1851-1853: Brush up your Jewish History #201

Corresponding with the first Parasha of the new Torah cycle, we are initiating a regular column, taken with permission, from the book – Brush Up Your Jewish History,  by Oswald B Tofler

The preface by the author states:  “I believe that Jewish history is an essential part of Judaism.  I suspect that awareness of Jewish history, which is intertwined with world history, is a major factor in the resolve of individuals to be part of that history and not to disappear with their offspring into the amorphous world around us.  In addition, the prayers mean much more if their historical background is appreciated.  I have tried to make a precis of each subject or period, borrowing from as many sources as were available at home and acknowledging these sources.  It is an imagined hope that families might make each short summary the basis of discussion at the Friday night table.”

…. Rather than starting at #1 we will start with #201 – in part because of the recent blog item about the anti-Israel manipulations often seen at Reuters

Israel Beer Josephat, who was born in 1829 in Kassel in Germany, settled in Berlin in 1844 where he converted to Christianity and assumed the name of Reuter.  He then embarked on a career of news gathering, exploiting the extension of telegraph lines as well as the use of pigeons.  In 1851 he moved to London when the Dover-Calais cable was laid.  In 1891 Queen Victoria confirmed his title as a Baron, a title which had previously only been bestowed by a European sovereign.

In the mid 1850s the Jewish press began to play a very important role in the strengthening of ties between Jewish communities in the various countries.  The press was published in the language of the various countries and served as evidence of the integration of the Jews and allegiance to their countries, but the press in Eastern Europe was mostly Hebrew.

In 1851 Zacharia Frankel, the German Rabbi, founded a “Monthly for the History and Scientific Study of Judaism” which came out regularly until 1939.  Also in the same year, Nachman Krochmal, a Galician philosopher and historian, to some extent anticipated Arnold Toynbee by advancing the idea that nations undergo three phases; growth, blossoming and decay.  Toynbee maintained that Israel was a fossil nation, but Krochmal claimed some 80 years before Toynbee that, unlike other nations, Israel always rises to begin the cycle.

In 1853, the year when the Crimean War began, when Turkey declared war on Russia, the French diplomat, Joseph de Gobineau, wrote “Essai Sur L’Inegalite des Races Humaines”, a systematic presentation of a general racist theory which was seized upon by German antisemites.

Heinrich Graetz was born in 1817 in Poznan.  At first, he studied with the “neo-orthodox” Samson Rafael Hirsch, but later came under the influence of the reform Rabbi Zacharia Frankel.  Graetz was appointed Lecturer in Jewish History and Bible of the Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau, the year in which the first of his 11 volume “History of the Jews” was published.  The history, which was written in German for German Jews and later translated into many languages, had a great influence for over 100 years.  However he had little understanding of Kabbalah and mysticism, contempt for “fossilised” Polish Talmudists and regarded Yiddish as gibberish.

In the same year, Abraham Mapu, a Russian Haskala educator wrote Ahavat Zion, a Hebrew novel.  Like Graetz’s History of the Jews, it was translated into many languages.


See here for more information on Israel Beer Josephat (Reuter), Zecharia Frankel, Nachman Krochman  Joseph de Gobineau, Heinrich Graetz, Abraham Mapu 1 and 2.  Dr Sanity in an Oct 14 blog posting also refers to de Gobineau – in comments on Ketman – the oriental art of dissimulation; by which the Russians are currently frustrating Hillary Clinton’s efforts on shoring up sanctions on Iran.

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