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Moses Mendelssohn

             In 1729, a baby was born in the Jewish ghetto in Dessau, Germany. He was born into a Germany of casual intolerance and Jewish isolation. Jewish children learned only enough to study Talmud and speak Yiddish, and those Jews in mainstream Germany faced limitations and prejudice at every turn. They could not read German or ancient Hebrew or work in mathematics because they simply didn't learn them. Moses Mendelssohn would grow to be a stammering, hunchbacked enlightener and inspirer of the Jewish world. He would, as an open Jew, link cultures, defend his faith, and gain a respected place in the forum of German philosophers.
             Before Mendelssohn .
             The Jews had been scattered for nearly two thousand years. They settled uncomfortably into the world, where they were generally locked in ghettoes and hated. After a time, the gentiles would begin admonishing them for their uselessness. As Mendelssohn would later articulate it, "they tie our hands and reproach us that we do not use them." Even the wealthy Jews, the German speaking Jews, endured mockery and anti-Semitism.
             In Berlin specifically, Jews were divided into six categories under which living in Berlin was acceptable. At the top were those who had "special privileges." This meant living exactly like a gentile, in addition to the right to pass the status to any offspring. Next were the "protected Jews," who could own property and engage in business, but had no freedom of movement. They could also only pass their status to one child free of charge; others could pay to attain it. The next class, which included those in skilled professions, was the same, but not inheritable. The fourth class encompassed clergy and other officials, who could perform religious duties but were excluded from business, the fifth included children of the higher four, who had to marry into one of the two highest statuses to keep their own, and the last contained any Jewish employee.

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