Benjamin Schwarzfeld’s Polemics on the Cultural Situation of the Jews of Romania : a Chapter in the History of the Haskala Movement in the Jewish Community of Romania Cover Image

Benjamin Schwarzfeld’s Polemics on the Cultural Situation of the Jews of Romania : a Chapter in the History of the Haskala Movement in the Jewish Community of Romania
Benjamin Schwarzfeld’s Polemics on the Cultural Situation of the Jews of Romania : a Chapter in the History of the Haskala Movement in the Jewish Community of Romania

Author(s): Lucian Zeev Herşcovici
Subject(s): Jewish studies, History of ideas, Jewish Thought and Philosophy, 19th Century
Published by: Argonaut
Keywords: Romanian Jewry;Haskala;Benjamin Schwarzfeld;maskilim;Hasidism;polemics;

Summary/Abstract: How influential was the Haskala movement in the Romanian Jewish community in the 60s-70s of the 19 th century? To answer to this question, we must note that in the Jewish community of Romania (and previously in the Jewish communities of the Romanian Principalities Moldavia and Wallachia) the movement began and developed later than in the Jewish communities of the neighbouring empires: if in the first half of the 19 th century, in the Romanian Principalities there were maskils only, an organized Haskala movement emerged at the end of the 40s-beginning of the 50s of the 19 th century. The Haskala movement in the Jewish community of Romania was strongly influenced by the Haskala movement of the Jewish communities of Galicia and Bucovina, which were Austrian provinces in the 19 th century. Many “maskils” of Romania came from Galicia and immigrated to Romania. One of them was Benjamin Schwarzfeld. His polemics on the cultural situation of the Jews of Romania from 1873, as well as his activity as a maskil active in the founding of modern Jewish schools in Jassy are an interesting chapter of the history of the Haskala movement of Romania. In a polemical article, published as a Hebrew language leaflet in that year as a response to the claim by the Committee for Romanian Israelites of Vienna, that the low level of modern education of the Jews of Romania does not justify their emancipation, Benjamin Schwarzfeld argued that the level of modern Jewish education in Romania is not so far behind that existent in Galicia and Russia. Benjamin Schwarzfeld opposed the idea of so-called “merited emancipation” held by the Committee of Vienna, and affirmed that emancipation would advance modern education among Romanian Jews, who would be more interested in modern education if they were integrated into Romanian society. In his leaflet, Benjamin Schwarzfeld deals with the state of modern education among the Jews of Jassy, where he lived. Benjamin Schwarzfeld’s leaflet, printed in Jassy, remained unknown by historians of Romanian Jewry for a long time: they used a Romanian translation, published by his son, Moses, in the journal “Egalitatea”, but this was only a partial translation, oriented toward Romanization. In our article, we shall present the original Hebrew leaflet and analyze Benjamin Schwarzfeld’s point of view.

  • Issue Year: 21/2014
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 95-114
  • Page Count: 20
  • Language: English