Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Maharatz Chajes: "Goethe is dead"

In Zolkiew, Galicia, a very popular anecdote was told until the 1930s about Rabbi Zwi Hirsch Chajes (1805-55), a famous scholar and grandfather of Zwi Perez Chajes (1876-1927), later the chief rabbi of Vienna. One day Rabbi Chajes was deeply grieved when he came to the synagogue. The people asked him why he was sorrowful. "Goethe st gestorben ("Goethe is dead)," he answered. The whole Kehilla became sad, and some pious people considered reciting the kaddish for 'Reb' Goethe.

Erinnerungen an Galizien by Salcia Landmann, pg. 33-34. (Translation mainly from In and Out of the Ghetto: Jewish-Gentile Relations in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany," ed. R. Po-chia Hsia and Hartmut Lehmann).

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