Moses Mendelssohn: Writings on Judaism, Christianity & The Bible

Brandeis University Press  2011


In this collection of writings by the founder of the Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, editor Michah Gottlieb sets out “to provide the English reader with a more comprehensive picture of Mendelssohn’s attempt to balance Judaism and the Enlightenment than had been available until now.” Gottlieb’s choices of letters, documents, and selections from major works are most enlightening. And while most of the works are by Mendelssohn, the fact that letters to him and commentaries by contemporaries are included gives an added, humanizing dimension to the book’s subject. What further distinguished this volume are the excellent prefatory notes which introduce nearly all the selections and the helpful footnotes which do much more than simply credit sources or define arcane terms.

In his Introduction, Gottlieb provides a wealth of information about Mendelssohn, the time and place in which he lived, and his relationship with the Jewish as well as with the larger German community and some of its leaders. The German language of the eighteenth century can be challenging even to scholars, but Messrs. Bowman, Sacks and Arkush have given us translations which are both easy and enjoyable to read. Suggestions for Further Reading, index.

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