S. Feiner, Bar-Ilan University, S'22



Name: Prof. Shmuel Feiner (Bar-Ilan University)

Date: Thursday, Mar. 24, 4:30 pm EST

Location: Reich College of Education, Appalachian State

The internationally-renowened Haskalah specialist Shmuel Feiner, a professor of Modern Jewish History and the incumbent of the prestigious Samuel Braun Chair for the History of the Jews in Germany at Bar-Ilan University, speaks on "The Haskalah Project of Secularization: Challenging ‘The Religious Turn.’" The in-person lecturetook place on Thursday, March 24, at 4:30 pm at the Reich College of Education (Lecture Hall, R. 124). Prof. Feiner's presentation was also the keynote lecture of the 14th Southeast German Studies Consortium (SEGSC) workshop co-organized by Appalachian's Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies and the SEGSC. In the last three decades, a dramatic and significant revision has taken place in the way modern Jewish history is presented and understood. 

A key trend in that revision is the re-thinking of the role played by the Haskalah in the major process of modernization. If from Heinrich Graetz to Jacob Katz there was a consensus that placed the Haskalah at the crossroad of nearly every narrative of the transition from the old to the modern era, in our time there is a clear tendency to reduce the importance of the Haskalah and to paint its face in conservative colors. In his lecture, Prof. Feiner argues that the Haskalah movement was not one of the modern Jewish denominations nor did it come out against the religion. But nevertheless, the Haskalah was the leader of a significant project of secularization. Even without attacking religion itself, sometimes even out of a desire to defend it against radical secularization, the Haskalah conducted a critical project that subverted rabbinical authority, undermined the status of the rabbis and offered alternatives. The important inventions of the Haskalah became the building blocks of modern Jewish culture. The Jewish public sphere was totally altered and the new players who entered it led Jewish society to an enormous transformation. The boundaries that the maskilim were the first to draw between the supporters of the Jewish project of modernization and its critics became the frontline of the Jewish Kulturkampf.

In addition to his appointments at Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Feiner currently serves as the Chairman of The Historical Society of Israel and editor of Zion, A Quarterly for Research in Jewish History. He is the Vice President of the International Leo Baeck Institute and the past Chairman of the Jerusalem Leo Baeck Institute (2007-2019). He served as Visiting Professor at Yale University (2011) and Goethe University Frankfurt/Main (2012). Among his many awards and fellowships are an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Award, 2012. Prof. Feiner is the author and/or editor of many influential books, including Haskalah and History. The Emergence of a Modern Jewish Historical Consciousness (Hebrew 1995; English, by the Littman Library, 2002), The Jewish Enlightenment(Hebrew, 2002; English, by The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004, winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award; German, by Olms, 2007, winner of the Meyer-Struckmann-Preis, Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf), Moses Mendelssohn (Hebrew, 2005; German, by Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht 2009; English, by Yale University Press, 2010; Chinese by Showwe Information Co, Taipei, 2014), The Origins of Jewish Secularization in Eighteenth Century Europe (Hebrew, 2010, winner of the Shazar Prize in Jewish History; English, by The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011); The Jewish Eighteenth Century, A European Biography 1700-1750, Hebrew 2017; English, by Indiana University Press, 2020); The Jewish Eighteenth Century, A European Biography 1750-1800 (Hebrew 2021).

Organized by the Org Committee of the Southeast German Studies Consortium and ASU's Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies, the keynote lecture -- like the workshop as a whole -- are co-sponsored by ASU's College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of International Eduction and Development, the Departments of History, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Philosophy and Religion, as well as ASU's German Studies Program, the American Friends of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Washington,. D.C.; the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Bonn/New York City; the Council for European Studies, New York City; Davidson College's German Department, Emory University's German and History Departments, UNC's Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, UNC's Center for European Studies, Vanderbilt University's Center for European and German Studies, and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Washington, DC.