As anyone reading this likely knows, the Wissenschaft des Judentums
was built on the foundation of a rationalization of Jewish nationalism through institutionalization in the university, manifesting in the production of a field of scholarship; it was, essentially, an operation in laundering thought for the era of the nation-state.
The goals of Haskalah reached their apex in the Wissenschaft des Judentums
(Science of Judaism) movement championed by Leopold Zunz, Moritz Steinschneider, and others.
Kabbalah Research in the Wissenschaft des Judentums
(1820-1880): The Foundation of an Academic Discipline
Beginning with Moses Mendelssohn (chapter one) and ending with Hannah Arendt, he lays out "the emergence of a liberal Jewish ethos" (6) as he travels through common stops along the way: Wissenschaft des Judentums
, Leopold Zunz, Heinrich Heine, and Heinrich Graetz (chapter two), Abraham Geiger (chapter three), and Hermann Cohen (chapter four).
The book follows him to the US then and Congregation Rodeph Shalom, controversies, liturgy: the Minhag Jastrow, the "historical school," and Wissenschaft des Judentums
"The fundamental question for studying Jews," Bush writes, "is not how to maintain a relationship to the Jewish God, to the Jewish Book, or to the Jewish people, but what kind of object does one study when studying Jews?" To answer this question, Bush explores such terms as "science, nation, race, and religion" as they have been deployed and critiqued, from the founders of the Wissenschaft des Judentums
to the present.
Geiger, the leading Reform theologian in the 19th century, was a master of the rational, scientific study of Judaism (Wissenschaft des Judentums
), a strong opponent of Jewish Orthodoxy, and a German patriot to the core.
Studia Judaica: Forschungen zur Wissenschaft des Judentums
Gershom Scholem's famous complaint about the antiquarian (funereal) nature of the bulk of nineteenth-century Wissenschaft des Judentums
applies to Bechtholdt's volume.
The emergence of wissenschaft des Judentums
in early 19th-century Germany was the accomplishment of a group of young Jewish intellectuals trained in secular German universities who despaired of the quality of what passed for Jewish study in the yeshiva.
Trachtenberg's study demonstrates how their ideologically influenced reinterpretation of Old Yiddish literature developed in dialogue with competing ideologically motivated contemporaneous representations of Eastern European Jews and Yiddish language (from Wissenschaft des Judentums
, rabbinic Judaism, political Zionism, German and Hebrew scholarship).