Senior Fellow: November 2017–February 2018
Research Project: The Dialectics of Critical Jewish Scholarship. Rabbi Abraham Geiger, Jewish Theology, and the Quest for Metaphysical Knowledge
During my fellowship at the Maimonides Centre, I plan to dedicate my research to Rabbi Abraham Geiger (1810–74), both an intellectual spearhead of liberal Judaism and an iconic figure of critical Jewish scholarship in Germany during the era of Verbürgerlichung. Geiger’s theological agenda reveals a twofold scepticism (in an extended rather than specific sense) that historians of the Jewish religion seem to have neglected thus far. I wish to present Geiger as a theological pioneer who chose to deconstruct the orthodox belief system without, however, feeling the desire to offer some clear guidance on the essential affirmations of Judaism himself. Geiger was a sceptic insofar as he applied historical-critical methods to the Written as well as to the Oral Torah, which, as God’s creation, he sought to deconstruct which he sought to deconstruct as God’s creation. However, his scepticism also shaped his own restraint in re-formulating a Jewish creed for the nineteenth century. Although he could not avoid references to metaphysical aspects of Judaism altogether, he generally chose to avoid such contemplations in his writings. The project aims to investigate this reluctance and to explain it in its historical context of internal Jewish confessionalisation.
Andreas Brämer is associate director at the Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden in Hamburg.