culture and for the assimilated it would facilitate a return to Torah. Convinced that Judaism, defined as natural religion and a special revelation of law, could be united with the philosophy of the Enlightenment, Mendelssohn envisioned full tolerance and respect between Jews and Christians on the basis of a shared common culture. If Christianity would divest itself of its irrational dogmas, he wrote to the Crown Prince of Brunswick-Wolfenbiittel, and agree that its founder had never freed the Jews from the Mosaic law, then Judaism would recognize Jesus as a 'prophet and messenger of God', sent 'to preach the holy doctrine of virtue ... to a depraved human race'.15
Mendelssohn and his fellow maskilim (religious Enlighteners), among whom was Naphtali Herz Wessely, believed that they were participating in a great social revolution. Not even the realization that Mendelssohn's Christian admirers assumed he would soon convert, or Mendelssohn's public confrontation with the Swiss theologian Johann Caspar Lavater, one of the important exponents of Enlightened Christianity, diminished their faith in a future community of Enlightened Jews and Christians, living together harmoniously, mutually respecting each other's religious differences. The Haskalah they initiated (the Jewish version of the religious Enlightenment comparable to the Protestant theological Enlightenment and Reform Catholicism), with its call for secular education and religious reform, soon attracted followers well beyond the confines of the German states.16
Berr Isaac Berr, among the most respected and important leaders of French Jewry, fully identified with this Berlin Haskalah. He subscribed to its Hebrew journal Hame'asef, translated Wessely's Words of Peace and Truth from Hebrew and secured its publication in France.17 Moses Ensheim, a brilliant mathematician from Metz, left his wife and child to travel to Berlin, where he became tutor to Mendelssohn's family and contributor to Hame'asef. Isaiah Berr Bing, also of Metz, became a disciple of Mendelssohn, and translated his Phaedon into French. Even the official leader of the Jews of Alsace, Cerf Berr of Mendelsheim, turned to Mendelssohn for help. His plea and Mendelssohn's connections elicited Christian Wilhelm von Dohm's pivotal treatise Uber die bUrgerliche Verbesserung der Juden (Concerning the Amelioration of the Civil Status of the Jews).18
These personal ties notwithstanding, however, Jews from other countries rarely, if ever, appropriated in full either the positions of the Berlin maskilim or the principles they used to justify them. On the contrary, logically consistent arguments often bifurcated when translated into differing religious and political climates. When shaped and politicized, moreover, as they were by such French figures as Mirabeau, Jacques-Pierre Brissot and the abbe Henri
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