Old and New Knowledge Orders in 19th-Century Jewish History: German and American Perspectives

Friday, January 6, 2017: 10:30 AM
Governor's Square 15 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)
Kerstin von der Krone, German Historical Institute, Washington DC
Kerstin von der Krone will focus on German-Jewish history between 1750–1850; a period of cultural and social change extending to almost every facet of life, including Jewish education. The re-organisation of existing institutions of learning and the creation of new institutions, the adaptation of modern teaching methods, the integration of new subject matter that was alien to Jewry promoted a differentiation and pluralization of the religious knowledge order. This change was not limited to a fundamental change in the methods and structures of Jewish learning and the professionalization of rabbinical training. It also entailed the creation of a new type of religious education – new in both form and content. This process became visible in reformed Jewish schools, which offered a comprehensive new curriculum, and in supplemental religion classes aimed at serving the growing number of Jewish students attending public – that is, Christian – schools that did not offer Jewish religious instruction.

The paper will examine textbooks for Jewish religious instruction, which were produced in large numbers in German-speaking regions beginning in the early nineteenth century. Some of these textbooks were translated or adapted for American Jewish communities. These adaptations provide an opportunity to reflect upon the insights from German-Jewish history and broaden the perspective by focusing on processes of (knowledge) transfer. Furthermore the paper intends to inquire whether the political and social difference between Germany and the United states influenced the production and distribution of religious knowledge. For German and American Jews, the transmission of religious knowledge was inextricably bound up with diverse, often contested efforts to redefine Judaism in the modern era. The paper will thus give particular attention to the question of how far religious and cultural “traditions” of the Jews served as a point of reference in the creation of a new “Jewish” knowledge order.

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