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Moses Mendelssohn is commonly cited as the Jew that instigated the development of modern Jewry, but this paper contests some of these traditional perceptions. While it is ackowledged that Mendelssohn was a unique figure in modern Jewish history, his role as the originator of a modern movement is brought into question. Evidence focuses on groups and individuals that entered the modern age both socially and intellecturally prior to Mendelssohn, and it also questions just how much modern Jewry has used Mendelssoh's life and work as an example and inspiration. The bigger issue called into question, beyond Mendelssohn, is that of whether it is possible to identify an idividual's life as the beginning of an era.