"She'ar Yisrael", The Remnant of Israel, by Rabbi Naphtali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (1816-1893), is one of the earliest works by a Jewish scholar to address the question of antisemitism. Rabbi Berlin, more popularly referred to as the Neziv, was the most important leader of the yeshivah world in his era. From his perspective as head of the famed Yeshivat Ez Hayyim of Volozhin, he presented his views on this important subject. Indeed, the essay and Rabbi Berlin's many writings shaped the ideology of the yeshivah world and still exert influence on its thinking. The Neziv was keenly aware of the issues and challenges of modernity, which he addressed in his writings. While many of his colleagues reacted in fear and trembling to the processes of modernization they were witnessing, Rabbi Berlin was able to articulate the concerns of contemporary traditional Judaism in attempting to chart a theoretical framework for Orthodoxy. Much of the Neziv's focus is on the problem of assimilation as it relates to antisemitism and the need for Jews to preserve their uniqueness. He believed that modernity not only posed intellectual challenges to Jews and Judaism but primarily presented a social-political challenge to the survival of Jews as a unique nation. The Neziv understood that antisemitism was a product of Jewish integration into society brought on by the forces of the Emancipation. He shared this perception with other Zionist thinkers, which led the latter to a pessimistic view of the Jewish future in Europe. This position challenged the opposing view of Jewish Enlighteners (maskilim), who claimed that more rapid integration by Jews into society would prevent or eliminate antisemitism. "She'ar Yisrael", The Remnant of Israel, recalls the form of a rabbinic responsum, but to a nonhalakhic question: why is there antisemitism? The answer is a sustained theological essay on the nature of Judaism and the historical destiny of the Jewish people. It demonstrates a well-thought-out appreciation of the problems posed by modernity for the survival of Jews and Judaism.
Translated by Howard S. Joseph
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