Holdheim, Samuel

Holdheim, Samuel a distinguished Jewish divine of the Liberalistic or so-called reform school, was born at Kempen, province of Posen, Prussia, in 1806. His early education was, like that of every other Jewish Rabbi of his time, confined to a thorough study of the Scriptures and the Talmud. In the latter his proficiency was very great, and was pretty generally known throughout his native province, even while he was yet a young man. With great perseverance, he paved his way for a broader culture than the study of the Talmud and the instructions of the Rabbins could afford him, and he went to the universities of Prague and Berln. His limited preparation made it, however, impossible for him to graduate at those high schools. In 1836 he was called as Rabbi to the city of Frankfort on the Oder. Here he distinguished himself greatly by his endeavors to advance the interests of his Jewish brethren in Prussia, and to obtain liberal concessions from the government. He there published, besides a number of sermons delivered in behalf of the cause just alluded to, Gottesdienstliche Vortrage (Frmkf. 1839, 8vo), in which he treats of the Jewish holy days, usages, etc. These sermons were the subject of consideration by the leading Jewish periodicals for successive months. Thus the distinguished Jewish scholar J. A. Frankel aimed to establish on these sermons the laws of Jewish Homiletics (comp. Literaturblatt des Orients, 1840, No. 35, 39, 47, 49, 50). His scholarly attainments were such at this time (1840) that the University of Leipzig honored him with the degree of "doctor of philosophy." In the same year Holdheim accepted a call as chief Rabbi of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and was installed Sept. 19 (1840). The prominence which this position gave him greatly increased his influence both at home and abroad. and his movements for reform in the Jewish Ritual (q.v.) contributed perhaps more than the efforts of any other person to the reform movements at Berlin with which he was afterwards so intimately associated. In 1843 he published Ueber d. Autonomie d. Rabbinen v2. d. Princip. derjuid. Ehe (Schwerin and Berlin, 1843, 8vo). In this work he labored for a submission of the Jews in matrimonial questions to the law of the land in which they now sojourned, instead of adhering to their Talmudic laws, so conflicting with the duties of their citizenship, and so antagonistic to the principles of this liberal age. He held, first, that the autonomy of the Rabbins must cease; secondly, that the religious obligations should be distinct from the political and civil, and should yield to the latter as of higher authority; and, thirdly. that marriage is, according to the Jewish law, a civil act, and consequently an act independent of Jewish authorities. (On the controversy of this question, SEE JEWS, REFORMED.) In 1844 he published Ueber d. Beschneidung zunächst. in religios-dogmat. Beziehung (Schwrerin and Berlin, 1844, 8vo), in which he treats of the question whet-her circumcision is essential to Jewish membership, and in which his position is even more liberal than in the treatment of the questions previously alluded to. Holdheim was also a prominent member of the Jewish councils held from 1843 to 1846. In 1847 he was called to Berlin by the Jewish Reform Society of that city, consisting of members who, on account of their liberal views, had separated from the orthodox portion; and he entered upon the duties of this position on September 5. Here he labored with great distinction, and from this, the real center of Germany, he scattered the seeds of his extremely liberal views among his Jewish brethren throughout the entire length and breadth not only of his own country, but of the world. He died Aug. 22, 1860. Perhaps we call give no better evidence of Holdheim's influence in his later years than by citing the words of Rabbi Einhorn, now of New York city (in Sinai: Organfiur Erkenntniss u. Veredlung d. Judenth. Baltimore, 1860, p. 288, the November number of which gives a pretty full biography of Holdheim): "The great master in Israel, the high-priest of Jewish theological science, the lion in the contest for light and truth, no longer dwells among 11s." Besides a number of short treatises in pamphlet form, to which the controversy between the Reformed and Orthodox Jews gave rise, he published Gesch. der jüd. Refornmgemeinde, (Berlin, 1857, 8vo): — Religions-u. Sittenlehren d. Mischnah z. Gebrauch b.Religionsunterr. 1. jüd. Religions-schulen (Berlin, 1854, 12mo), and a larger work on the same subject under the title

והִדֵּעָה הָאמֵוּנָה, Jid. Glaubens-u. Sittenlehre (ib. 1857, 8vo): Gebete und Gesänge für das Neujahrs-u. Vershungsfest (Berlin, 1859, 8vo); and Predigten (vol. 1, 1852; vol. 2, 1853; vol. 3, 1855), besides a number of sermons separately published since his death. A complete list of his works up to 1846 is given by Furst (Biblioth. Judenth. p. 404, 405). See Ritter (Dr. J. H.), Gesch. derjüd. Reformation, vol. 3 (Samuel Holdheim, Berl. 1865); Jost, N. Gesch. d. Israel, 1, 99 sq.; 3 (Culturgesch.), 205 sq.; Gesch. d. Judenth. u. s. Sekten, p. 374 sq. (J. H.W.)

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