Creating a new heart Marcus Ehrenpreis on jewry and judaism

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå universitet

Abstract: This dissertation represents the first attempt to take account of the entire Swedish œuvre of Marcus Ehrenpreis and view it as a single, coherent statement, recognizing the very fundamental confrontation taking place between tradi­tional and modern ways of viewing reality and its possible resolution. A reading of his work reveals that the one constant in his life in letters was the struggle to reconcile the apparent logical antithesis of universalism and particu­larism, which this dissertation sees as one with resonance for all ethnic minorities.In the Chapter One, a general orientation in the modern Jewish world is provided, including the traditional worlds of Orthodoxy and Hasidism into which he was born; the trend toward the political emancipation of the Jews in Western and Central Europe and the subsequent waves of assimilation among young Jews; the exacerbation of antisemitic tendencies in both Eastern and Western Europe; the emergence of Jewish nationalism, commonly known as Zionism; and the renaissance of Jewish culture which crystallized around these events.Chapter Two offers a social and intellectual biography of Ehrenpreis, providing the reader with the relevant information about his youth, organizational efforts, education, and career as rabbi and author, while Chapter Three posits a perspective from which to approach his work, by describing the generational unit to which he belonged and how the concerns of his youth and early adulthood, shared by other Jewish intellectuals born around the same time as he, shaped the problems with which he grappled throughout his life. The generational perspective also allows the fundamental differences between his own generation and the generations before and after his to emerge in bold relief. It is hoped that in employing this perspective, it becomes clear that the accumulated work of Ehrenpreis can be seen as an integrated whole, which came to full expression during his thirty-five years in Sweden.In Chapter Four, Ehrenpreis' definitions of Jewish religion and Jewish culture and the difference between them are explicated, before proceeding to investigate the way in which he thought the essence of these ideas best be mediated - primarily from the pulpit in his sermons and the intellectual periodical in his writings. The latter in par­ticular he found to be an essential tool for disseminating Jewish culture in Sweden, both to Swedish Jewry and the general Swedish public.Chapters Five and Six deal with what Ehrenpreis considered the two major expressions of Jewish culture, lit­erature and historical knowledge, and the roles they played in the formation of a substantive understanding of Jew­ish culture in the modern world. For him, literature was the bearer of ethics and values and the forum within which these could be transvaluated and made germane to modern man. In his historical writings, he wished to counteract tendencies from within and without the Jewish world which either consigned the Jewish people to the past tense, or overemphasized the role of traumas and catastrophes in its history at the expense of an ongoing, positive and cre­ative Jewish cultural evolution.Chapter Seven concludes the close reading of Ehrenpreis ' Swedish authorship by concentrating on his war­time writings. In referring to the legacy of the Hebrew prophets, the essential cultural values of Jewish tradition as he perceived them emerge: The ideas of social justice, minority rights, and the goal of perpetual peace between nations. He emphasizes their significance for the development of the democratic tradition in Europe as well as their function as the pillars on which the identity of Jews in the modern world could rest. The dissertation closes with a summary of its conclusions.