History of Judaism

Jewish Enlightenment
Moses Mendelssohn, German philosopher, reconciles Judaism and the Enlightenment
1729 Jan 1 - 1784

Jewish Enlightenment


The Haskalah, often termed Jewish Enlightenment (Hebrew: השכלה; literally, "wisdom", "erudition" or "education"), was an intellectual movement among the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe, with certain influence on those in Western Europe and the Muslim world. It arose as a defined ideological worldview during the 1770s, and its last stage ended around 1881, with the rise of Jewish nationalism.

The Haskalah pursued two complementary aims. It sought to preserve the Jews as a separate, unique collective, and it pursued a set of projects of cultural and moral renewal, including a revival of Hebrew for use in secular life, which resulted in an increase in Hebrew found in print. Concurrently, it strove for an optimal integration in surrounding societies. Practitioners promoted the study of exogenous culture, style, and vernacular, and the adoption of modern values. At the same time, economic productivization was pursued. The Haskalah promoted rationalism, liberalism, freedom of thought, and enquiry, and is largely perceived as the Jewish variant of the general Age of Enlightenment. The movement encompassed a wide spectrum ranging from moderates, who hoped for maximal compromise, to radicals, who sought sweeping changes.