German-Jewish History in Modern Times
A comprehensive historical survey of the Jewish presence in Central Europe from the seventeenth century to the Holocaust, German-Jewish History in Modern Times is a four-volume collective project by a team of leading scholars, offering a vivid portrait of Jewish History. The series is sponsored by the Leo Baeck Institute, established in 1955 in Jerusalem, London, and New York for the purpose of advancing scholarship on the Jews in German-speaking lands. Emancipation and Acculturation: 1780-1871, the second of four volumes, focuses on a period of fundamental political, economic, and social change that permanently transformed German Jewry. The book begins in the 1780s, with Stefi Jersch-Wenzel's discussion of Christian Wilhelm Dohm's programmatic work, On the Civil Improvement of the Jews, in Prussia, and Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II's toleration edicts, two monumental events that paved the way toward Jewish civil equality. The Jews' emancipation, however, usually depended on their willingness to reeducate themselves as Germans. Michael A. Meyer traces this transformation, revealing it as an act of both political expediency and of personal desire for acculturation. Thus, Jews redefined their identity more narrowly as a religious denomination and eagerly adopted the German language and culture. This volume also explores how Jews dealt with Christianity in German culture and with German Chistianity's insistent denial of Judaism's viability; how they sustained and developed their community in the face of pressure to diminish or abandon Jewish identity; how they adapted their faith to modern sensibilities, creating new forms of Jewish belief and practice; and how leading Jewish writers and intellectuals, like Heinrich Heine and Berthold Auerbach, coped with the ambiguities of expressing Jewishness in Germany. Carefully researched and accessible to general readers, this second volume of German-Jewish History in Modern Times is an indispensable resource for understanding the complex process by which Jews became an integral part of the modern world.