Utopian Models of Future Judaism in Isaac Euchel’s Vision-- A Study of Utopia As a Genre in Haskalah Literature

מודלים אוטופיים של יהדות העתיד בחזונו של יצחק אייכל: עיון באוטופיה כסוגה בספרות ההשכלה העברית


Isaac Euchel's 'Letters of Meshulam', which has been discussed previously as an epistolary writing and satire, should also be viewed as the first utopian writing in modern Hebrew literature. In studying this piece from the perspective of the utopia as a literary genre, we can gain insights into the literary aspects and merits of Haskala literature vis-à-vis its contemporary counterparts on the European scene. The unique features of the utopian genre served the Haskala writer very well. They provided him with a tool not only for expressing criticism and advocating change, but indeed enabled him to portray the desired change in a realistic way, as it actually took place. In this piece, Euchel chose three major utopian models for his vision of the future, which is based on the recent past. Two of them are Jewish models, and one, non-Jewish: (a) The model of the religious life and practices of the Marranos in Spain; (b) Christian ritual decorum; (c) Progressive cultural and social phenomena among Italian Jews. The first model, which appears to be a dystopia, or anti-utopia (the state of the Marranos in Spain), is actually perceived by the maskil as one option of practising Judaism. It is not assimilation that Euchel advocated, but rather a secular Jewish reality which is exemplified by the social, cultural and economic freedom enjoyed by Italian Jews in Livorno, the second utopian model. As such, he foresaw, two hundred years ago, the current secular state of the modern Jew. As a utopian maskil, Euchel desired to change the image of the Jew and the perception of Judaism based on the traditional, orthodox norms.

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