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Feb 15, 2012 7:00 PM

Rabbi Judah Loew and his Prague Academy

Lecture by Pavel Sladek, in cooperation with the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews and BBLA

Rabbi Judah Loew – the Maharal (ca. 1525–1609) and his Prague Academy:
Jewish Thought in Late-Renaissance Prague

 In 1598 the Prague Hebrew printing press issued Maharal’s book Beer ha-Golah (Well of Exile), which is considered by many his most important work. Perhaps the most well-known part of Beer ha-Golah is Maharal’s polemic against the Italian Jewish historiographer Azariah de’ Rossi and his book Me’or Einayim (1573). The passage is unique for its aggressive and expressive language which is sharp contrast to otherwise impersonal style of Maharal’s writings. Since quarter of a century separates the two texts, one must ask about the reasons behind the unusual fury.

The present paper suggests placing the polemic within the social context of Maharal’s Prague kloiz – a private academy for advanced students – and claims that Maharal’s kloiz functioned as a platform for the most progressive Jewish intellectual trends of the period. Maharal’s polemic thus reflected the presence and popularity of texts such as Rossi’s Me’or Einayim among the circle of his kloiz and was directed primarily to his immediate students who were also the intended public of their master’s printed books.

The given interpretation of Maharal’s polemic against Azariah de’ Rossi helps to understand the dynamics of the intellectual climate of Late-Renaissance Jewish Prague and the central role played by the Maharal. Maharal’s positions were often more conservative compared to those of other scholars related to his kloiz. For example the historian David Gans quoted from Azariah freely and violated other of his master’s principles such as the ban on learning from non-Jewish scholars when he joined Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler for astronomic observations. However, Maharal’s apparent conservatism should be qualified by the fact that in his books he deliberately addressed not only the rabbinic elites but especially the more independent scholars of lower stature who formed the circle of his kloiz.


 From Rabbi Loew to Zionism:
Jewish Thought in Bohemian Lands and Slovakia from Late Renaissance to World War II

Lecture Series organized by The Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews at the Bohemian National Hall        

Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 7 pm
Rabbi Judah Loew and his Prague Academy (ca. 1525-1609): Jewish Thought in Late-Renaissance Prague
Pavel Sladek, Charles University

Monday, March 19, 2012, 7 pm
A Silent, Moderate Majority: The Religious Outlooks of Czech and Slovak Jews in the 19th Century
Howard Lupovitch, University of Western Ontario

Thursday, March 29, 2012, 7 pm
Czechs, Slovaks and the Jews, 1938-1948: Beyond Idealization and Condemnation
Jan Lanicek, Prins Foundation Post-Doctoral research fellow at the Center for Jewish History in New York

Wednesday, May 2, 2012, 7 pm
Zionism and the Czech-Jewish Movement: Two Competing Projects of the Bohemian Jews
Katerina Capkova, Charles University

Free admission

Organized in collaboration with the Czech Center New York, and with the support from the Consulate General of the Czech Republic, the Consulate General of Slovakia and Bohemian Benevolent & Literary Association

Photo © Jewish Museum in Prague


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Feb 15, 2012 7:00 PM


Czech Center is a coorganizer of the event

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