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Abstract

Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) is generally recognized as the first German-Jewish philosopher. The past forty years have witnessed the appearance of five major book-length interpretations of Moses Mendelssohn in English: Michael Meyer’s The Origins of the Modern Jew: Jewish Identity and European Culture in Germany 1749–1824 (1967); Alexander Altmann’s Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study (1973); Allan Arkush’s Mendelssohn and the Enlightenment (1994); David Sorkin’s Moses Mendelssohn and the Religious Enlightenment (1996) and Edward Breuer’s The Limits of Enlightenment: Jews, Germans, and the Eighteenth-Century Study of Scripture (1996). These works have generally been guided by a single interpretive question namely whether or not Mendelssohn was able to harmonize his commitment to Judaism with his commitment to Enlightenment. I review these five interpretations of Mendelssohn.