CALL FOR PAPERS
Samuel Holdheim, Reformer or Heretic?
Investigations on Rabbi Samuel Holdheim (1806[?]-1860), his life, his
Conveners: Dr Ralph Bisschops (Germanic Philology, University of Ghent),
Prof. Dr. Michael Brocke (Jewish Studies, University of Duisburg / Director
of the Salomon Ludwig Steinheim Institut für deutsch-jüdische Geschichte),
Prof. Robert L. Platzner Ph.D. (Jewish Studies / Chair of the Dept.
Humanities and Religious
Studies, California State University at Sacramento).
Coordinator: Thomas Kollatz, MA (Salomon Ludwig Steinheim Institut für
Keynote speaker: Professor Michael A. Meyer Ph.D. (Hebrew Union College,
1. PURPOSE OF INVESTIGATION
Samuel Holdheim figures prominently in nearly every book on German-Jewish
history of the
19th century, yet about his thinking little research has been done.
His name stands for a movement ("radical" Reform Judaism) but not for an
oeuvre. None of his many works has ever been re-edited, and the last
comprehensive study of his thinking was published in 1865. Popular histories
render, at best, only a distorted portrait of his contributions to Reform
thinking and preaching, a portrait often inspired by polemical
The prevailing view of Holdheim is that of an assimilationist and schismatic
rabbi who was prepared to jettison most Jewish laws and customs, and it is
precisely this imago that we are proposing to question. As we read his
writings on circumcision, the Hebrew language, the status of women and
Sabbath worship we find utter subtlety and sophistication, and in
Holdheim's sermons -- which have gone largely unnoticed -- we discover a
remarkable sense of pastoral responsibility. Holdheim's often misunderstood
"universalism" is, in fact, a logical extension of his larger vision of the
destiny of the Jewish people.
To Michael A. Meyer we owe the first, and still most important correction of
the Holdheim imago, namely the insight that he was in many ways akin to the
neo-Orthodox thinker Samson Raphael Hirsch rather than to Geiger and the
"historical" school. Both Hirsch and Holdheim were dogmatists, seeking to
establish guidelines for the modern Jew on a normative basis. Though not
uncommitted to the Wissenschaft ideal, Holdheim seldom resorted to its
methodologies as a means of exploring what God expects from men and women.
More versed in rabbinical tradition and German philosophy than many of his
contemporaries, he often sought to ground his own innovations and those of
earlier reformers through sustained halachic argumentation.
However, rabbinic thought is seldom created in a social vacuum, and it is
important to note how the various communities Holdheim served and the
controversies of his time shaped his outlook.
Since many archives remain unexplored, new investigations of Holdheim's
life, his religious upbringing, the Berlin community and related topics will
be particularly welcome.
The conveners seek to attract scholars who are doing research on
Classical Reform Judaism in Germany and its offshoots in North America.
Though focusing on Holdheim, the conveners also welcome studies on
contemporaries, opponents and supporters as well, seen from a normative
(vis-à-vis an historical) perspective.
Please submit a succinct proposal indicating the prospective length of the
paper by February 1, 2000. An earlier reply, however, would be highly
appreciated. Short papers are also welcome, especially if they contain
archive material or relevant historical discoveries.
2. THE SYMPOSIUM
The symposium is planned for 2001 (provisionally from
April 17 to April 20) in Duisburg (Germany) and will be organised by the
Salomon Ludwig Steinheim Institute.
After receipt of the abstracts a request for funding will be submitted. By
the end of February 2000 at the latest the authors will be informed about
assessment of their abstracts. The dead-line for the papers is January 31,
2001. The symposium language is English, but the conveners accept papers
written in German.
3. THE PUBLICATION
An English-language volume of contributed essays will be published by Peter
Lang European Academic Publishers as part of the Religions and Discourse
series. Also a German-language volume is planned. Papers from scholars who
cannot attend the symposium will still be considered for publication.
4. CONTACT ADDRESS
Abstract submissions should be sent to:
Mr Thomas Kollatz, MA
Salomon Ludwig Steinheim Institut für deutsch-jüdische Geschichte
Fax: +49203 373380
E-mail (plain text): [log in to unmask]
Please forward an additional copy of your abstract submission (plain text)
Dr Ralph Bisschops ([log in to unmask]) and Prof. Robert L. Platzner
([log in to unmask]).
5. SUBMISSION FORM
E-mail submissions (plain text) are strongly recommended. To facilitate the
electronic exchange of ideas, necessitated by the international assemblage
of the conveners and referees, the conveners declare that the intellectual
ownership of the submitted proposals/papers will be strictly respected.
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