- Jewish Enlightenment (almost) without Haskalah: the Dutch Example
- Jewish Culture and History
- Volume | Issue number
- 13 | 2-3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR)
This contribution offers a comparative perspective on the Prague Haskalah as a movement in its own right, by briefly analysing another tradition that, like Prague, has often been presented as deeply indebted to the project of the Berlin Maskilim: the Dutch Jewish Enlightenment, which flourished during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Contrary to common opinion, which has always emphasized the German origins of the ‘Dutch Haskalah’, this ‘Haskalah’ was not imported from Berlin but had been inspired first and foremost by contemporary Dutch (Christian) enlightened discourse. Of course one Jew’s Dutch Enlightenment was not the other Jew’s Dutch Enlightenment. To illustrate this, the article briefly compares four ‘enlightened’ publications, i.e. historical biographies, by four prominent Dutch-Jewish intellectuals who operated in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Their varying treatments of Judaism’s role in (universal) history serve to illustrate the complexity of enlightened experience in the Netherlands, where the Jews had received civic equality as early as 1796, thus facing the challenge of building new communal infrastructures and forging a new, at least partly Dutch identity.
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