commerce, and establish factories. The lettres patentes also denied Jews the right to marry without permission from the crown and required an official list of those Jews permitted to reside in the province. A subsequent decree, permanently postponed by the Revolution, announced that Jews not listed in a forthcoming census would be given one month to leave France.
Although the Jewish leadership, whose authority remained intact, generally reacted positively to these lettres patentes, the Alsatians fought bitterly against any extension of privileges to the Jews:
The Jews are not able to be incorporated into any Christian nation. They regard themselves as the people of God living in exile and servitude which only the coming of the Messiah will terminate. They will never have any affection for a government which they view if not as tyrannical, then at least as temporary, precarious and unworthy of commanding them. They will never have any affection for a country which on religious grounds they will never regard as their own. Raised since infancy in horror of Christianity, speaking a particular language, following particular laws. . . . hated and despised by the nation which they hate and despise, it is impossible that they could ever become useful, zealous and faithful members.5
These arguments, reinforced by others suggesting that the Jews would ruin the Alsatian economy and displace the Alsatians, would reappear often during the revolutionary and Napoleonic debates. So, too, would the response they elicited from one government minister - that humanity demanded that the Jewsbe freed from their oppression. 'We will succeed', this minister concluded, 'despite Moses and the Talmud'. But even he agreed that if failure was to occur, expulsion of the Jews was always possible.6
In contrast to France, reaction to the far more radical reforms proposed by Joseph was intense and heated among the Jews themselves. For some, the edict of 1782 opened a new vista of the future. Such was the view of Naphtali Herz Wessely who, in his 1782 Words of Peace and Truth, urged his fellow Jews to embrace the educational and linguistic reforms of a 'great man, a saviour to mankind, an exalted emperor'. For Wessely, 'human knowledge', which included arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, history, and geography, and which, he argued, had long been neglected by the Jews, should join that of the 'Torah of God'. In so doing, it would serve both 'to mend the breaches made by preceding rulers', and allow the children of Israel 'to be men who accomplish worthy things, assisting the king's country in their actions, labour and wisdom'.7
Opposition to these words of 'peace and truth' ushered forth from the pens and sermons of revered rabbis. The foundations of Jewish education
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