Testifying to the agenda of the Haskalah, the 18th-century Jewish Enlightenment, a rare dictionary provides translations of Hebrew words into German, written in Hebrew characters:
[T]his “German”-Hebrew dictionary was, in its time, a bold statement. . . . The express purpose of Netiv Lashon Ivrit (“Path of the Hebrew Language”), [as the dictionary was titled], was to teach Jewish children Hebrew. The anonymous author imagined the book being put to use in Jewish schools. There is no year of publication noted but it is believed that this book was printed in Dyhernfurth, Prussia (present-day Brzeg Dolny, in southwestern Poland) in the late 18th century. The town had a long tradition of Jewish printing. The dictionary only goes up to letter g and it isn’t known if any additional volumes were ever published. . . .
The Maskilim (proponents of the Haskalah) sought a new emphasis on the Hebrew Bible [over the Talmud], whose universal human values, [they believed], were a link between Jews and the wider world. Knowing Hebrew was a key to being able to read this text unmediated by rabbinic authorities.
Hebrew was considered a noble language and a link to the glorious Jewish past. The Maskilim, by and large, disdained Yiddish as a worthless jargon, a non-language. They promoted not only Hebrew but also the acquisition of elite European languages such as German and Russian. German in Hebrew characters, sometimes referred to as Jüdisch-Deutsch, was seen as a way to wean Jews away from Yiddish. It might look like Yiddish but, in fact, was a type of “anti-Yiddish.” For readers in the Russian Empire, where this copy of the book ended up, [it] provided an opportunity to learn both German and Hebrew.
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