Traditional Vs. Reform Judaism

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Traditional and Reformed Judaism was becoming a definite battle in the 19th century. Both sides fighting over who is right. Many Jews started converting to Protestantism and many assimilated men and women considered conversion. As was the case for Weininger. “The conflicting pressures on sensitive young men and women invariably caused much bitterness. Among some of the most privileged or gifted it produced a reaction later known as “Jewish self-hatred”.4 This was a direct response to the times; as things became more secular. Louis Friedmann, an industrialist, skier and alpinist vowed to remain single and childless so that the hated blood in his veins could not be passed on. These thoughts could have been mirrored by Weininger. Could this be clue as to why he was very misogynistic? Perhaps an excuse to put the blame on women because of anti-semitic rational?

Otto Weininger’s definition and view of Judaism

The book Sex and Character outlines the details of Men, Women, Jews, and their place in civilization while also encompassing sexual themes. Weininger believed that Judaism was an idea, some sort of innate illness that laid itself in every person’s soul. “I must make clear what I mean by Judaism; I mean neither a race nor people nor a recognized creed. I think of it as a tendency of the mind, as a psychological constitution which is a possibility for all mankind.” 4 Weininger has a hierarchy system in which he places men at the top, women in the middle and Jews at the very bottom. He points out that Jews have a predisposition in terms of property, which he makes a connection to them being or acting like a collective unit and not being individual, i.e. ‘moveable property’. He also highlights that the Jew is incapable of having a state and that the conception of a state is unattainable, due to the lack of individuality and lack of independent values for themselves and one another. He claims that the Jew fails in recognizing his or her own individuality and therefore not presenting respect to others. Weininger call this “Jewish Arrogance”. He says, “it springs from want of true knowledge of himself and consequent overpowering need he feels to enhance his own personality by deprecating that of his fellow creatures.”

Weininger continues on about the nature of the Jew as lacking in the individual sense. He does make a point to reach out and say that the goal of his argument is not to persecute the Jew, but that he is speaking on an affectionate level. He doesn’t want to shun the Jews. His last point he makes is for the Jew to conquer the war inside himself, to defeat the condition within his own mind, only then can he truly be ‘cured’.

The role of women

It is obvious that Weininger thought very low of women and Jews. He makes numerous points defining their close resemblance to one another. “It would not be difficult to make a case for the view that the Jew is more saturated with femininity than the Aryan, to such an extent that the most manly Jew is more feminine than the least manly Aryan.” 4 He says the more he looks into feminine characteristics, he finds that many of those points reappear in the Jew. The conception of the state, which he touched on earlier, is also brought up in regard to women as well. He says that women also act as a collective whole instead on an individual level. Women have no dignity and they fail in all areas of kindness and respect, and that neither groups are noble. He articulates that when men change it is from within themselves and has true bounded meaning. When women change, it isn’t real. It’s not from within. “Greatness is absent from the nature of the woman and the Jew, the greatness of morality or the greatness of evil. In the Aryan man, the good and bad principles of Kant’s religious philosophy are ever present, ever in strife.”4 Weininger did not like what he saw in the world around him. All of the hate he had inside himself he externalized onto groups of individuals whom he thought were inferior.

Otto Weininger’s internal view and self-denial

Next, we come to the question of how Otto Weininger viewed himself.

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“The explanation is simple. People love in others the qualities they would like to have but do not actually have in any greater degree, also we hate in others only what we do not wish to be. We hate only qualities to which we approximate, but which we realize first in other persons.”4 This details the hatred that he has for himself. He is saying that he sees a lot of bad qualities in Jews, but while he sees these, it is only a reflection of what he sees inside himself. Could this book could have been a sort of confession or a suicide note linked with his death? Or is it mere coincidence that he killed himself? He outlines the ways to defeat Judaism within oneself and giving a call to action to do so. It is plausible that he still felt he was tainted with the idea of having Jewish characteristics.

One also has to think that there is a link to suicide and self-hatred. It only makes sense. It could be a possibility that the writings of anti-smites are just outreach, perhaps documenting a failure to change and offering a possible for a solution to the people (other self-deniers) that might work for them in order to help steer people away from Judaism. Michael Brenner’s text titled, The Renaissance of Jewish Culture in Weimar Germany makes some interesting points and arises a few more questions. “Artur Landsbrger’s ‘tragic satire’ Berlin ohne uden (Berlin without Jews, 1925). As both authors were to experience, their novels were neither utopian nor satiric. Bettauer was killed in his office in Vienna in 1925 by a German nationalist, and Landsberger committed suicide in 1933, when his literary scenario became reality (p.132)5.” The end is usually not bright for these individuals, which make the point regarding self-hatred and suicide more evident. Brenner also talks about Isaac Deutscher and the ones he called the ‘non-Jewish Jew.’ “Individuals who were reminded of their Jewishness mainly because the outside world viewed them as Jews, not because they found any particular value in Jewishness (p.132)5.” This may or may not have been a possibility for Weinniger. Nothing is on the record of him being rejected by the masses. However, that was then. When Nazis took up some of his work to use for their own propaganda/agenda, he was actually blacklisted for being a Jew, which was several decades after his passing.

This similarly happened to Wareamee-Warschauer, who was born in Germany to Jewish Parents. He too rejected his Jewish heritage but was failed to be seen as a German and an ultra-nationalist. He also converted to Christianity just like Weinniger did. However, Weinninger as far as what is known, was accepted in the community. It is interesting to note, that many others followed the same path that he did, (while not always ending in death). Many Jewish writers had contemporary novels of characters that denied their Jewishness. “The fictional Dr. Trebitsch, depicted as a leader of a secret right-wing antisemitic organization, was modeled after Arthur Trebitsch, an Austrian Jew who considered himself a follower of Otto Weininger and who figured prominently in the development of the Austrian Nazi movement (p.133)5.” Could this be how the writers feel? Maybe putting their thoughts and feelings into that of the characters? It is an interesting theory. This was done to secretly get out feelings. Instead of keeping everything bottled up inside. Testing the waters, so to speak.

Why does modern society still label Weinniger as a Jew even though he so heavily denounced it? I don’t believe it is simply because he wrote about the topic. If we look at Judaism from a modern secular perspective, then we can see that Jews are confided to 3 groups. 1) Born into a Jewish family religion or not, 2) Having some sort of Jewish ancestral background, and 3) people without any Jewish ancestral background or lineage who have formally converted to Judaism. By default, this means he is technically a Jew. Converting doesn’t mean much. Just because one doesn’t believe in something, doesn’t make it not true. An assumption can be made as to why the general public and scholars still tended to see Weinniger as a Jew. If he didn’t believe himself to be a Jew, then why would he have denied to himself and the readers of not being one? He very clearly states in Sex and Character that he sees in himself reflections from the character of the Jew.

To reiterate a quote from earlier, “The explanation is simple. People love in others the qualities they would like to have but do not actually have in any greater degree, also we hate in others only what we do not wish to be. We hate only qualities to which we approximate, but which we realize first in other persons.” 4 I believe this to be the reason why Otto Weininger is still seen a Jew in the modern world. What he saw in the Jew is what he saw in himself. This is what sent him into his severe depression which led to his death. Knowing that he could truly not ever escape his identity.

It is apparent that Otto Weininger was a very deranged man whose writings were very telling of his character. He fought an ongoing battle of identity until the end of his life at the young age of 23. His goal was to change the minds of Jews and lead them on a path much like he was on. He was a believer in becoming great or doing nothing at all. His readings and papers would later be used to fuel the Nazi party and push anti-semitic views even further.

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Traditional Vs. Reform Judaism. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 6, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/traditional-vs-reform-judaism/
“Traditional Vs. Reform Judaism.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/traditional-vs-reform-judaism/
Traditional Vs. Reform Judaism. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/traditional-vs-reform-judaism/> [Accessed 6 Jul. 2022].
Traditional Vs. Reform Judaism [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Jul 6]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/traditional-vs-reform-judaism/
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