'The Great Eagle, the Pride of Jacob’. Joseph Hirsch Dünner in Dutch Jewish Memory Culture

Bart Wallet

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Joseph Hirsch Dünner, born in Cracow 1833, had been the dominant Jewish religious leader in the nineteenth-century Netherlands, combining halakhic Orthodoxy with modern scientific methodologies. From 1865 he led the Dutch Israelite Seminary and educated several generations of Dutch rabbis, while from 1874 onwards he guided the largest community in the country, Amsterdam, as its chief rabbi.
Studying Dünner and the ways in which he was remembered is studying Dutch Jewry. Already during his life, Dünner had become one of the main characters in a developing narrative on Dutch Jewish history. After his death, Dünner’s memory became part of a larger attempt by religious and administrative elites to ensure religious and cultural continuity between Dünner’s period and present times.
The focus of this article, therefore, will not be the “historic Dünner,” but Dünner as bearer of symbolic meaning. To trace this “memorialized Dünner,” I collected pamphlets, newspaper reports, articles in journals, novels, archival material and the like in which Dünner figured sometimes prominently, other times only mentioned in passing, but not with any less significance. In the memory culture around Dünner I roughly distinguish three phases: the first phase was during his life, mainly around special anniversaries, but with the “Master” still present to eventually correct distortions of his image; the second phase started with his funeral in 1911 and continued until the start of the Second World War. As I will demonstrate, the war, and a bit later, the foundation of the State of Israel significantly changed Dünner’s memory with which a third phase started. In this paper I will concentrate on the last two phases and show how Dünner’s memory changed in the course of time, while continuing to foster a Dutch Jewish collective identity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Religious Cultures of Dutch Jewry
EditorsYosef Kaplan, Dan Michman
Place of PublicationLeiden
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9789004343160
ISBN (Print)9789004343153
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2017


  • Jewish History
  • Dutch History
  • Judaism
  • Religious History


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