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On Jewish Learning

The period between the two world wars was a time of great diversity and vitality for German Jewish culture. While many German Jews were distancing themselves from Judaism others were becoming newly interested in it. Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929), who had once considered converting to Christianity, was a leading Jewish religious thinker of this era. The following excerpt is from his speech at the opening of the Freies Juedisches Lehrhaus, an experimental institution of adult Jewish education established in Frankfurt in 1920.

There is no one today who is not alienated, or who does not contain within himself some small fraction of alienation. All of us to whom Judaism, to whom being a Jew, has again become the pivot of our lives -- and I know that in saying this here I am not speaking for myself alone -- we all know that in being Jews we must not give up anything, not renounce anything, but lead everything back to Judaism. From the periphery back to the center, from the outside, in. . . . It is not a matter of apologetics, but rather of finding the way back into the heart of our life. And of being confident that this heart is a Jewish heart. For we are Jews. That sounds very simple. And so it is. It is really enough to gather together people of all sorts as teachers and students. Just glance at our prospectus. You will find, listed among others, a chemist, a physician, a historian, and artist, a politician. . . . They have come together here as Jews. They have come together in order to "learn" -- for Jewish "learning" includes Jewish "teaching."

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