Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Benno Jacob story

In Kurt Wilhelm's, "Benno Jacob, a Militant Rabbi," LBIY 1962 7.:

Jacob enjoyed heated discussions with the spokesmen of antisemitic propaganda. On the death of the Member of the Reichstag Liebermann von Sonnenberg, once a dreaded protagonist of the antisemitic race theory, Jacob recorded in the K.C. magazine of 1st December 1911 his personal encounter with this representative of the Deutsch-Soziale Partei when the latter had derided Jews and Judaism for two and a half hours in the course of a public address in Gottingen in 1892. The theme of the address had been announced as "Is the Moral Teaching of the Talmud compatible with the Civil Law?" ("Vertragt sich die Talmudmoral mit dem Staatsbiirgerrecht?). Jacob decided to take the bull by the horns and attended the meeting where there were more than a thousand listeners. He had previously ordered a volume of the Talmud to be brought to the locality and had it handed to him by a porter just at the moment when after Liebermann's harangue his turn had come to enter the discussion. Jacob opened the volume and asked the speaker to point out to him any passage the moral content of which would show the incompatibility with Civil Law.
"Approached in this way, his face fell and visibly embarrassed he protested his lack of knowledge of Hebrew. — Well, said I, turning to the assembly, this gentleman who has himself admitted that he does not understand one Hebrew letter has the temerity to talk about the moral teaching of the Talmud for two and a half hours without being able to read a single line in this volume."
The audience had been prepared by the antisemitic speaker to expect the rabbi's contribution to the discussion very likely to be delivered "in his Judendeutsch". Jacob followed up this remark by promising his audience to take pains to speak in good and intelligible German. Perhaps, he added, this might not be too difficult after all, since he had been born in Germany, had attended German schools and universities only, and had been called up to serve in the German army without ever speaking any other language but German. . .


  1. This story reminds me a lot of this one, about a man named Pranaitis:

    Q: When did Baba Bathra live and what was her activity?
    A: I don't know.

    -- Phil

  2. There are 217,000 Google results for Prainatis's "The Talmud Unmasked," and that's just in English!

    As an aside, August Dillman is said to have said about the blood libel that there's no point in refuting it. The people who spread it don't really believe it, and the fanatical mob won't read refutations, or believe it if they did.



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