Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Graetz in the view of 19th century German Orthodoxy

Even Der Israelit could not conceal the fact that Graetz's History had made inroads among Orthodox Jews. One article related how on a Friday night, the author found himself in a heated discussion comparing Graetz and his teacher, Samson Raphael Hirsch. As he sat at his dinner table "I took the first volume ofHirsch's commentary on the Pentateuch and the first volume of Graetz's Geschichte derJuden and showed my friend an example ofhow I can distinguish them." He then proceeded to explain to his friend how Hirsch explained a particular term better, but "my friend would not accept it. Graetz has become such an important, idealized figure that this reproach does not hurt him.,,115 His inability to break his friend's faith in Graetz's judgment led him to think of Graetz as a secular version of a Hasidic rebbe, whom no one will doubt, and he described how the "cult" of Graetz's history has grown even larger since his death. Yet it is important to remember that all the time he was trying to undermine his friend's support of Graetz, he was using a copy of Graetz's Geschichte der Juden that he had acquired for himself and placed on a bookcase near the dining room table where any of his guests could see it.

Writing for the Masses: Heinrich Graetz, the Popularization
of Jewish History, and the Reception of National Judaism by Jeffrey Charles Blutinger, pg. 127-128

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