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November 16, 2004

Menachem Schmelzer to Discuss 18th Century Jewish Enlightenment and the Hebrew Press on Dec. 7 at Library of Congress

Menachem Schmelzer, Senior Distinguished Scholar at the Library's John W. Kluge Center, will discuss "The Royal Court Preacher and the Hebrew Book: Early Enlightenment and Hebrew Publishing in Prussia, 1700-1750" at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 7, in LJ-119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C.

This event, sponsored by the Kluge Center and the Hebraic Section of the Library's African and Middle Eastern Division, is free and open to the public. No reservations are required.

The city of Berlin had become the center of the Jewish Enlightenment by 1760, but some scholars now think that the Jewish Enlightenment, one of the most important movements in the emergence of modern Jewry, may have begun decades earlier with a period they are calling the "Early Enlightenment."

In his talk, Schmelzer examines the role in this process of an influential figure in the Prussian court, the Christian theologian and scholar D.E. Jablonski, who founded the Hebrew press in Berlin in 1690. Schmelzer will discuss Jablonski's life and work and his activities as the publisher of Hebrew books in order to shed light on the spread of secular culture and the ideals of Enlightenment and religious tolerance among the Jews of the time.

Born in Hungary, Schmelzer was a victim of both Nazi and Communist oppression in his homeland. He began his studies in Semitic languages at the University of Budapest and later studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Budapest. With a master's degree in Jewish Studies from Copenhagen University and a diploma from the State Library School, Schmelzer emigrated to the United States and began a long association with the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he served as professor and librarian.

Schmelzer has published books, articles and reviews in the fields of medieval Hebrew literature and Jewish bibliography and was the editor of Aron Freimann's "Union Catalog of Hebrew Manuscripts and Their Location" (1974), Alexander Marx's "Bibliographical Studies and Notes on Rare Books and Manuscripts in the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America", (1977) and the poems of Isaac ben Abraham Ibn Ezra (1980).

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world's best thinkers to distill wisdom from the Library,s rich resources and to stimulate and energize interaction with legislators and other policymakers in Washington. For more information about any of the fellowships, grants and programs offered by the center, contact the Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., Washington, DC 20540-4860; telephone (202) 707-3302, fax (202) 707-3595, or visit the Web at www.loc.gov/kluge/. For more information about the Library's Hebraic Section visit the Web at www.loc.gov/rr/amed/hs/hshome.html.

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PR 04-197
11/16/04
ISSN 0731-3527

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