New Christians

Jeffrey S. Sposato

in The Price of Assimilation

Published in print November 2005 | ISBN: 9780195149746
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199870783 | DOI:
New Christians

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This chapter explores the situation of Jews in early 19th-century Germany, and situates the Mendelssohn family within this context. With the defeat of Napoleon and the treaties of the Congress of Vienna, the situation of German Jews worsened, and many of them, including the Mendelssohn family, chose to convert to Protestantism at that time. Felix Mendelssohn's father, Abraham Mendelssohn, had distanced his family from its Jewish roots for many years. Although Abraham's father, Moses Mendelssohn, was a prominent Jewish philosopher, Abraham avoided Jewish connections and declined to live in Jewish neighborhoods. In 1816, Abraham and his wife, Lea, converted their four children. In 1822, the parents themselves converted. The chapter also disputes critics, such as Eric Werner, who have argued that Mendelssohn retained a strong attachment to Judaism during his lifetime.

Keywords: Abraham Mendelssohn; Moses Mendelssohn; Jews; Conversion; Germany; Congress of Vienna; Eric Werner

Chapter.  10794 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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