the events of During the General Enlightenment s to late s , many Jewish women began to frequent non-Jewish salons and to campaign for emancipation.

In Western Europe and the German states, observance of Jewish law, Halacha , started to be neglected. In the 18th century, some traditional German scholars and leaders, such as the doctor and author of Ma'aseh Tuviyyah , Tobias b. Moses Cohn , appreciated secular culture.

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Aside from externalities of language and dress, the Jews internalized the cultural and intellectual norms of the German society. The movement, becoming known as the German or Berlin Haskalah offered many effects to the challenges of German society. As early as the s, many German Jews and some individual Polish and Lithuanian Jews had a desire for secular education. The German-Jewish Enlightenment of the late 18th century, the Haskalah , marks the political, social, and intellectual transition of European Jewry to modernity.

Some of the elite members of Jewish society knew European languages. Absolutist governments in Germany, Austria, and Russia deprived the Jewish community's leadership of its authority and many Jews became "Court Jews. Court Jews were protected by the rulers and acted as did everyone else in society in their speech, manners, and awareness of European literature and ideas. Isaac Euchel, for example, represented a new generation of Jews.

Euchel was exposed to European languages and culture while living in Prussian centers: Berlin and Koenigsberg. His interests turned towards promoting the educational interests of the Enlightenment with other Jews. Moses Mendelssohn as another enlightenment thinker was the first Jew to bring secular culture to those living an Orthodox Jewish life.

He valued reason and felt that anyone could arrive logically at religious truths, while arguing that what makes Judaism unique is its divine revelation of a code of law. Mendelssohn's commitment to Judaism lead to tensions even with some of those who subscribed to Enlightenment philosophy.

Faithful Christians who were less opposed to his rationalistic ideas than to his adherence to Judaism found it difficult to accept this Juif de Berlin. In most of Western Europe, the Haskalah ended with large numbers of Jews assimilating.

Many Jews stopped adhering to Jewish law, and the struggle for emancipation in Germany awakened some doubts about the future of Jews in Europe and eventually led to both immigrations to America and Zionism. In Russia, antisemitism ended the Haskalah. Some Jews responded to this antisemitism by campaigning for emancipation, while others joined revolutionary movements and assimilated, and some turned to Jewish nationalism in the form of the Zionist Hibbat Zion movement.

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The empowerment of the Jews and the rebirth of Jewish science led to a transfer of ancient traditions to the newer generations. Geiger and Holdeim were two founders of the conservative movement in modern Judaism accepted the modern spirit of liberalism. Samson Raphael Hirsch defended traditional customs: denying the modern "spirit".

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Neither of these beliefs was followed by the faithful Jews; Zachary Frankel created a moderate reform movement in assurance with German communities, public worships were reorganized, reduction of medieval additions to the prayer, congregational singing was introduced, and regular sermons required scientifically trained rabbis. Religious schools were enforced by the state due to a want for the addition of religious structure to secular education of Jewish children.

Pulpit oratory started to thrive mainly due to German preachers, such as M. Sachs and M. Synagogal music was accepted with the help of Louis Lewandowski.

Part of the evolution of the Jewish community was the cultivation of Jewish literature and associations created with teachers, rabbis, and leaders of congregations. Another vital part of the reorganization of the Jewish-German community was the heavy involvement of Jewish women in the community and their new tendencies to assimilate their families into a different lifestyle.

Jewish women were contradicting their view points in the sense that they were modernizing, but they also tried to keep some traditions alive. German Jewish mothers were shifting the way they raised their children in ways such as moving their families out of Jewish neighborhoods, thus changing who Jewish children grew up around and conversed with, all in all shifting the dynamic of the then close-knit Jewish community.

Additionally, Jewish mothers wished to integrate themselves and their families into German society in other ways. In order for mothers to assimilate into German culture, they took pleasure in reading newspapers and magazines that focused on the fashion styles, as well as other trends that were up and coming for the time and that the Protestant, bourgeois Germans were exhibiting.

Similar to this, German-Jewish mothers also urged their children to partake in music lessons, mainly because it was a popular activity among other Germans. Another effort German-Jewish mothers put into assimilating their families was enforcing the importance of manners on their children. It was noted that non-Jewish Germans saw Jews as disrespectful and unable to grasp the concept of time and place.

In addition, Jewish mothers put a large emphasis on proper education for their children in hopes that this would help them grow up to be more respected by their communities and eventually lead to prosperous careers. While Jewish mothers worked tirelessly on ensuring the assimilation of their families, they also attempted to keep the familial aspect of Jewish traditions. They began to look at Shabbat and holidays as less of culturally Jewish days, but more as family reunions of sorts. What was once viewed as a more religious event became more of a social gathering of relatives. The beginning of the Reform Movement in Judaism was emphasized by David Philipson , who was the rabbi at the largest Reform congregation.

The increasing political centralization of the late 18th and early 19th centuries undermined the societal structure that perpetuated traditional Jewish life. Enlightenment ideas began to influence many intellectuals, and the resulting political, economic, and social changes were overpowering.

Many Jews felt a tension between Jewish tradition and the way they were now leading their lives-religiously- resulting in less tradition. As the insular religious society that reinforced such observance disintegrated, falling away from vigilant observance without deliberately breaking with Judaism was easy. Some tried to reconcile their religious heritage with their new social surroundings; they reformed traditional Judaism to meet their new needs and to express their spiritual desires. A movement was formed with a set of religious beliefs, and practices that were considered expected and tradition.

Reform Judaism was the first modern response to the Jew's emancipation, though reform Judaism differing in all countries caused stresses of autonomy on both the congregation and individual.

Some of the reforms were in the practices: circumcisions were abandoned, rabbis wore vests after Protestant ministers, and instrumental accompaniment was used: pipe organs. In addition, the traditional Hebrew prayer book was replaced by German text, and reform synagogues began being called temples which were previously considered the Temple of Jerusalem.

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Reform communities composed of similar beliefs and Judaism changed at the same pace as the rest of society had. The Jewish people have adapted to religious beliefs and practices to the meet the needs of the Jewish people throughout the generation. Napoleon I emancipated the Jews across Europe, but with Napoleon's fall in , growing nationalism resulted in increasing repression. Jewish property was destroyed, and many Jews were killed. In the Free City of Frankfurt , only 12 Jewish couples were allowed to marry each year, and the , gulden the city's Jewish community had paid in for its emancipation was forfeited.

After the Rhineland reverted to Prussian control, Jews lost the rights Napoleon had granted them, were banned from certain professions, and the few who had been appointed to public office before the Napoleonic Wars were dismissed. Without special letters of protection, Jews were banned from many different professions, and often had to resort to jobs considered unrespectable, such as peddling or cattle dealing, to survive.

A Jewish man who wanted to marry had to purchase a registration certificate, known as a Matrikel , proving he was in a "respectable" trade or profession. A Matrikel , which could cost up to 1, gulden, was usually restricted to firstborn sons.