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Ben Chananja

Hungarian German-language periodical published initially in 1844 and then between 1858 and 1867, edited by Leopold Löw. When Löw published what was to be the first Jewish periodical in Hungary, Ben Chananja: Blätter für israelitisch-ungarische Angelegenheiten in 1844, his choice of German was praised by contemporaries as realistic, given that few Hungarian Jews at the time were fluent in Magyar. The quarterly was discontinued after the pilot issue.

Löw was more successful in 1858 when he revived the paper in his community of Szeged at a time when no other Jewish periodicals were being published in Hungary. It bore the same title (the editor did not clarify the significance of the title but it clearly hinted at his admiration for the Talmudic sage), and appeared first as a monthly, from 1861 as a weekly, and from 1865 as a biweekly (subtitled für jüdische Theologie). From 1865, it also carried supplements: Homiletische und didaktische Beilage (Homiletic and Didactic Supplements) and Forschungen des wissenschaftlich-talmudischen Vereins (Research of the Society for the Scientific Study of the Talmud).

Ben Chananja became more than a platform for Jewish studies; it also served as a forum for reporting current events and conducting polemics, internal (against the Orthodox, for a rabbinical seminary, for the Alliance Israélite Universelle) and external (discussing emancipation, apologetics for Judaism), at a particularly agitated period for Hungary and its Jews. Reports from numerous communities on religious, political, and social issues of the day make it a prime historical source. The journal published articles on such fields as Hungarian Jewish history (a pioneering supplement was planned to publish relevant archival materials), the development of Kabbalah, and the evolution of halakhah. It attracted more than 100 contributors not only from Hungary, but also from other regions inside and outside the Habsburg monarchy.

Löw discontinued the journal in 1867, the year Jews were emancipated. He claimed at the time that he shut down the paper because editing a biweekly had proved to be too time-consuming, but that he did intend to publish an academic annual (again in German) that would have been titled Jahrbücher für jüdische Geschichte, Archäologie, Ritualkunde und Literatur (Yearbook for Jewish History, Archaeology, Study of Ritual, and Literature). Nothing came of the annual, but Löw did go on to publish monographs on these themes.

Suggested Reading

On the program of the periodical, see “Die Mission Ben Chananja’s,” Ben-Chananja 4.52 (1861): 443–445. Many of Leopold Löw’s own contributions in Ben Chananja were assembled in his Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Immanuel Löw (Szeged, 1889–1900). See also György Haraszti, “A Ben Chananja szerkesztöje,” in Két világ határán, pp. 220–238 (Budapest, 1999); Michael Jacoby, Ben-Chananja: Eine deutschsprachige Zeitschrift von Leopold Löw; Inhalte, Autoren, Rezipienten, 1858–1867 (Uppsala, 1997).