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New Perspectives on the Haskalah$
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Shmuel Feiner, David Sorkin, and Shmuel Feiner

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774617

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774617.001.0001

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Towards a Historical Definition of the Haskalah

Towards a Historical Definition of the Haskalah

(p.184) Eleven Towards a Historical Definition of the Haskalah
New Perspectives on the Haskalah

Shmuel Feiner

Liverpool University Press

This chapter studies the long historiographic tradition in search of a definition of the Haskalah. It suggests reducing the historical parameters of the Jewish Enlightenment so that it can be recognized as a trend in which modernizing intellectuals aspired to transform Jewish society. Despite the obvious diversity and dispersion of the Haskalah, and the difficulty in defining it precisely, the chapter enumerates a number of essential criteria, elaborating on the self-consciousness of the maskilim and paying special attention to their militant rhetoric and awareness of belonging to an avant-garde, redemptive, and revolutionary movement. It also sketches a portrait of the typical maskil, surveys the history of the movement and its various centres, and elucidates the dualistic nature of its ideology, explaining its links to the processes of Jewish modernization and secularization. Ultimately, the Haskalah was the intellectual option for modernization that triggered the Jewish Kulturkampf which, still alive today — especially in Israel — separates modernists and anti-modernists, Orthodox and secular Jews.

Keywords:   Haskalah, Jewish Enlightenment, Jewish society, maskilim, maskil, Jewish modernization, secularization, Jewish Kulturkampf, Orthodox Jews, secular Jews

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