Cultural Impact of the Reformation: Section II.7

Reformation and Reformers in Jewish Reception

Giuseppe Veltri and Jacob Wright


Wednesday, 9th of August 2017, Leucorea Seminar room 8

4.30–5.15 p.m. Matthias Morgenstern: Martin Luther und die Kabbala

5.30–6.15 p.m. Gianfranco Miletto: Die Hebraistik in Wittenberg (1502-1813). Andreas Sennert (1606-1689), Theodor Dassov (1648–1721) und Christoph Wichmannshausen (1663-1729)


Thursday, 10th of August 2017, Leucorea Seminar room 8

2.30–3.15 p.m. Haim Mahlev: A Jewish Luther? Spinoza in Berthold Auerbach’s Spinoza

3.30–4.15 p.m. Mordechai Zalkin: Sola [Enlightened] Scriptura. The Cultural Impact of the Reformation on the Enlightened Jewish Education Thought in 19th Century Eastern Europe

4.30–5.15 p.m. Libera Pisano: The Roots of German Philosophy. Heinrich Heine’s Reading of Martin Luther

5.30–6.15 p.m. Guido Bartolucci: Jewish Thought vs. Lutheran Aristotelism. Johannes Frischmuth (1619-1687), Jewish Philosophy and the Principle of Non-Contradiction


The earlier history of Jewish culture and religion classified the Reformation as an inner-Christian conflict yielding scarcely relevant, and definitely no positive consequences for Judaism. Thus, Jews stood between the new confessions as a minority, looked at as the Chosen People by Christianity, yet also abused as stubborn and perfidious due to their resistance against conversion. Seen in this light, the Reformation’s spirit of liberation should have brought no benefit to Judaism.

In 1971, Hayyim Hillel Ben-Sasson brought a pathbreaking new picture into the debate. Ben-Sasson, a historian from Israel, collected and examined comments on the Reformation made by Jewish scholars of the 16th and 17th centuries. Encompassing a wide spectrum of opinions, Jewish reception of the Reformation thereby gains relevance. Along with disappointed hopes for a liberation from Christian anti-Judaism, enthusiasm is also expressed.

Compared to these interesting but ambivalent sources, an impact of the Reformation can clearly be found in Reformed Judaism. This political and religious movement of the 19th century made use of protestant achievements and topoi. Under the condition of civil emancipation and a (limited) participation of Jews in public life, ideas from the Reformation are adopted in modern Jewish self-perception. This development gives reason to quarrel within Judaism until the present.

The section welcomes both contributions which address the reactions of Jews in the 16th and 17th century to Luther and the Reformation, as well as contributions on the conflicting perspectives on Luther and the Reformation from the 18th century until modern times (e.g. Ludwig Geiger’s critique of the Reformation, or Leopold Zunz’s use of Luther as a pattern).

Kulturelle Wirkungen der Reformation

7 to 11 August 2017

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