The Haskalah, often termed Jewish Enlightenment (Hebrew: השכלה; literally, "wisdom", "erudition" or "education"), was an intellectual movement among the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe, with certain influence on those in Western Europe and the Muslim world. It arose as a defined ideological worldview during the 1770s, and its last stage ended around 1881, with the rise of Jewish nationalism. However, according to Salo Baron, it actually began a century earlier in the “Dutch and Italian Haskalah.”
The Haskalah pursued two complementary aims. It sought to preserve the Jews as a separate, unique collective and worked for a cultural and moral renewal, especially a revival of Hebrew for secular purposes, pioneering the modern press and literature in the language. Concurrently, it strove for an optimal integration of the Jews in surrounding societies, including the study of native vernacular and adoption of modern values, culture and appearance, all combined with economic productivization. The Haskalah promoted rationalism, liberalism, freedom of thought and enquiry, and is largely perceived as the Jewish variant of the general Age of Enlightenment. The movement encompassed a wide spectrum ranging from moderates, who hoped for maximal compromise and conservatism, to radicals who sought sweeping changes.
In its various changes, the Haskalah fulfilled an important, though limited, part in the modernization of Central and Eastern European Jews. Its activists, the Maskilim, exhorted and implemented communal, educational and cultural reforms in both the public and the private spheres. Owing to its dualistic policies, it collided both with the traditionalist rabbinic elite, which attempted to preserve old Jewish values and norms in their entirety, and with the radical assimilationists who wished to eliminate or minimize the existence of the Jews as a defined collective.