Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer (1820-1899) was, together with Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the pioneer of Torah im Derekh Erez in modern times. Although each of them understood this concept differently, with Hildesheimer advocating Orthodox Wissenschaft des Judentums, they both were insistent that for Orthodox Jews living in the west, there was no possibility to segregate oneself behind ghetto walls. On the contrary, modern Jewish education, they argued, must teach Jews how best to confront and deal with modernity in all of its aspects. Hildesheimer’s approach was to establish a rabbinical seminary, for he believed that Orthodoxy would only survive in modern times if there
were spiritual leaders who were thoroughly conversant with the era they were living in. Originally he intended to establish this seminary in Hungary, where he had earlier founded a yeshivah that incorporated secular studies, but the opposition of the Orthodox rabbinate there was too much to overcome. It was only after he came to Berlin that, in 1873, he was able to realize his goal of founding the first Orthodox rabbinical seminary.
Hildesheimer’s seminary was the only institution under Orthodox auspices in which students were required to have a significant secular education before they were admitted.