Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) articulated a strategy to allow Jews their traditional observances while participating actively in the modern world. Criticized from both the left and the right, his thought remains highly influential into the 21st century.
This lecture presents a broad overview of the three main intellectual-religious trends present in 19th century Jewish Eastern Europe: the traditionalist Mitnagdim, the innovative Hasidim, and the modernizing Maskilim. Good as an overall introduction, although I go into more detail on all of these movements in other lectures on this website. Taped on April 21, 2013 as a lecture to the Jewish Geneaological Society of Broward Country.
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Moses Mendelssohn was a hugely influential thinker in 18th-century Germany. An unusually gifted intellect, he became the primary spokesperson for the emancipation of Jews in the 18th century, and his cause was championed by many non-Jewish liberals of the era. Heralded as the founder of the Reform movement even though Mendelssohn himself maintained an observant lifestyle, his activity spawned a wholesale abandonment of traditional Judaism. Within a century of his death, his strategy of acculturation to the modern era was widely accepted by most Jewish thinkers in western Europe, but not a single one of Mendelssohn’s descendants remained Jewish.
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