The Protestant Reformation
Western Europe falls into religious crisis shortly after the forced conversion of the quarter-million Sfardic Jews, at the end of the 15th century.
A 16th century German monk named Martin Luther spearheads a revolution against the Christian religious establishment. Originally sold by his parents to be a monk, Luther boldly presses forward and charges the Church with corruption, suppression, and exploitation.
Luther himself marries a former nun. He repudiates Aristotelian philosophy. The Earth is not at the center of the Universe, he asserts.
A bitter and fierce civil war ensues for thirty years. The Jews of Western Europe are caught in the middle and they are at the mercy of mobs. Luthers teachings reflect intolerance against the Jewish people and the Jewish communities are decimated.
When the conflict ends, Christianity is permanently segmented and the old Church establishment loses its control of Christianity. Some of their following get turned off to the clergy and their heritage altogether.
Luther promoted the idea that there was room for different viewpoints. He defined and built up a new type of Christianity.
This will inspire much of German Jewry to apply this approach to their own Jewish life in the 18th century. They will also break from their past and propose changes to traditional Jewish practice. Without the time-tested Torah-true basis, most of their following will lose their hold on Judaism through the intermarriage and assimilation that the reform will actively facilitate. Hitler will drive the death nail into the German Reform movement. However, it will appear elsewhere in other forms.
Luther translated the Bible into German and encouraged its study. He thus brought Christian scholarship to the common people. In contrast, while the German Jewish reformers will encourage secular enlightenment, they will estrange their following from Torah study and Torah scholars. Many Jews will become illiterate in Hebrew and the Bible, much like the common Christian in Medieval Europe.
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