Jakob Klatzkin

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Yakov Klaczkin
יעקב קלצקין
Jacob Klatzkin 1940
Born(1882-10-03)October 3, 1882
Byaroza, Belarus (then Russian Empire)
DiedMarch 26, 1948(1948-03-26) (aged 65) (death date then birth date)
Notable workGerman Encyclopaedia Judaica and others

Jakob Klatzkin, Yakov/Jakub Klaczkin (Hebrew: יעקב קלצקין; Russian: Яков Клачкин; October 3, 1882, in Biaroza, Grodno Governorate, now Belarus – March 26, 1948, in Vevey, Switzerland) was a Jewish philosopher, publicist, author, and publisher.


Klatzkin was born in Byaroza-Kartuskaya, a son of the local Rabbi Eliyahu Klatzkin. He received his early schooling from his father and yeshivas in Lithuania. Later he traveled to Germany to study with philosopher Hermann Cohen. Klatzkin received his doctorate from the University of Berne in Switzerland, then returned to Germany to write for Hebrew periodicals and establish Jewish publishing firms. He also served as director of the Jewish National Fund in Cologne.

He wrote widely on the philosopher Baruch Spinoza, translating the latter's Ethics to Hebrew. He also compiled 10 of 15 anticipated volumes of the German Encyclopaedia Judaica with Nahum Goldmann. Klatzkin had a close relationship with Arnold Schoenberg, a Jewish musician who was also active in advancing the need to establish a place of refuge for the Jews in the 1930s.[1]

After the Nazis' rise to power in 1933, Klatzkin fled to Switzerland and earned a living giving lectures on various Jewish subjects. He moved to the United States in 1941 and continued to teach in Chicago at the College of Jewish Studies. He returned to Switzerland in 1947 and died there at the age of 66.[2]


He rejected the notion of chosenness for the Jewish people,[3] either religious or secular. He argued that the only meaningful goal for Zionism was regaining the land of Israel and normalizing the conditions of Jewish existence. He believed that assimilationists were "traitors to their Judaism".[4] He criticized Ahad Ha-Am for the notion that morality was the key to Israel's uniqueness. He believed that ethics are universal, not the possession of a particular people. He maintained that the spiritual definition of Judaism denied freedom of thought and led to national chauvinism. Klatzkin proposed a Jewish covenant that is based on secular-nationalist terms. Here, the Jewish state does not pursue any messianic or colonialist mission and instead a territorial Zionism that is normal, national state and culture.[3]

Klatzkin also developed an alternative to the Freudian view of life, which holds that it can only be understood from within. This involved his theory of the mind, which emphasizes the so-called rift between life and the spirit or the living or the original, unmediated soul and the spirit.[5] The conflict, according to Klatzkin, is the reason why man live in constant alienation from the world.[5]

Literary works[edit]


  1. ^ Schiller, David Michael; Schiller, David M. (2003). Bloch, Schoenberg, and Bernstein: Assimilating Jewish Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 84. ISBN 0198167113.
  2. ^ "Bookplate of Jakob Klatzkin (Rare Books of the Shimeon Brisman Collection in Jewish Studies, Washington University)". Archived from the original on June 19, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Gurkan, S. Leyla (2008). The Jews as a Chosen People: Tradition and Transformation. Oxon: Routledge. p. 96. ISBN 978-0203884898.
  4. ^ Ludwig Lewisohn (2007) Rebirth – A Book of Modern Jewish Thought READ BOOKS, ISBN 1-4067-4857-9 p 170
  5. ^ a b Rolnik, Eran (2012). Freud in Zion: Psychoanalysis and the Making of Modern Jewish Identity. London: Karnac Books Ltd. p. 24. ISBN 9781780490533.

External links[edit]