Moses Mendelssohn: Writ­ings on Judaism, Chris­tian­i­ty & The Bible

Michah Got­tlieb, ed.
  • Review
By – March 28, 2012

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.

Peter L. Roth­holz head­ed his own Man­hat­tan-based pub­lic rela­tions agency and taught at the Busi­ness and Lib­er­al Arts (BALA) pro­gram at Queens Col­lege. He lives in East Hamp­ton, NY and San­ta Mon­i­ca, CA and is a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to Jew­ish publications.

Discussion Questions