Menachem Mendel

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Who is Responsible for the Term Modern Orthodoxy

I recently came across a few 19th century uses of the term “Modern Orthodoxy Jews/Judaism.”  The term was not necessarily used in the same way that we use it today and a fuller discussion must related to the use of the term in a Christian context, but I thought that they were interesting none the less. For some discussion of the origins of the term, see this post by Alan Brill.

Maybe the earliest use by a Jew that I could find was by Claude G. Montefiore. The following is from an article in the Contemporary Review, vol. 42, 1882.

Contemporary review modern ortho

This is also an article by Montefiore that was published in the Jewish Quarterly Review IV, 1892.

Montefioremodernortho 1

This pamphlet was published by the Reform rabbi Gotthard Deutsch in 1898. It is a reprint of an earlier article from the Reform Advocate.


Deutsch also used the term “Modern Orthodoxy” in the Jewish Encyclopedia [hereand here].

This Christian polemical tract against Jews that was published in 1890 even got into the act.

The Quivermodernorthod

The earliest use that I could find, although I did not do an exhaustive search and I limited myself to English (maybe in German there was an equivalent that was used earlier), was from an article about the 17th century Hugenot pastor Isaac Jacquelot that was published in 1874. The article was a translation of an article in German that was written by Rev. A. Fürat and it was published in the following missionizing journal.

The Hebrew Christian Witness and Prophetic Investigator An Anglo Judaeo   Google Books

Here is the quote:

The Hebrew Christian Witness 1
The Hebrew Christian Witness 2

Lastly, there is a cookbook that was published in 1897-The Economical Jewish Cook:
A Modern Orthodox Recipe Book for Young Housekeepers

4 Responses to “Who is Responsible for the Term Modern Orthodoxy”

  1. 1

    Be careleful to distinguish between:

    (modern orthodox) jew


    modern (orthodox jew)

    the second provides no basis for the term “modern orthodox”

  2. 2
    Menachem Mendel:

    That’s why I said: “The term was not necessarily used in the same way that we use it today,” although I wonder if “(modern orthodox) Jew” grew out of “modern (orthodox Jew).”

  3. 3

    Just a couple of weeks ago I was discussing this with dave of balashon blog who is investigating this phrase…

  4. 4

    Here’s an interesting quote from 1880:

    “The weakness of the modern reform is the reason why many Jewish communities retain much of the Talmudic observances, though only in worship and domestic life. Hence also has sprung up in Germany, the classic ground of modern Judaism, a new orthodoxy, which unites modern culture, hiding itself under the mantle of philosophy, with Talmudic forms, and which actively opposes reforming Judaism.

    Notwithstanding its hollowness, this gains great influence, and threatens many communities with schism, which it has brought about in Prussia, Hesse, and Hungary.”

    Elsewhere in this piece are repeated references to “the new-Orthodox.”




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