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  • Tommaso Speccher

Moses Mendelssohn

Of all the figures of thinkers, scientists and philosophers linked to the fortunes of Berlin, one in particular reflects the open yet impervious spirit of the city: Moses Mendelssohn. Indeed, in his personal existence is contained the beauty and potential of Berlin's modernity.

Dalla collezione del Museo ebraico di Berlino

Moses, born in Dessau in 1729, arrived as a 14-year-old in Berlin, as the legend has it, "after a five-day walk". Permission to reside in the big city was for him, as for any other Jew before the Prussian edict of 1812, tied to special constraints and limited within an arbitrary yet uncertain mechanism. Moses, who in 1743 still spoke only Yiddish, was able to develop his philosophical streak and to forge relationships with the most important representatives of the German Enlightenment (including Lessing and Nikolai) in very few years. 

Indeed, if today he’s identified as the progenitor of the fascinating dynasty that gave German Jewry generations of musicians, architects and bankers, he should also be remembered as the founder of the German-Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) and as the inspired author of a marvellous German translation of the Pentateuch (1783).

His career and philosophical aptitude have incontrovertibly marked the German thought, from Kant to Adorno. And even today, walking the streets of Mitte, it is possible to wander and discover the traces of his life and that of the extraordinary Age of Haskalah.

JMB Berlin


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