Moses Hess and Modern Jewish Identity
Publication Year: 2001
"Koltun-Fromm's reading of Hess is of crucial import for those who study the construction of self in the modern world as well as for those who are concerned with Hess and his contributions to modern thought.... a reading of Hess that is subtle, judicious, insightful, and well supported." -- David Ellenson
Moses Hess, a fascinating 19th-century German Jewish intellectual figure, was at times religious and secular, traditional and modern, practical and theoretical, socialist and nationalist. Ken Koltun-Fromm's radical reinterpretation of his writings shows Hess as a Jew struggling with the meaning of conflicting commitments and impulses. Modern readers will realize that in Hess's life, as in their own, these commitments remain fragmented and torn. As contemporary Jews negotiate multiple, often contradictory allegiances in the modern world, Koltun-Fromm argues that Hess's struggle to unite conflicting traditions and frameworks of meaning offers intellectual and practical resources to re-examine the dilemmas of modern Jewish identity. Adopting Charles Taylor's philosophical theory of the self to uncover Hess's various commitments, Koltun-Fromm demonstrates that Hess offers a rich, textured, though deeply conflicted and torn account of the modern Jew. This groundbreaking study in conceptions of identity in modern Jewish texts is a vital contribution to the diverse fields of Jewish intellectual history, philosophy, Zionism, and religious studies.
Jewish Literature and
Culture -- Alvin H. Rosenfeld, editor
Published with the generous support of the Koret Foundation
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Jewish Literature and Culture
"This book, like so many others, has strong roots, perhaps even deeper ones than I can even imagine. I first came across the works of Moses Hess in an independent reading course with my teacher and friend, Arnold Eisen. Those first moments of initial fascination and puzzlement continued throughout my dissertation project and this work. I learned how to approach texts with such critical absorption..."
1. Moses Hess and Modern Jewish Identity
"In Rome and Jerusalem (1862), Moses Hess imagined a new Jewry, one progressive and traditional, religious and socialist, nationalist and humanitarian. But such a utopian vision would not go unchallenged. Hess’s colleagues in Germany were the first to recognize the alarming tensions in his thought. Ludwig Philippson, the editor of the popular nineteenth-century German Jewish paper Allgemeine..."
2. Conceptions of Self and Identity in Hess’s Early Works and Rome and Jerusalem
"Hess delivered early copies of Rome and Jerusalem to his former publisher Otto Wigand and his good friend Berthold Auerbach. Hoping for critical assessments and honest praise, he instead received trenchant critique and contemptuous scorn.Both Wigand and Auerbach’s response found their way into the fourth letter in Rome and Jerusalem.1 Auerbach challenged Hess’s already insecure position within..."
3. Hess’s “Return” to Judaism and Narrative Identity
"A general consensus exists among historians of Zionism that Moses Hess’s Rome and Jerusalem marks a strong departure from his previous works on socialism and science. Only Shlomo Avineri contends that this visionary work—concerning Jewish nationalism, German anti-Semitism, and the illusions of Jewish emancipation—indicates Hess’s continued struggle and concern with Jewish identity. Yet..."
4. Inescapable Frameworks: Emotions, Race, and the Rhetoric of Jewish Identity
"Most Hess scholars contend that Hess’s appeal to emotional attachments in Rome and Jerusalem is more befitting to a personal confession than to a sophisticated philosophical argument.1 Indeed, these scholars apologize for his 'unsystematic' thinking or philosophical immaturity. They cite Hess’s apparent random ordering of topics, the curious division of Rome and Jerusalem into letters, notes, and..."
5. Traditions and Scars: Hess’s Critique of Reform and OrthodoxJudaism
"Throughout Rome and Jerusalem, as well as in his later essays, Hess argues that modern Reform Jews abandon their attachments to the Jewish national traditionand pursue the illusory goal of civic and political emancipation in Germany. They sacri
6. Innocence and Experience in Rome and Jerusalem
"Bernard Williams distinguishes between two kinds of philosophers: those who believe in an underlying pattern and structure to human history and reason,and those who see no such order. While the comparison is overdrawn, it still offers a valuable guide to evaluate philosophical commitments:..."