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Culture

How German Jewish intellectuals introduced Judaic studies into academia

A New York exhibition exploring the development of Jewish studies is for the first time on show in Germany and includes original writings by Albert Einstein and poet Heinrich Heine.

In the early 19th century, Jewish intellectuals started viewing Judaism as a field of academic studies and began critically investigating Jewish literature, hymnology and rituals. An exhibition exploring how this happened was developed by the Leo Baeck Institute in New York. It is now on show for the first time in Germany, at the Landesmuseum in Braunschweig.

The northern region of Braunschweig played a particular role in this development, as the Jewish reform schools located there offered many students a solid basis to establish themselves as successful intellectuals.

For example, Leopold Zunz, who became the founder of Judaic studies and whose writings strongly influenced contemporary Judaism, was a student of the Samson School in Wolfenbüttel, 13 kilometers (eight miles) south of Braunschweig.

Settling in Berlin in 1815, Zunz teamed up with other intellectuals, such as the poet Heinrich Heine (pictured in the portrait above), to found the "Verein für Kultur und Wissenschaft der Juden" (The Society for the Culture and Science of the Jews) four years later.

The original title of the exhibition, "Wissenschaft des Judentums: Jewish Studies and the Shaping of Jewish Identity," refers to the German roots of this academic field. The show demonstrates how these intellectuals' influence still has an impact to this day. Highlights include original handwritten notes by Heinrich Heine and physicist Albert Einstein.

The exhibition runs through March 5, 2017.

eg/kbm (with dpa)

 

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