They Made Their Souls Anew

Ils Ont Refait Leur Âme

By André Neher
Translated by David Maisel

Subjects: Jewish Studies, History
Series: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture
Paperback : 9780791403167, 179 pages, July 1990
Hardcover : 9780791403150, 179 pages, July 1990

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Opening Chords

Prodigal Sons of Assimilation

Heinrich Heine

Bernard Lazare

The Vertical Irruption

Franz Rosenzweig

Arnold Schönberg

The Challenge of the Holocaust

Karl Wolfskehl

Benjamin Fondane

The Challenge of Eretz Israel

Aaron Abraham Kabak

The Nazir of Jerusalem

Part One: Dialectic of the Jewish Condition

1. The Knots and the Tensions

The Jewish Statement: An Essential Contradiction

The Dialectics of "Being for Oneself" and "Being With the Others"

Taking the Same Path as Everyone Else

The Danger: Moving From Participation to Alienation

The Dissymmetrical Character of the Nineteenth Century

2. The "Anti" and Its Masks

From the Witness Stand to the Box of the Accused

The Crime of Existing

The Fruitless Escape

Did the "Anti" Have its Roots in Germany?

The "Anti" Has Roots in France

The "Anti" Has its Roots Everywhere

The Incarnation of the Absurd in History

3. The "Meta" and its Morphoses

And Yet, Perhaps

Some Foul Blows Are Strokes From the Heavens

The Fascination of the Shema

The Search for an Additional Soul

Living a Question

The "Meta" in Its Human Relationship:Thou Art My People

Being Taken Hold of by the "Meta": Yom Kippur

Next Year in Jerusalem . . . (We Have so Willed, and It Is not a Dream)

The Dialectics of the "Anti" and the "Meta"

Yes, Perhaps

Maybe the Messiah

Part Two: The Situation of Biblical Man

4. The Ontological Psychodrama

Rupture and Continuity

The Dialogue of the Covenant

The Ontology of the Mask

Comedy, Tragedy . . .

The Exit

The False Legend of the Wandering Jew

The True Story of the Wandering: A Return

The Secret of Teshuva

5. The Typological Sociodrama

Where Art Thou, God?

Where Art thou, Moses?

The Exodus of the Jew Toward Himself

He Who Had Called Others Gets His Call

The Typology of the Desert

Israel, A Company of Unlimited Liability

6. The Prophetical Metadrama

The Forced Return

The Kingdom of a God Whose Throne Is Down Here

The Morphology of Rhythm

Phantasms of the Curvature

The Jewish Mystery

The Conjugal Memory

Part Three: From Denial to Reaffirmation

7. The Variants of Dis-assimilation

The Absolute Impasse

Too Late: Heinrich Heine

A Road Without a Landscape: Bernard Lazare

Dis-assimilation by Transference

The Frustration of an Elusive Figure: Franz Kafka

8. The Challenge Accepted

Benjamin Fondane

Turning Around Judaism Like a Moth

From the Exodus to the Burning Bush

In Thy Fearful Nights of Wrath

Karl Wolfskehl

The Germanic Fiefdom

The Flight to the Antipodes

The Irruption of the Voice: The Fiefdom of God

The Four Mirrors of Job

The Voice Speaks

The "Old-new Gales"

9. The Returners from Marxism

The Jews of the Awakening

Rutenberg, Steinberg: The Fighters of the October Revolution

The Piotr-Pinhas Adventure

Son of Mother Russia

Son of My People Israel

Embarked Upon the Phantom Ship of Liberty

Jewish Prayer at the Heart of the Supreme Soviet

Liberty Graven in the Law . . .

. . . And Justice as Well

The Non-promised Land of Utopia

10. The Pilgrim of Hope: Ernst Bloch

Genesis Is at the End

The Counterpoint of a Jewish Melody

The Exodus Principle

The Principle of Hope

The Jewish Response of Liberty

I Command You To Hope

Princess Sabbath

11. From the Temptation of the Cross to the Star of Redemption: Franz Rosenzweig

A Duel With Death

The Patience of Rediscovery

On the Threshold, in Search of the Key

Rediscovering the Language

The "Personalism" of Teshuva: The Return to Observance

Returning to the Absolute

12. From Baptism to Kol Nidre—Arnold Schönberg

The Written Document of a Teshuva

Conversations With (and About) God

Jacob's Ladder

Vicissitudes of Teshuva—the "Meta" and the "Anti"

Surviving in Exile Until the Hour of Deliverance

A Militant Exile—a Zionist Political Doctrine

The Presence of Events: The Shoa and the State of Israel

Mount Nebo

13. Kol Nidre

Glossary of Hebrew Terms

Short Bibliography



This is an original, philosophical discussion in which André Neher relates the lives of prominent nineteenth- and twentieth-century Jews to traditional Jewish thought on issues of assimilation, the Holocaust, and liberal intellectualism.

Andreå Neher was a Professor at the University of Strasbourg and the author of more than twenty works translated worldwide.


"The book is an imaginative. ..brilliant discussion of the moral and religious plight of Jewish intellectuals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The theme is that of Teshuvah or return. This is probably one of the best books written on this theme since Martin Buber's. The author is something of a poet, a biographer, a historian of ideas, even a sage. Few people are able to write in so profound and comprehensive a way. They Made Their Souls Anew is in a class by itself and is going to be talked about for a long time. " — Kenneth R. Seeskin, Northwestern University

"Neher thinks, in these pages, with learning, imagination, and with great honesty. He brings the past into contact with the present by focussing on a number of contemporary or near-contemporary figures (e. g., Lazare, Heine, Fondane) through whom the past and issues of Jewish identity in general are to be grasped. This gives both a sense of immediacy and a historical basis to the work. It is an interesting and valuable book. " — Berel Lang, State University of New York at Albany