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The recognition in Western societies that Jews are entitled to equal rights together with other citizens of the State, beginning with the State Constitution in Virginia in the USA in 1776 and the aftermath of the French Revolution and continuing during the nineteenth century. The Emancipation is often and rightly seen as the emergence of Jewry from the Ghetto in order to play its full part in Western society. The Emancipation led to the formation of the Haskalah movement, the main aim of which was to demonstrate that Jews could and should remain true to their own religion and culture while accepting Western mores and values. The problem was rarely quite as simple as that. Some Jews found the strain of living in two worlds too great to bear and they became totally assimilated in the surrounding culture. The Reform movement sought to deal with the problem by ‘reforming’ the system, adapting it so as to remove those features the Reformers saw to be at variance with what the Emancipation demanded. The Orthodox German thinker, Samson Raphael Hirsch, sought to deal with the problem by developing his idea of ‘Torah and the Way of the Land’, that is, the combination of the traditional learning and way of life with the new values. Yet Hirsch saw fit to remark that if the Emancipation were to result in wholesale defection from Judaism and its values, it would have been better for it not to have taken place at all.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.

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