The Hebrew scientific textbook Rešit limmudim by Baruch Lindau (1759-1849), published in Berlin in 1788, is used as a case study for the development of scientific education in the German-Jewish Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) of the late eighteenth century. The discovery that Rešit limmudim is an adaptation of a German textbook written by a philanthropinist educator makes it a unique document for studying the maskilim's goals in scientific education, the texts on which they drew, and the cultural constraints they had to deal with when introducing modern scientific knowledge into the Jewish education. It illustrates both the maskilic aspiration to modernize Jewish culture and the numerous obstacles, limitations, and difficulties they encountered.
The role model for the formation of a new and modern Jewish culture was the neighboring German culture, which was also experiencing great cultural and educational changes. The comparison between Rešit limmudim and its source text illuminates the two cultures' different starting points: Whereas the German Philanthropismus could be based on solid scientific terminology in German and on textual models developed especially for children (like the dialogue method and the use of illustrations), the Haskalah did not benefit from those favorable conditions. In order to transfer the modern pedagogic reforms to Jewish culture, the maskilim had to work hard to adapt the non-Jewish models to their needs and find substitutes suitable for the Jewish audience. Through their efforts, Lindau and his maskilic colleagues drew the outlines of the new Jewish textual traditions in various modern subjects, including science and science education.