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Enlightenment, Jewish

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-J056-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

The eighteenth century in Europe saw the beginnings of Jewish emancipation, and this led to an intellectual development which came to be known as the Jewish Enlightenment or Haskalah. This movement emphasized the rational individual, the notion of natural law, natural religion and toleration, and natural rights. The effect of this form of thought was to provide a justification for the equality of the Jews with other citizens of national entities. The most important exponent of this movement was Moses Mendelssohn, who dominated the debate on the role Jews should play in the state and the rationality of Judaism as a religion. Ultimately the Jewish Enlightenment moved east and became connected with such movements as Zionism. In Germany it led to the development of the Reform movement. The Jewish Enlightenment very much set the agenda for the next two centuries of debate about Jewish ideas by seeking to analyse the links between religion and reason in Judaism.

Citing this article:
Harris, Jay M.. Enlightenment, Jewish, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-J056-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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