A Dissent on German Orthodox Jewish Centrality

I left the following comment at a looong debate at Hirhurim about Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch. Agree? Disagree? Comment below.

You know, much like how RSRH is often (wrongly) credited as being the only major figure involved in beginning Austritt, I have to question the combination of Modernity and O Judaism being solely associated with him or even just the German O community.

There was quite a bit of educational experimentation in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Mizrachi, for instance, played a very big part in granting O Jews the world over a mixed religious/secular curriculum between the two World Wars. Eastern Europe was full of “refined chadarim” that gave a mixed curriculum. I have difficulty believing that RSRH was the ONLY or even the primary inspiration for these efforts.

There were also plenty of Rabbis who were well versed in secular studies to one degree or another, and “seminaries” existed in countries other than Germany. Really, the only difference I see between German O Jewry’s efforts and O Jews in other countries is that the Germans have much better PR.

If I’m wrong, so be it, but that’s my impression.

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About AIWAC

Hi, my name is Avi Woolf. I'm an American-Israeli MO Jew living in Israel. I have a background in Israeli (as in Land of Israel) and Jewish History and an insatiable need for knowledge. I also have professional experience as an editor, translator and indexer. Enjoy the ride! If you are interested in using my services or just want to drop me a line, contact me at: opdycke1861NOSPAM@yahoo.com
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3 Responses to A Dissent on German Orthodox Jewish Centrality

  1. fred says:

    1. which other major figure was actively in favor of austritt?
    2. rsrh was limited to germany, a jewish culture eastern europe largely frowned upon. mizrachi innovations in education were brief and limited, with little impact in ee.
    3. i dont think your final remark is historically accurate. also, you must remember that only 10% max of ashkenazi jews lived in germany, and there judaism was dominated by tide. the opposite was true in ee.
    and just because some rabbis were widely knowledgeable does not mean that they believed in altering the educational structure.

  2. AIWAC says:

    1) In Hungary? Lots. See Jacob Katz’s book on the subject.

    2) Mizrachi did not just operate in EE but also in the US, Belgium and more. I wouldn’t call the Tachkemuni institute or the Yavneh educational network “brief and limited”. I agree that it didn’t have the same impact as the Hildesheimer Seminar, but it wasn’t negligible.

    3) Fair enough, but I even if some of them didn’t believe in altering the educational structure, they darshened and wrote with much erudition to their kehilot, and it wasn’t all just because of RSRH.

  3. fred says:

    1. yeh, i forgot about hungary.
    2. when you say operate, this may be true, but it was really limited in scope and influence. the us and belgium? how many jews are we talking about here pre-ww1 or even ww2? the number and influence was far and away eclipsed by the standard jewish ed in ee, and in the us with the arrival of the ww2 refugees.
    3. agreed.

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