Jewish Conversion in 18th and 19th Century Europe

Project Id:


Posted By:


Project Title:

Jewish Conversion in 18th and 19th Century Europe

Writing Type:


Project Type:





11/10/2019 3:23:41 PM

Due Date:

11/15/2019 23:59



Number Of Pages:

9     Double-spaced (2700 words)

Number Of Sources:


Type of Document:

Research Paper

Academic Level:


Citation Style:




Solution Files(s):



For my paper I would like to research the lives of central European Jews after the enlightenment; focusing on Jewish assimilation. I am interested in the shift towards secularism, specifically away from religious institutions and what led to the increase of radical assimilation. The spike in conversion to Catholicism and Protestantism in the nineteenth and twentieth century Europe can be directly tied to the failure of the emancipation of the Jews. Many believed that this would be a fix to antisemitism, but for many, especially in illiberal states, their Jewishness continued to hinder their lives. Vienna, Budapest, Berlin, and Warsaw had the highest rates of conversion, while conversion in western Europe was not unheard of, it was much more common in places farther east where Jews faced persecution. For many Jewish conversion to Christianity was a secular act rather than a spiritual one. Jews with little to gain materially, socially, and emotionally from Judaism, were more likely to convert than those happy in their faith. For the most part, conversion was a practice of mostly young people at a turning point in their life looking to start a career or get married. Jews in the world of commerce were less likely to convert than those entering new vocations. Affluent Jews were less likely to convert because they were more isolated in their own social circles. Although conversion rates were similar regardless of gender differences, Jewish women who converted were often blamed for abandoning their Jewness. Men and women of different socioeconomic status were likely to convert for a number of social, economic, and political reasons. Inter marriage was one of the largest contributing factors to the increase in conversion. Austrian law prohibited intermarriage, which encouraged conversion, while in Germany intermarriage was legal until the Nuremberg Race Laws of 1935. Research i have so far: Religion, post enlightenment, in theory became less of an important factor for membership to the nation, and became, “ one feature among others in the diversity of people, neither more nor less than having different jobs.” Religion in post enlightenment Europe became “no more than one of the numerous variables that distinguished between subjects or citizens.” Theoretically, the dissolution of the Ancien Regiem, and the integration of Jews into the modern nation-state should have made conversions from Judaism to Christianity unnecessary; in a state where religion is irrelevant to social and civil status, the sole motive for conversion should be strictly spiritual conviction. Many Jews continued to leave the fold after emancipation was prolonged by the state, and legal equality failed to further social acceptance and integration. The thousands of years of antisemitism from the Church made it hard for gentiles to accept that these people who rejected Jesus could be equal. Discrimination, stimatization, and exclusion remained prevalent even in the mors liberal societies (the US, Great Britain, and France). In Central Europe, legal emancipation in the mid nineteenth century sparked fury, and was followed by new political antisemitism, which saught to reverse the progress that had been made in favor of the Jews. Acculturated, materially comfortable, secular-minded Jews whose integration was partial were prime candidates for conversion. In the second half of the seventeenth century, some removed themselves from the Sephardi community for modern strategic reasons. In a way these were the first modern converts; their choice was not the result of persecution and immiseration, but a deeper need for ambiguous acceptance. For many Jews living as New Christans in Catholic lands, their Jewishness became more of a state of mind and less a set of rituals and practices. 1799 liberal Protestant theologan Fruedrucg Schleiermacher (a frequent visitor of Berlins Jewish Salons) previously wrote 20-30 years prior that almost all converts (except people who converted for marrage) were “bad individuals”– “ruined human beings, close to desperation, who had only a momentary advantage in view” people who would not be missed by the jewish community. He noted that the new converts were quite different– educated, wealthy, and keen to become citizens. It was still a need that led people to convert, but it became an emotional need rather than a material need. The Haskalah (the jewish enlightenment) introduced novel doctrines that sometimes endorsed withdrawl from the Jewish community. They emphasized ethics over rituals; to some jews, true religion was universally available through living an ethical life. Substituting reason for revelation, they rejected the notion, fundamental to all previous forms of judaism, the God had ‘chosen’ the Jews. Those who felt little connection to their faith were left with the question, why should they stay and be subject to exclusion and often worse, when they didnt believe in the faith, but Christianity for many was not a viable option because it was just as rooted in myth. At this time in Germany one had to be christian or Jewish, there was no legally authorized neutral religious status. — Basically they didnt want to be any religion, but they wanted to be jewish less than they wanted to be Christian becasue remaining jewish entailed emotional suffering, social exclusion, and occupational discrimination. Liberal Protestant thinkers claimed to have bridged traditional Christianity with Enlightenmenth ideas. Berlin Banker, Abraham Mendelssohn (1776-1835) one of Moses Mendelssohn’s sons married to a jewish woman, Lea Salomon, together raised all their children as Protestant, keeping it a secret from the Salomon family who had disowned Lea’s brother Jacob when he converted in 1805. In a letter to his daughter fanny in 1819, Mendelssohn expresses his uncertanty in the existance of God, but writes, “[T]here exists in me and in you and in all human beings an everlasting inclination towards all that is good, true, and right, and a conscience which warns and guides us when we go astray.” “because it is the creed of most civilized people, and contains nothing that can lead you away from what is good, and much that guides you to love, obediance, tolerance, and resignation.” Christianity was the default form of monotheism in Europe at the time. To understand the absence of a significant conversion movement in western Europe we must look at a broader scope of social structure and attitudes of the population that promoted integration and secularization. Dutch French and English economies following the enlighenment were more dynamic, and the ruling elites were more capitalist-minded; inherited status was less regarded and personal ability accounted for more. In France and the Netherlands, emancipation was integral to the revolutionary dismantling of the old-regiem privilege. In both places, majorities in elected national assembleys voted to incorporate Jews into the political nation. In England native-born Jews were already citizens. In Prussia however, emancipation was bureaucratic and imposed from the higher ranks, not a reflection of the public sentiment Most jews who converted in vienna durring the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century (before emancipation in 1867) were poor and vulnerable Jews, often unskiller workers, servants, journey men, and apprentices, and often their illegitimate children. Many converted to gain the right of residence. Transformation of European society allowed Jews to move into the ranks of the middle class. The falling of barriers previously aimed at Jews enabled them to escape the previous liabilities of remaining Jewish. New jews of the 19th century cared more what gentiles thought of them, as opposed to their ancestors who were more content living separate lives. In the 1870 antisemitism was increasing all over Europe. -Dreyfus affair -Aliens act of 1905 German antisemitic parties in the 1890s My thesis is something like: Jewish conversion in the 18th and 19th century in Europe can be attributed to more than just persecution of the jews, it was also a cultural movement towards a larger shift in secularization after the enlightenment

Stuck With A Lot Of Homework Assignments And Feeling Stressed ? Take Professional Academic Assistance & Get 100% Plagiarism Free Papers

Get Help By Expert

For students who are struggling with essay writing, we can be a lifesaver. We offer essay writing help for students of all levels, from elementary school to college. Our team of experienced assignment writers can help you with any type of essay, from persuasive essays to comparative essays. So if you're struggling with essay writing, don't hesitate to contact us for assistance.


Looking For Plagiarism Free Answers For Your College/ University Assignments.