Early Haskalah Reception at the End of the Haskalah Period

התקבלותה של ספרות ההשכלה הגרמנית בתקופת ההשכלה המאוחרת: מהוקרה והכרה לביקורת ודחייה


An intriguing and neglected topic in the study of Hebrew Haskalah literature is the reception of German Haskalah in the 19th century after the transition of the centers of the Haskalah to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Galicia as well as to Russia and Poland. Toward the end of the Haskalah period in the 19th century, early Haskalah writers and their writings came to be severely criticized. This article asks: What brought on this change in attitude and when did it occur? Setting several criteria for assessing the reception of early Haskalah in the first half of the 19th century, the article confirms that it was regarded very positively at that time. The author then reviews the attitude to and the impact of two major figures in early Haskalah, namely Moses Mendelssohn and Naphtali Herz Wessely (Weisel), as well as the attitude toward Hameasef and its circle of writers in the later Haskalah. Subsequently, the author discerns four trends in the assessment and the reception of early Haskalah during its later development. The first dates to the 1830s, with the beginning of the historiography of Hebrew literature, as found in the writings of Yitzhak Beer Levinson and Shmuel Yoseph Fünn. The second wave dates to the 1860s, with the emergence of literary criticism in the writings of Shalom Yaakov Abramovitch (Mendele Mocher Seforim), Avraham Uri Kovner, Avraham Yaakov Paperna, and others. The third wave occurred in the 1870s and 1880s as expressed in Peretz Smolenskin's bitterly negative attitude toward Mendelssohn and the early Maskilim. The fourth wave, at the fin de siècle, was represented in the writings of Mordechai Ehrenpreis, who entirely dismissed early Haskalah.

Publication Date


Document Type


Alternate Language Volume Number


Publication Title

Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature

First Page


Last Page