“I see a man of great wisdom… and in his hand is a nimble scribe’s pen.”

The Readers and Writers of Shomer Tziyon Hane’eman

A Hebrew language periodical opposing the nascent Reform movement in Germany, Shomer Tziyon Hane’eman ran from 1846 through 1855. It was the first Hebrew-language, self-consciously Orthodox Jewish periodical. Formed by a small contingent of like-minded German rabbis, the periodical expanded the geographic scope of its contributors through its run. In an effort to win the ideological contest against the Reform movement, the periodical also featured forms of written content found in maskilic literature. This article begins by exploring the cultivation of a network of contributors and then examines how that content and the distribution model of a periodical cultivated a reading public similar to others found in 19th-century Europe. It posits that the formation of a reading public should be understood among the techniques used in the early stages of modern Orthodoxy in order to retain power in the face of shifting structures of confessional authority.

issue 14 / December 2018 by Phil Keisman