The Cultural Politics of German-Jewish Hermeneutics, 1750-1950

A Workshop at the University of Chicago | October 5-6, 2014

Recent scholarship has highlighted the political and cultural stakes at play in the deployment of notions of secularism and religion. This workshop explores how these notions informed the interplay between ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ reading practices and the formation of German-Jewish identity between 1750-1950. Various conceptions of the secular and the religious, distilled in debates about the essence of religion, historiography, political agency, and reason, constituted distinct constellations of reading and authorial subjects. This workshop analyzes 18th- through 20th-century reading practices, including the interpretation and translation of biblical commentary, philosophy, and literary texts, to examine the cultural and political ramifications of various notions of ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ hermeneutics.


Sponsored by the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies, the Center for International Relations, the Franke Institute for the Humanites, the Martin Marty Center, and the Leo Baeck Institute London.

Sunday, 5 October, Third Floor Lecture Hall, Swift Hall

5:00 pm          Welcoming remarks, Dean Margaret M. Mitchell

                        Introduction of keynote speaker: Paul Mendes-Flohr

Keynote lecture:

Jonathan M. Hess “Religion, Secularism, and the Shape of German-Jewish Culture”

Monday, 6 October; Franke Conference Room, Franke Institute

9:30-11:00am – Session 1

Yael Almog, “Mendelssohn’s Interpretive Paradigm and the Continuity of Jewish Ritual”

Abraham Socher, “Allusion and Blasphemy: Notes Toward a Theory of Modern Jewish Heresy”

11:15am -12:45pm – Session 2

Alexandra Zirkle, “The Fruits of PaRDeS: Mediating Modernity through Biblical Exegesis”

Eliyahu Stern, “Kant and the Yeshiva: The Eastern European Jewish Reception of the Critique of Reason”

1:00-2:30pm   Lunch

2:30-3:45pm – Session 3

Andreas Braemer, “Zacharias Frankel (1801-1875): Jewish Scholarship between Denominational Theology and Empirical Research”

Abigail Gillman, “‘Der einfache Sinn’: Philippson, Hirsch, and the Language of Torah”

4:00-5:30pm – Session 4

Larisa Reznik, “Is there (in)justice in Translation?  Rosenzweig between Theology and Politics”

Na’ama Rokem, “Utopias of Translation: Paul Celan and Yehudah Amichai”     

5:45-6:30pm               Concluding discussion

Yael Almog, Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin
Andreas Braemer, Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden, Hamburg
Abigail Gillman, Boston University
Jonathan Hess, UNC Chapel Hill
Larisa Reznik, University of Chicago
Na'ama Rokem, University of Chicago
Abraham Socher, Oberlin College
Eliyahu Stern, Yale University
Alexandra Zirkle, University of Chicago