MORITZ (1816-1907), father of modern Jewish bibliography, one of' the founders of modern Jewish scholarship. Born in Prossnitz, Moravia, Steinschneider received his early education in his native town and was influenced by his uncle Gideon Brecher. He attended a Christian school and studied music as well, maintaining his interest in music throughout his life. At the age of 13 he entered the yeshivah of R. Nehemiah Trebitsch. In 1833 he left for Prague to take up secular studies. At that time Steinschneider had already acquired a thorough knowledge of French and Italian from private tutors. He became a tutor in these languages, and in 1836 received a teacher's diploma for Hebrew in the Hebraeische Lehranstalt in Prague. In the same year he left for Vienna to take up studies in Semitic languages. In Vienna he made the acquaintance of Leopold Dukes, who aroused Steinschneider's interest in the study of medieval literature, Hebrew manuscripts, and Jewish bibliography.
In 1839 he went to
Leipzig where he stayed for half a year. This short stay was most important
for his development as he studied there with H. L. Fleischer and Franz Delitzsch and formed close relationships with both. Steinschneider went on to
the university in Berlin. He also made the acquaintance of Leopold Zunz and
Abraham Geiger. Zunz encouraged the young scholar and helped him in many ways.
Returning to Prague in 1841, he earned a living
for three years as private
tutor and teacher in a Jewish girls' school. In 1843 he received a formal
rabbinical diploma from the rabbi of his native town, Hirsch B. Fassel, and
also, a very warm recommendation from S. L. Rapoport. While in Prague,
Steinschneider unsuccessfully applied for a number of positions, even for that
of censor of' Jewish books. When his friend, Michael Sachs, decided to accept
an invitation to Berlin and left Prague, Steinschneider followed him there
(1845). Later, the friendship with Sachs cooled, because of Sachs' orthodox
tendencies which did not meet his approval. In Germany he gave private lessons,
preached sermons, officiated at weddings, and engaged in occasional work as a
translator and author of textbooks for the elementary study of Hebrew.
first regular appointment came in 1859 as lecturer at the Veitel-Heine-Ephraimsche
Lehranstalt, where he taught for 48 years. Among his students there were many
young men who later became prominent Jewish scholars. e.g., I. Goldziher,
Solomon Schechter, Hayyim Brody, Judah L. Magnes, H. Malter, A. Marx, George A.
Kohut, and others. From 1860 to
1869 he was in charge of administering the Jewish oath, the
Oath more judaico. Another regular appointment came in 1869, when
Steinschneider was named assistant in the Royal
Library of Berlin, a position he held until his death. In the same year he also became the head of the girls' school of the Jewish community. He retired from this
position in 1890. In appreciation of his scholarly contributions he was made
an honorary professor by the Prussian government in 1894. He was also a
recipient of several other honors from various universities and academies,
including one from Columbia University in New York (1887). On the occasion of
his 80th birthday a Festschrilt was
published in his honor.
output was tremendous, his bibliography containing more than 1,400 items. His
main lifelong interest was the study of the relationship between Jewish and
general culture, especially during the medieval times. Realizing early that
the preliminary requirement to carry out such a study was the thorough and
scientific bibliographical recording of all the available printed and
manuscript materials, Steinschneider devoted himself to the preparation of
many library catalogs and subject bibliographies. In addition to his catalogs
and bibliographies, he also provided general introductions to Jewish literary
history and to Jewish booklore, In collecting and organizing the materials for
his studies on the role of the Jews in medieval culture, his researches led him also to the study of' the history
of' medieval philosophy, and especially that of' medieval medicine, the
sciences, and mathematics. His works are not only a contribution to Jewish
learning but also to Arabic literature and to general medieval cultural history.
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