Haskalah scientific knowledge in Hebrew garment: A general statement and two examples

Tal Kogman

Abstract

Scientific texts for Jewish children and youth were produced within the German-Jewish culture from the end of the 18th century and throughout the 19th century. The intention was to fill in the gap in the Judaic literature in Hebrew vis-à-vis the German-Christian literary and educational systems as part of modernization processes. Two case studies of German-Hebrew scientific translations (in natural history and astronomy) are described in an attempt to illustrate the strategies applied by the Jewish translators, which in their turn reflect the cultural constraints they faced and the creative ways they chose to deal with them, taking into account the models already available to the target system and the types of target audience the translated texts were intended for.

Keywords:
Table of contents

The intensive efforts to translate German Enlightenment texts for children and youth into Hebrew have taken place under conditions of extreme incongruity between the Jewish-Hebraic literature and its German model. The primary sources of imitation for the Haskalah [Jewish Enlightenment] at the end of the 18th century belonged to the multi-dimensional corpus of German-Christian texts (Shoham 1996: 30–32), which offered a large repertoire of different textual models. Jewish culture, on the other hand, consisted primarily of texts created in a religious context (Shoham 1996: 18–19; 21). In striving to transform itself, Hebrew culture assigned Enlightenment texts a central role as agents of change (Feiner 2002: 58; 277–278). There was an impetus to broaden the scope of Hebrew literature with [ p. 70 ]texts on a wide range of topics, especially those at the forefront of the contemporary European world. This necessitated intensive activities of translation and adaptation of non-Jewish texts (Toury 1995: 131).

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