Rabbinic writing about Jesus was very popular in the mid 19th century, especially by liberal and Reform rabbis arguing for Jewish emancipation. What is striking about R. Elijah Zvi’s work is how different it is from that of reformers such as Joseph Salvador in France, Abraham Geiger in Germany, Claude Montefiore in England, and Kaufmann Kohler, Isaac Mayer Wise, and Joseph Krauskopf in America. Many of these rabbis were quite critical of Christianity and focused largely on the historical Jesus to argue that Judaism was the religion of Jesus while Christianity was the religion about him – implying that Christianity and the teachings of Jesus need to be viewed as distinct. In fact, for most of them, their positive appraisal of Jesus was a veiled critique of Christianity.
It wasn’t until Joseph Klausner’s Hebrew Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times, and Teaching was published in 1923 (English translation, 1925) and Martin Buber’s famous declaration of “Jesus as my brother” in Two Types of Faith in 1945 that Jews began to take Christianity (and not just the historical Jesus) seriously in relation to Judaism. But these works too, while sympathetic, were critical of Christianity’s doctrinal commitments.
Shaul Magid, “The Soloveitchik Who Loved Jesus”, Tablet (14 December 2012) [http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/119176/soloveitchik-jesus]