Moses Mendelssohn (6 September 1729 – 4 January 1786) was a German Jewish philosopher to whose ideas the Haskalah, the 'Jewish enlightenment' of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is indebted.
Born to a poor Jewish family in Dessau and originally destined for a rabbinical career, Mendelssohn educated himself in German thought and literature and from his writings on philosophy and religion came to be regarded as a leading cultural figure of his time by both Christian and Jewish inhabitants of the Holy Roman Empire. He also established himself as an important figure in the Berlin textile industry, which was the foundation of his family's wealth.
Moses Mendelssohn's descendants include the composers Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn and the founders of the Mendelssohn & Co. banking house.
Moses Mendelssohn was born in Dessau. His father's name was Mendel, and it was Moses who adopted the surname Mendelssohn ("Mendel's son"). Moses's son Abraham Mendelssohn wrote in 1829 (to his son Felix Mendelssohn ), "My father felt that the name Moses Ben Mendel Dessau would handicap him in gaining the needed access to those who had the better education at their disposal. Without any fear that his own father would take offense, my father assumed the name Mendelssohn. The change, though a small one, was decisive."..
Quotes by Moses Mendelssohn
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