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The Idea of Modern Jewish Culture by Eliezer Schweid

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By Eliezer Schweid

The majority of highbrow, spiritual, and nationwide advancements in glossy Judaism revolve round the critical thought of ""Jewish culture."" This e-book is the 1st synoptic view of those advancements that organizes and relates them from this vantage aspect. the 1st Jewish modernization pursuits perceived tradition because the defining trait of the skin alien social surroundings to which Jewry needed to adapt. To be ""cultured"" was once to be modern-European, rather than medieval-ghetto-Jewish. in brief order, notwithstanding, the Jewish spiritual legacy used to be redefined retrospectively as a historic ""culture,"" with fateful results for the perception of Judaism as a humanly- and never in basic terms divinely-mandated regime. The belief of Judaism-as-culture took major kinds: an integrative, vernacular Jewish tradition that built in tandem with the mixing of Jews into a few of the international locations of western-central Europe and the United States, and a countrywide Hebrew tradition which, although open to the inputs of recent ecu society, sought to improve a revitalized Jewish nationwide identification that eventually came upon expression within the revival of the Jewish place of birth and the country of Israel.

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From this description one might deduce that in Diaspora the culture that Jews required above and beyond their religious activity and expression was identical with the culture they had in common with their non-Jewish surroundings. They accommodated themselves to it, and it was in every sense their culture as well. It was not simply imitated or borrowed but a culture to which they contributed together with non-Jews. In every way possible, the Jews resembled their environment. To legitimate their accelerated acculturation into modern society they could rely on precedents drawn from the fullness of Jewish culture.

We begin with the study of languages. The Haskalah movement stressed the pragmatic value of learning languages because this was the most likely argument to convince the masses of the importance of enlightenment. Acquiring proficiency in the language of the country, at more than the vulgar level that was acquired from the everyday encounters in the marketplace with the gentile masses, was now a prerequisite for anyone who wanted to make a decent living. Necessary as it was in traditional Jewish occupations such as commerce and handicrafts, proficiency was all the more a necessity for the liberal professions.

This was not Wessely’s plan. ” The sequence of studies in the curriculum took on primary decisive importance. Immediately upon beginning one’s education, every Jewish child would study the traditional humash (Five Books of Moses) with Rashi’s commentaries, and go on to gemara (Talmud). But along with these topics children would learn German and a variety of subjects that could serve as the preparation for their auspicious integration as citizens and would enable them to find decent employment.

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