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Hirsch, Samson Raphael

Samson Raphael Hirsch was the founder of the Secession Community. In Germany he was one of the leading lights of the neoorthodox trend in Judaism. He sought to revitalise orthodox Judaism in the age of emancipation, and proposed the synthesis of religious instruction, religious customs and modern, German education, an ideal expressed in Hebrew as "Tora im Derech Erez". The compatibility of absolute loyalty to the Torah, piety and secular education (in which he believed) was the foundation of his thought and actions.
Hirsch was born in Hamburg on 20 June, 1808. One of his predecessors had migrated to Hamburg from Frankfurt in 1690. In Mannheim he attended the famous yeshiva and in Bonn he studied philosophy at the university. In 1830 he became assumed the Rural Rabbinacy in Oldenburg, and in 1841 moved to Emden. After 1847 he became Chief Regional Rabbi for AustriaSilesia and Moravia in Nikolsburg.
In 1851 he was called to Frankfurt to become the Rabbi and spiritual leader of the newlyformed Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft ("Religious Society of Israelites"). In 1853 Hirsch founded the Secondary School of the Society, becoming its first Headmaster. The Society was at that stage still a private association within the Jewish community, but later became an independent community with the status of a public body in 1876. Hirsch was the ideologist of a radical, independent "secessional orthodoxy". He argued the case for the separation and secession of orthodox circles from the longestablished Jewish Communities wherever the majority in such communities belonged to the Reform Movement. Judaism thus became a religious faith and lost its character as a collective commune based on solidarity. Hirsch simultaneously promoted the integration of Jews into the political and cultural life of German society. He published numerous religious works, including translations into German of the Pentateuch (Five Books of Moses) and the Psalms.
He had married in 1832 and had eleven children. He died on 31st. December, 1888 in Frankfurt. His grave can still be seen in the Jewish cemetery in RatBeil Straße.

© Jüd. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 /  Sources