“Christian scholars battled in the early 1500s over whether all Jewish texts should be burned. Johannes Pfefferkorn, a Jewish-born theologian in Cologne who had converted to Roman Catholicism, petitioned Emperor Maximilian I to have Hebrew books declared dangerously blasphemous. The emperor sought a second opinion from Johannes Reuchlin, a linguist in Stuttgart, who decided that Hebrew was a biblical tongue worth preserving.
“Besides, Reuchlin wrote, if Hebrew texts were all erased, “the Jews might well write much stranger stuff from scratch, far more objectionable.”
“From the 1950s to the 1990s, Frank L. Herz, a German-born leather-goods merchant in New York, collected books related to the 16th-century controversy by prominent authors like Erasmus and Martin Luther. Mr. Herz’s heirs have donated the collection to the Leo Baeck Institute, a library focused on German-speaking Jewry at the Center for Jewish History on West 16th Street in Manhattan. The staff is now repairing and digitizing the books and planning for exhibitions later this year. Continue reading “Frank L. Herz Collection of Reuchliniana at Leo Baeck Institute”→
Founded in 1945 by the American Jewish Committee “to meet the need for a journal of significant thought and opinion on Jewish affairs and contemporary opinion,” Commentary magazine has had an influence that extended well beyond its relatively modest circulation. Born of the conviction that Jews could – and should – participate in American life as Jews, Commentary provided a platform for a new generation of intellectuals. And made itself, for a time, the home of brilliant writing on politics, literature, history, sociology, and theology.
In Running Commentary, Benjamin Balint, a fellow at the Hudson Institute and former assistant editor at Commentary, provides a sympathetic, but remarkably thorough, dispassionate and balanced history of the magazine, tracing its twists and turns from liberal anti-communism in the 1950s to a dalliance, of sorts, with radicals in the 1960s, to neoconservatism in the 1970s and beyond. The story of Commentary, he demonstrates, “lies coiled within a larger story” of the tumultuous, notquite- requited embrace of America by “an uncommonly articulate and uncommonly opinionated” group of New York Jews. “Unparalleled in the history of the Diaspora,” it’s a story “of belonging – with its profits and perils.” Continue reading “War of Ideas”→
Title: Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought
Volume One: 1932–1975 (Hebrew Edition)
Author: Libby Kahane
Publisher: Institute for Publication
of the Writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane
Anyone reading this well-researched and objective biography (just translated into Hebrew) has to be struck by how the focus of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s life was on promoting Jewish identity, pride, values, knowledge, and even music, and how minimal a role that actual violence played even in the “militant” Jewish Defense League. Even the limited violence was for deterrence and limited primarily to property damages.
Kahane’s ever creative and constructive life was devoted not merely to defending defenseless Jews more effectively than any police department and harassing indefensible Soviet officials more provocatively than all the well-organized rallies of the establishment with their eloquent speeches, resulting, together, in the freeing of hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews. Continue reading “Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought”→
During a recent visit to New York, Rabbi Daniel Sperber — to date the best-known Orthodox religious authority to back the idea of Orthodox women’s ordination — spoke with The Sisterhood about the evolution of Jewish law.
Sperber — a Talmud professor at Bar-Ilan University and the author of, most recently, “Women and Men in Communal Prayer: Halakhic Perspectives” and “On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations” — gave his imprimatur to the ordination of Maharat Sara Hurwitz last year. When Hurwitz’s mentor, Rabbi Avi Weiss later changed her title to “rabba,” they faced a wave of opposition from the Rabbinical Council of America. The RCA ultimately negotiated an agreement with Weiss, who backed away from the new title and pledged not to use the term “ordination” at Yeshivat Maharat, which Weiss founded. Continue reading “Rabbi Sperber on Why He Supports Orthodox Women’s Ordination”→
Mussar – a tradition of religious instruction, developed in 19th-century Lithuania, that assists Jews in working toward a more ethical life – has had a minor resurgence in recent years, both locally and nationally. Right here in the area, Rabbi Ira F. Stone of Center City’s Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel has been at the forefront of reintroducing the tradition to his congregants and others in the community through the Philadelphia Mussar Institute at his congregation and his book A Responsible Life: The Spiritual Path of Mussar.
Nationally, the spokesman has been Alan Morinis, founder and director of the Mussar Institute (which, like Stone’s organization, can be found online), and author of Everyday Holiness and Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.
Just in time for the High Holiday season, Morinis has published a new, compact work, titled Every Day, Holy Day, published by Trumpeter Books. The author has been assisted by Rabbi Micha Berger, and together the two have provided “365 days of teaching and practices from the Jewish tradition of Mussar,” as the subtitle of their book announces. Continue reading ““Each of Us Is Inherently Holy””→
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin is one of the most prolific and respected interpreters of Judaism in the United States. His more than 15 books include several volumes about Jewish ethics, three mysteries starring a rabbi sleuth, and Jewish Literacy, his biggest-selling book to date, a fat compendium summarizing the history, thought, literature and practice of the Jewish people. Continue reading “Questions & Answers/A Conversation With Joseph Telushkin”→
The Jewish people are known as the “people of the book,” and over the centuries it has sacrificed much not only to live by that book, the Torah, but to maintain the integrity of its text as well.
A Torah scroll, however, may not contain notations. Thus, Jews used to write codices (sing. codex) that contained, not only the Torah’s text, but punctuation (nekudos), musical signs (trope), and additional notes along the margins that assisted soferim who wished to write Torah scrolls (and other Biblical books) properly and accurately.
When you make them available in your library, your patrons have the chance to recognize the work you do.
ALA will select up to ten winners; what a great opportunity to create some buzz in our communities and even nationally, for AJL and for all the work you do to promote Jewish books, scholarship and reading.
The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) will hold the 46th Annual Convention at the Marriott Chateau Champlain in Montreal, Quebec June 19-22, 2011. Librarians, archivists, scholars, educators, authors and others will meet to share their interest in Judaica librarianship and related topics.
AJL is soliciting proposals for papers and presentations on aspects of Judaica librarianship as it pertains to libraries, archives, museums, schools, synagogues and related institutions. Past topics have included literature and other resources, collection management, programming, reader advisory services, special and rare collections, cataloging and classification, digital and electronic resources, technology and local Jewish history.
I first much mention a bias here (of mine) in the spirit of full disclosure: Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, Z”L (to remember him is a blessing), the original 19th century author of this great commentary on the Torah (Five Books of Moses), Kedushat Levi (aka “Kedushas Levi”), is an important teacher and master for me. I love his teachings, the stories about him (some of which the editor includes at the back of this 3 volume commentary! That alone makes sure, for me, of giving it an extra star, regardless of what my base rating would be!). In common parlance, I guess you could say, I am a fan. But much more than that, I feel like I am a student of this teacher who died more than two hundred years before I was born.
And I and many others have been waiting for a complete translation of this work into English for years (there have been excerpts of it in works such as the superb, God at the Center by Rabbi David Blumenthal and The Life of a Hasidic Master by my beloved teacher, Rabbi Samuel Dressner, may he rest in shalom and always remembered for a blessing. But until now no complete translation). Continue reading “Review of Kedushat Levi”→