Judith Trachtenberg: A Novel

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Beschreibung des Verlags

About sixty years ago, during the reign of the Emperor Francis the First, there lived in a small town in Eastern Galicia an excellent man, who had been greatly favored by fortune. His name was Nathaniel Trachtenberg; his occupation was that of a chandler. He had inherited from his father a modest business, which he had increased by his energy and perseverance, by adding to it the manufacture of wax candles, and by the admirable quality of his goods. Possibly, also, by the wise moderation he used in demanding payment, which had secured nearly all the noble families of the country as his patrons.

His intellectual progress kept pace with his increase of riches. Richly endowed by nature, he acquired, by his intercourse with those of superior position and by the numerous journeys he made to the West for business purposes, a higher degree of culture than was usual with his co-religionists of that period. He spoke and wrote German fluently; he read the Vienna papers regularly, and even occasionally a poet, such as Schiller or Lessing.

But, no matter how widely his opinions might vary from those of his less-cultivated co-religionists as to the aims and purposes of life, he bound himself closely to them in matters of dress and style of living, and not only conformed to every command of the Law, but carried out every injunction of the rabbis with punctilious exactitude.

"You do not know the atmosphere we breathe," he was accustomed to say to his progressive Jewish friends in Breslau and Vienna. "It does not matter as to my opinion of the sinfulness of carrying a stick on the Sabbath, but it is important to prove to them by the example of a man they respect that one may read German books, talk with Christians in correct German, and still be a pious Jew. Therefore it would be a sin if my talar were replaced by a German coat. Do you suppose, either, it would bring me closer to the gentry? No, indeed. They would only regard it as an impotent attempt to raise myself to their level. So we better-educated Jews must remain as we are for the present, at least, as regards externals." This was the result of serious conviction, he always added; and how serious, he proved by the method of education which he pursued with his two children, his wife having died while she was still quite young.

There was a boy, Raphael, and a girl, Judith. The latter gave promise of great beauty. Both received a careful education, in accordance with the requirements of the age, from a tutor, one Herr Bergheimer, who had been brought from Mayence by Trachtenberg. But their religious training was cared for by the father himself. "I will not say," he once told the tutor, "whether or not I consider it a misfortune to have been born a Jew. I have my own ideas on the subject, which might shock your simple faith. Whether good or ill, it is our fate, and must be borne with equanimity. Therefore I wish my children educated with the most profound reverence for Judaism. The humiliations which will come to them because of their nation I can neither prevent nor modify, so I wish they should have the comfort of feeling in their struggles in life that they are suffering for something which is dear to them and is worth the pain."

28. März
Library of Alexandria

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