||A biography of Leopold (Yom Tov Lippmann) Zunz, the famed historian and a founder of the "Science of Judaism" (Wissenschaft des Judentums). Ot Zikkaron, first published over several issues of ha-Maggid, gives the details of his life and the works for which he is known.
Leopold (Yom Tov Lippmann) Zunz (1794–1886) was born in Detmold, Germany. He was, from 1803 educated at the Jewish school called the Samsonsche Freischule at Wolfenbuettel. Samuel Meyer Ehrenberg, an advanced Jewish educator, who was appointed director of the school in 1807, recognized Zunz's great talents and helped him in his development; the teacher and his pupil remained friends until Ehrenberg's death (1853). From 1809 to 1811 Zunz studied at the local high school, and from 1810 to 1815 was an assistant teacher at the Samsonsche Freischule. His interest in Jewish history and literature was aroused (1811) by reading Zemah David by David Gans and Bibliotheca Hebraea by Johann Christoph Wolf. From 1815 to 1819 he studied at the University of Berlin and acquired the basis of a scientific approach; he was particularly influenced by the great classical scholar Friedrich August Wolf. Zunz's scholarly work began in 1817 when he did research on Sefer ha-Ma'alot of Shem Tov b. Joseph Falaquera (for this research work he received the degree of doctor of philosophy in 1821 at the University of Halle) and wrote Etwas ueber die rabbinische Literatur (1818). From a wish to give Judaism a new definition in keeping with the spirit of the times, he was a cofounder of the Verein fuer Cultur und Wissenschaft der Juden, in 1819, considering the scientific and historical approach of the "Science of Judaism" as being the way to achieve the aims of the society. Zunz edited the Zeitschrift fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums issued by the society (1823) and published three articles in it, including a biography of Rashi.
Zunz, who was then close to the spirit of religious reform, was invited to deliver sermons in the new synagogue in Berlin beginning from May 1820, and in August 1821 was appointed preacher there, resigning a year later in disappointment with his congregation. A collection of his sermons (Predigten) appeared in 1823. He made his living as a member of the editorial board of the Berlin daily newspaper, Haude und Spenersche Zeitung (1824–31) and as director of the primary school of the Jewish community, the Juedische Gemeindeschule (1826–29). His chief interest, however, was his research in Hebrew literature. Zunz used the vast material he had accumulated and the notes he had collected from manuscripts and printed works on his visits to libraries (at Hamburg, the Oppenheim collection in 1828, and that of H. J. Michael in 1829) in writing his great work on liturgic addresses which appeared in 1832, Die gottesdienstlichen Vortraege der Juden historisch entwickelt. In 1834–35 he gave 34 public lectures on the Psalms. From September 1835 to July 1836 Zunz served as a preacher to a private religious association in Prague. On returning to Berlin he was commissioned by the community to write a treatise on Jewish names as a response to a royal decree banning the use of Christian names by Jews (Namen der Juden (1837)). From 1840 to 1850 he directed a Jewish teachers' seminary in Berlin.
His hope that one of the universities would recognize Jewish studies as an academic subject and appoint him to represent it was not fulfilled. In 1848 he sent a letter on this subject to the Prussian minister of culture, but his proposal was turned down. Zunz for his part did not agree to the establishment of a separate seminary for fear of severing the "Science of Judaism" from the general intellectual life and leading to its isolation. He also had little use for the synods of German progressive rabbis which had begun to convene in 1844, as he could not see any benefit in their reforms. He carried on his scholarly work alone. He then published Toledot R. Azaryah min ha-Adumim (in Heb. in: Keren Hemed, 5 (1841); 7 (1843)), 13 articles on Jewish subjects (in the Ersch and Gruber encyclopaedia, 1842), and Zur Geschichte und Literatur (1845). In 1850 the community granted him a modest pension. Most of his time he devoted to research on the piyyut, the selihot, and various liturgies. In the course of time three works of his on this subject appeared: Die synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters (1855), Der Ritus des synagogalen Gottesdienstes (1859), Literaturgeschichte der synagogalen Poesie (1865), and additions to the latter (1867). This work required visits to various libraries, such as the British Museum, the Bodleian, Paris (1855; where he visited Heinrich Heine, his friend from the days of the Verein fuer Cultur and Wissenschaft der Juden), and the de Rossi library at Parma (1863). Entry to the important Vatican library was barred to Zunz as he was a Jew.
His other literary contributions in the period after 1850 included: the publication of Moreh Nevukhei ha-Zeman of Nachman Krochmal in accordance with the terms of the author's will (1851); articles on Judaism in the Brockhaus lexicon (1853); and a biography of his teacher Samuel Meyer Ehrenberg (1854). In honor of his 70th birthday (1864) the Zunz Foundation (Zunzstiftung) was set up in order to support his scholarship and various other undertakings in the field of the "Science of Judaism." In 1874, the death of his wife caused him deep depression. He ceased to work, and only prepared a collection of his articles (Gesammelte Schriften), which appeared in three volumes in 1875–76, for publication. The Zunz Foundation issued a jubilee volume in honor of his 90th birthday (1884) entitled Tiferet Seivah (Hebrew and German).