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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Persecution of the Jews: Pale of Settlement 04:

Religious developments in the 19th century under czarist discrimination

Hasidism and Mitnagdim (righteous) - Hashkalah and maskilim (Enlightenment movement) as a base for later Zionism

from: History; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 8

presented by Michael Palomino (2007)

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[East European communities: Hasidism and new political and social organizations - 1844: Russian prohibition of Jewish communities has no effect - czarist rabbinical regulations without success]

<In Eastern Europe Jews in general retained a strong attachment to the ancient community structure. *Hasidism on the one hand and the emergence of secular Jewish political and social organizations on the other produced new elements of leadership, which mostly cooperated with the community organization, while trying to use it for their own purposes and according to the ideals guiding them. Thus in regions where Hasidism predominated the local rabbi became very much subordinated to the authority of the hasidic *zaddik [[righteous]], whose follower he was, or to the authority of the zaddik who had the largest following in the community.

From about the beginning of the 1880s the aims and weight of secular political parties began to influence the policies and composition of the community leadership. The abolition of the kahal [[community]] by the Russian government in 1844 did not greatly restrict actual community work. The Jews continued with their own leadership structure even if having (col. 723)

to use different names for it in reference to the state authorities.

The adherence of Jews to their own conception of the personality and type of education required for religious leaders was strongly in evidence in their reaction to the requirement of the czarist government that rabbis be educated in Russian culture and enlightenment trends. Seminaries for such rabbis were opened by the state at Jewish centers such as *Vilna and *Zhitomir but were boycotted by traditional scholars, and the graduates were considered ipso facto unfit for the rabbinate. The government therefore deputed its own state-appointed rabbis in many places, the so-called *kazyonny ravvin; however the Jews continued to acknowledge their own rabbis, generally looking upon the kazyonny ravvin as an insult or joke.>


[Hasidism (religious) and zaddikim (the righteous) - creation of Lithuanian yeshivot (Jewish religion schools) - coexistence]

Religious and cultural life between approximately the middle of the 18th century and the 1880s underwent a continuous process of differentiation, enrichment, and involuntary pluralism. Hasidism introduced the charismatic personality as a regular element of leadership, which was later on institutionalized in the dynasties of hasidic zaddikim. At first Hasidism was bitterly opposed both for its tenets and the temper and way of life of hasidic groups, in particular at the courts of the zaddikim [[courts of the justs]]. The opposition failed, although it was led by the greatest rabbinical authorities who made lavish use of their powers of excommunication (see *Elija b. Solomon Zalman, the Gaon of Vilna) and by the lay community leadership which strongly attacked it.

As a result the opposition itself created a new school of Lithuanian yeshivot [[Jewish religion schools]] expressive of its own ideals and attitudes, and gradually formed a new *Mitnaggedic-Lithuanian pattern of Jewish subculture [[Mitnagdim]]. Due to the basic conservatism of Hasidism, despite the suspicions cast on it by its opponents, and since the main attention of its opponents was concentrated on giving direction to their own pattern of culture, there emerged (more or less by the 1830s) an uneasy coexistence between these two groups.

[Enlightenment movements: Haskalah and maskilim]

As the *Haskalah movement [[Jewish Enlightenment movement]] and the maskilim  [[Enlightenment philosophers]] also remained within the framework of Jewish society, despite the sharp disagreement and suspicion between them and the conservative elements, Jews began, by about this time too, to accustom themselves to the existence of various trends within Jewry. Both the tension between them and the reluctant partial recognition reciprocally accorded by each side now resulted, for the first time since the period of the Second Temple, in the existence of clearly defined groups - differing in many aspects, cultural, religious, and social - but all regarding each other as within Jewry and partaking of Judaism, and each considering its own brand of Jewishness to be superior.

Even Reform and assimilated Jews were defined publicly as Jews. This situation led to a heightening of intolerance on the formal level but to mutual toleration in practice. Jewish life was much enriched by the competing cultural streams, variety in modes of life, and diverse types of leadership existing within Judaism side by side in disharmony but with a tacit agreement to disagree.

The great personalities of the founders of these trends became the ideal prototypes for future generations - both through the history of their own lives and by means of the legends and semi-legends woven around them. In Hasidism, *Israel b. Eliezer Ba'al Shem Tov and the circle of his pupils, among the Mitnaggedim, Elijah Gaon of Vilna and his circle of pupils, and, in Haskalah, Moses Mendelssohn and his disciples, served both to fructify and influence cultural trends and individual behavior, as well as to accentuate differences. (col. 724)

[Hasidism (religious) with dances, songs, tales, and wonder accounts has effects with movements, schools, Jewish youth, and literature]

Elements in Hasidism such as the hasidic *dance and song, the camaraderie of hasidic groups and courts, hasidic tales and accounts of wonders, not only colored the culture of the majority of East European Jewry but later, in the 20th century, influenced semi-secular and secular teachings and movements, like those of Martin *Buber and *Ha-Shomer ha-Za'ir in its early stages, as well as the patterns of behavior of many other Jewish youth groups in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century, and much of secular Hebrew and Yiddish literature.

[Mitnaggedic (other religious) Jewish culture in Lithuania]

The Mitnaggedic Jewish culture both created representatives of a scholarly lay elite in the Lithuanian towns and townships, and did much to give new stature and dimensions to the *talmid hakham (talmid ḥakham) [[disciple of the wise, scholar]]. The influence of Mitnaggedim ideals and attitudes is reflected in the teachings of men like Simon *Dubnow and in much of the secular and non-ecstatic trends of Jewish life in Erez Israel, the United States, and in *South Africa.

Haskalah led in many cases to extreme assimilation, but on the other hand it continued, in particular in Eastern Europe, its original cultivation of Hebrew, and its creation of a secular Jewish literature, in philosophy, historiography, and above all, in belles lettres [[literature]].> (col. 725)

[[ ... paragraph about Haskalah in Central and Western Europe ... ]]

[Haskalah (Enlightenment) movement in Eastern Europe: Quarrels about languages, school systems, dresses and customs - Haskalah enlightenment is the base for Zionism development]

In Eastern Europe Haskalah often provoked the opposition of the Jewish masses through the collaboration of its enthusiasts with oppressive governments in attempts to impose on them secular education and changes of language, *dress, and custom. Yet it was mainly on the foundations laid by Haskalah thinking, methods, and achievements that secular Hebrew culture and literature could develop within the framework of Zionism in the 20th century.> (col. 725)

<One of the main grounds of division between the Orthodox and Reform sectors in Jewry derived from differences in attitude towards messianic hopes, Erez Israel, and the use of the Hebrew language in prayer, thus emphasizing in minds and emotions the centrality of these factors to Jewish life and thought.> (col. 730)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): History,
                          vol. 8, col. 723-724
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): History, vol. 8, col. 723-724
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): History,
                          vol. 8, col. 725-726
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): History, vol. 8, col. 725-726
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): History,
                          vol. 8, col. 729-730
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): History, vol. 8, col. 729-730

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