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Zunz, Leopold

ZUNZ, LEOPOLD (1794-1886), Jewish scholar, was born at Detmold in 1794, and died in Berlin in 1886. He was the founder of what has been termed the " science of Judaism," the critical investigation of Jewish literature, hymnology and ritual. Early in the 19th century he was associated with Cans Moser and Heine in an association which the last named called " Young Palestine." The ideals of this Verein were not destined to bear religious fruit, but the " science of Judaism " survived. Zunz took no large share in Jewish reform, but never lost faith in the regenerating power of " science " as applied to the traditions and literary legacies of the ages. He had thoughts of becoming a preacher, but found the career uncongenial. He influenced Judaism from the study rather than from the pulpit. In 1832 appeared what E. H. Hirsch rightly terms " the most important Jewish book published in the 19th century." This was Zunz's Goltesdienstliche Vortriige der Juden, i.e. a history of the Sermon. It lays down principles for the investigation of the Rabbinic exegesis (Midrash, q.v.) and of the prayer-book of the synagogue. This book raised Zunz to the supreme position among Jewish scholars. In 1840 he was appointed director of a Lehrerseminar, a post which relieved him from pecuniary troubles. In 1845 appeared his Zur Geschichte und Literatur, in which he threw light on the literary and social history of the Jews. Zunz was always interested in politics, and in 1848 addressed many public meetings- In 1850 he resigned his headship of the Teachers' Seminary, and was awarded a pension. He had visited the British Museum in 1846, and this confirmed him in his plan for his third book, Synagogale Poesie des Mitlelalters (1855). It was from this book that George Eliot translated the following opening of a chapter of Daniel Deronda: " If there are ranks in suffering, Israel takes precedence of all the nations "... etc. After its publication Zuuz again visited England, and in 1859 issued his Riius. In this he gives a masterly survey of synagogal rites. His last great book was his Literatur geschichte der synagogalen Poesie (1865). A supplement appeared in 1867. Besides these works, Zunz published a new translation of the Bible, and wrote many essays which were afterwards collected as Gesammelte Schriften. Throughout his early and married life he was the champion of Jewish rights, and he did not withdraw from public affairs until 1874, the year of the death of his wife Adelhei Beermann, whom he had married in 1822.

See Emil G. Hirsch, in Jewish Encyclopedia, xii. 699-704.

(I. A.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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