Leopold Zunz

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Leopold Zunz, portrait attributed to Moritz Daniel Oppenheim , probably wrong

Leopold Zunz (originally Jom Tov Lippmann Zunz ; born August 10, 1794 in Detmold ; died March 17, 1886 in Berlin ) was a German Jewish scientist and pioneer of the emancipation of Jews in Germany . He is considered to be the actual founder of the “ Science of Judaism ”, the research into Jewish history, culture and religion using the scientific methods of the 19th century.


Leopold Zunz attended the Samson School in Wolfenbüttel between 1803 and 1809 and was then accepted as the first Jew at the grammar school there, which he graduated in 1811. In 1815 he moved to Berlin, studied philosophy, philology and history at the Berlin University , where he founded the Jewish scientific circle in 1816 with his school friend Isaak Markus Jost . Zunz received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Halle in 1821 . After his ordination by one of the first representatives of the Jewish reform movement , Aaron Chorin , he officiated from 1820 to 1822 as a preacher in the “Beer Temple”, a reform synagogue in Berlin, but met with great incomprehension and therefore resigned from this position. From then on he earned his living as a member of the editorial board of the daily Haude and Spenersche Zeitung (1824–1831) and as director of a Jewish elementary school (1826–1830). However, he also gave up this post in the Jewish community school because he was unable to implement reforms that appeared to him necessary. In 1840 he founded the seminar for Jewish teachers in Berlin with Rabbi Meyer Landsberg and was appointed director. In 1850 he resigned from leading the seminar and received a pension.


Zunz was also politically active. Committed to democratic liberalism since his youth, he joined the democratic movement during the revolution of 1848 and was elected elector for parliamentary elections several times.

After the death of his wife Adelheid Beermann, whom he married in 1822, he withdrew from the public in 1874. Leopold Zunz died in 1886 at the age of 91 and was buried in the Jewish cemetery at Schönhauser Allee in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg .

Science of Judaism

Together with other personalities, including Eduard Gans , Zunz founded the Association for Culture and Science of the Jews in Berlin in 1819 , which Heinrich Heine also joined in 1822. His work Something about rabbinical literature had already appeared a year earlier , which, according to the general opinion, made him the founder of the “Science of Judaism”. Together with Gans and Moses Moser , Zunz became a member of the Society of Friends in 1820 . In 1823 he became editor of the Zeitschrift für die Wissenschaft des Judenthums and at the same time one of its most important authors. The magazine could not gain a larger readership, and so it was discontinued after three issues. The effects of the association were less religious and more scientific. Zunz hardly participated in Reform Judaism , but never lost faith in the invigorating power of science in its critical application to centuries-old traditions and literary lore. Zunz wanted to "bring the cultural legacy of Jewish literature to the periphery of Europe's cultural heritage".

In 1832 he published Divine Service Lectures by the Jews , which gives an account of the development of biblical interpretation from its beginnings in the Targumim to the time of Zunzen, including an introduction to over a hundred midrashim and is considered the most important Jewish work of the 19th century. In the preface, which was censored by the government, Zunz called for the right of Jews to German citizenship and the institutional promotion of the science of Judaism.

Works (selection)

Zunz's famous essay Something On Rabbinical Literature, published in 1818, became the intellectual agenda of the Science of Judaism and the main subject of his own future work. At this early stage in his academic career, Zunz developed his concept of the Science of Judaism, which was to serve as a medium for the presentation and preservation of Jewish literary works. Zunz believed that only an academic and interdisciplinary approach would allow a comprehensive framework for the appropriate study of Jewish subjects, texts, and Judaism. In 1832, "the most important Jewish book published in the 19th century," a history of the sermon, was published under the title The Religious Lectures of the Jews . It prepares the principles for the study of rabbinical exegesis (midrash) and siddur (prayer book This book raised Zunz to the highest position among the Jewish scholars of his time. In 1845, On History and Literature , in which he treated the literary and social history of the Jews. He visited the British Museum in 1846, and this confirmed him in his plan for his third book, Synagogal Poetry of the Middle Ages, in 1855. After publication, Zunz revisited England, and in 1859 he published his book Rite, a masterful survey of synagogue rites. His last great book was his synagogal literary history of poetry (1865). A supplement appeared in 1867. Besides these works published Zunz had a new translation of the Bible and wrote many essays which were published as Collected Writings .

  • Something about rabbinical literature. Berlin: Maurersche Buchhandlung, 1818. Digital copy of the SLUB Dresden via EOD
  • The worship lectures of the Jews developed historically. A contribution to antiquity and biblical criticism, to the history of literature and religion . Berlin: Asher, 1832. Digital copy of the Freimann Collection in Frankfurt. History of the Sermon, with principles for historical exploration of the Midrash and Siddur .
  • The twenty four and twenty books of the Holy Scriptures: based on the Masoretic texts / edited by Dr. Zunz; translated by H. Arnheim, Dr. Julius Fürst, Dr. M. Sachs. Berlin: Veit, 1837/1839.
  • To history and literature . Veit, Berlin 1845, urn : nbn: de: hebis: 30: 1-119241 (digitized version of the Freimann Collection Frankfurt).
  • Sermons given in the new Israelite Synagogue in Berlin. Berlin: Schlesinger 1846.
  • The synagogal poetry of the Middle Ages . Berlin 1855, urn : nbn: de: hebis: 30: 1-124445 (digitized from the Freimann Collection Frankfurt).
  • Samuel Meyer Ehrenberg, inspector of the Samson Free School in Wolfenbüttel . Braunschweig: Meyer brothers, 1854.
  • The [sic] rite of synagogue worship developed historically . A description of synagogal rites. In: The synagogal poetry of the Middle Ages . tape 2 . Springer, Berlin 1859, urn : nbn: de: hebis: 30: 1-124457 .
  • German letters . Leipzig, FA Brockhaus, 1872.
  • The days of the month of the calendar year ; a memory of those who passed away. Berlin; M. Poppelauer, 1872.
  • Literary history of synagogal poetry . Gerschel, Berlin 1865, urn : nbn: de: hebis: 30: 1-125104 (digitized version of the Freimann Collection Frankfurt; with a supplementary volume 1867).
  • Collected Writings . tape 1 . Gerschel, Berlin 1875, urn : nbn: de: hebis: 30: 1-105708 (354 pages, digitized from the Freimann Collection, Frankfurt).
  • Collected Writings . tape 2 . Gerschel, Berlin 1876, urn : nbn: de: hebis: 30: 1-105717 (304 pages, digitized from the Freimann Collection Frankfurt).
  • Collected Writings . tape 3 . Gerschel, Berlin 1876, urn : nbn: de: hebis: 30: 1-105720 (301 p., Digitized from the Freimann Collection Frankfurt).
  • Journal for the Science of Judaism Vol. 1, Issue 1–3, 1822 (no longer published). As editor with Eduard Gans. Digitized Compact Memory Frankfurt (about it: J. Raphael: Die Zeitschrift des Dr. LZ , in: Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden, Issue 1/1970, Tel Aviv: Olamenu, pp. 31–36 (numerous notes))

The rabbinical bible

Zunz headed a group of Jewish scholars who from 1837/1839 on a translation of the Holy Scriptures under the title The four and twenty books of the Holy Scriptures. Edited according to the Masoretic texts . It was later called the " Rabbinical Bible ".

Translators were

The 15th edition was published by J. Kauffmann in 1904 in Frankfurt am Main .

The joint work was reprinted in a new typography as

  • The twenty-four books of the Holy Scriptures, translated by Leopold Zunz. Basel: Victor Goldschmidt n.d. ((C) 1995). ISBN 3-85705-002-0

A Hebrew-German edition is under the title

  • The twenty-four books of scripture. Translated from the masoretic text by Leopold Zunz, published by Sinai Verlag Tel-Aviv in collaboration with DORONIA Verlag Stuttgart ((C) 1997). ISBN 3-929895-11-0


  1. Landsberg, Meyer
  2. knerger.de: The grave of Leopold Zunz
  3. Michael A. Meyer, in: German-Jewish History in the Modern Age , Vol. 2, Munich 2000, p. 144
  4. An enormous amount of hard work, resulting from the direct study of countless manuscripts and prints, whereby Zunz could hardly fall back on any preliminary work
  5. Heb. Translation: Ha-Deraschot be-Jisrael , Jerusalem 1954; supplemented by Ch. Albeck


  • Ismar Elbogen: Leopold Zunz in memory. In: Fiftieth report of the Institute for the Science of Judaism in Berlin. Berlin, 1936, 14–32.
  • Nahum Norbert Glatzer (Ed.): Leopold and Adelheid Zunz, an account in letters 1815–1885. Published for the Institute by the East and West Library, London, 1958. (Publications of the Leo Baeck Institute of Jews from Germany)
  • Nahum Norbert Glatzer (Ed.): Leopold Zunz, Jew, German, European; a Jewish scholar's fate of the 19th century in letters to friends (= series of scientific treatises of the Leo Baeck Institute, 11). Mohr, Tuebingen, 1964.
  • Thomas Rahe : Leopold Zunz and the science of Judaism. In: Judaica. Contributions to the understanding of Judaism. 42/3 (1986): 188-199.
  • Ismar Schorsch : Leopold Zunz: creativity in adversity. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2016. ISBN 978-0-8122-4853-1
  • Giuseppe Veltri : A Jewish Luther? The academic dreams of Leopold Zunz . In: Jewish Studies Quarterly. 7/4 (2000), 338-351.
  • Dieter Vetter : Leopold Zunz. (Co-) founder of the science of Judaism. In: Freiburg circular. 13/2 (2006), 111-122.
  • Klaus-Gunther Wesseling : Zunz, Leopold (actually: Yom Tov [Jomtob] Lipman Z.), Jewish scholar . In: Traugott Bautz: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) , Volume 14. Bautz, Herzberg, 1998, ISBN 3-88309-073-5 , Sp. 607-627.
  • Leon Wieseltier : Something about Jewish history. Leopold Zunz and the Inception of Modern Jewish Historiography. In: History and Theory. 20/2 (May 1981), pp. 135-149.
  • Zunz, Leopold . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . 11th edition. tape 28 : Vetch - Zymotic Diseases . London 1911, p. 1056 (English, full text [ Wikisource ]).
  • Klaus-Gunther WesselingZunz, Leopold. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 14, Bautz, Herzberg 1998, ISBN 3-88309-073-5 , Sp. 607-627.

Web links

Wikisource: Leopold Zunz  - Sources and full texts