Hyman Hurwitz’s Hebrew Tales (1826): Redeeming the Talmudic Garden

  • Judith W. Page


Tw o years before he became the first Jewish Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature at University College, London, in 1828, Hyman Hurwitz published the first collection of Hebrew literature in English, an anthology entitled Hebrew Tales.1 The volume is composed of tales and aphorisms from rabbinic literature, including the Talmud and midrash. As Hurwitz’s preface and essay make clear, he intended the volume to counter negative and uninformed assumptions about this literature in much Christian writing, and to educate British Jews in their own rich traditions. More fundamentally, he wanted to show the compatibility of traditional Jewish wisdom and contemporary British culture. Inspired by his friend Coleridge, Hurwitz set out to redeem the Talmud and to cultivate a new tradition that would make Jews more at home in Britain and Britain more hospitable to Jews and Jewish culture.2 The historian David Ruderman, who sees the project of translation as a major part of the Haskalah or Enlightenment in England, believes that Hurwitz’s project, like that of Jewish biblical translators of the period, “constructed a radically new image of what they thought Judaism meant to their age. This image was so formidable and pervasive that, to the readers of their prodigious translations, the reality on which their new image was based was virtually displaced.”


English Reader Moral Purpose Jewish Tradition Jewish Culture Rabbinic Literature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    The most complete introduction to Year on Hurwitz is still Leonard Hyman, “Hyman Hurwitz: The First Anglo-English Professor,” in Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1962–67, 21 (London: The Jewish Historical Society of England, 1968), 232–41. Ina Lipowitz includes some interesting comments in relation to Coleridge in “Inspiration and the Poetic Imagination: Samuel Taylor Coleridge,” Studies in Romanticism 30 (Winter 1991): 605–31. Finally, David B. Ruderman devotes some pages in his final chapter of Jewish Enlightenment in an English Key: Anglo-Jewry’s Construction of Modern Jewish Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), to Hurwitz. See “Translation and Transformation: The Englishing of Jewish Culture,” 261–73.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    See Neil Fraistat, The Poem and the Book: Interpreting Collections of Romantic Poetry (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    See Joseph Heinemann, “The Nature of Aggadah,” in Midrash and Literature, ed. Geoffrey H. Hartman and Sanford Budick (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 41–55.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    See Judah Goldin, “The Freedom and Restraint of Haggadah,” in Midrash and Literature, ed. Geoffrey H. Hartman and Sanford Budick (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 57–76.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Jonathan Rosen, The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey Between Two Worlds (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000), 61.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    See Lionel Trilling, “Wordsworth and the Rabbis,” in The Opposing Self: Nine Essays in Criticism (New York: Viking, 1955), 127.Google Scholar
  7. 25.
    André Lefevere, Translating Literature: Practice and Theory in a Comparative Literature Context (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1992), 6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sheila A. Spector 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judith W. Page

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations