Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-v

Contents

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pp. vi-ix

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. x-xvii

In popular consciousness, the poles of “tradition” and “modernity” have often been understood to be opposed, with the latter assumed to have displaced the former. This assumption belies the way in which tradition itself was understood by religious adherents in premodern times. Gershom Scholem, the great scholar of Jewish mysticism, made this point amply clear in his powerfully...

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Introduction: At the Border: David Ellenson and the Study of Modern Judaism

David N. Myers

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pp. 1-16

In the thirty-five years during which he has been studying the changing face of modern Judaism, David Ellenson has been drawn over and again to the permeable boundary between the forces of tradition and modernity. Given his keen analytical sophistication, worn lightly beneath his legendary affability, Ellenson knows well that tradition and modernity are less precise historical markers than ideal...

Part 1: Law

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1. Caring for an Intermarried Jew by Converting His Partner: Rabbi Uzziel’s Earliest Responsum on Giyur (Salonica, c. 1922)

Zvi Zohar

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pp. 17-34

If one imagines tradition and modernity as two poles of a continuum, Reform Judaism would be regarded by many as modern rather than as traditional. However, Reform’s position on this continuum has not been static over the movement’s history. Thus, three of David Ellenson’s manifold research interests are halakhah, conversion to Judaism, and Sephardic rabbinical creativity...

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2. Gaining Moral Guidance from the Jewish Tradition: Four Examples to Test David Ellenson’s Approach and Mine

Elliot N. Dorff

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pp. 35-50

As this volume illustrates in multiple ways, the interaction between tradition and modernity is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the Jewish tradition responded to cultures surrounding it from its earliest sources in the Bible and Rabbinic literature. Sometimes it completely borrowed outside ideas or practices (e.g., commercial law); sometimes it completely rejected the foreign idea...

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3. The Role of Reform in Israeli Orthodoxy

Adam S. Ferziger

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pp. 51-66

I first came across an article by David Ellenson, titled “The Role of Reform in Selected German-Jewish Orthodox Responsa: A Sociological Analysis,” during my graduate studies at Bar-Ilan University in the early 1990s.1 The author employed the functional approach to the sociology of deviance to examine how responses of prominent nineteenth-century German rabbis to Reform...

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4. Between “West Point Standards” and Life in the Trenches: The Halakhic Dilemmas of Orthodox Outreach Workers

Jack Wertheimer

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pp. 67-79

For much of the modern era, traditional Jews have been on the defensive, watching with a mixture of horror and defiance as ever-growing populations of their coreligionists defected to non-Orthodox religious movements or became completely indifferent to the demands of Jewish religious observance. Among our most important historians of how traditionalist rabbis responded...

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5. The Touro Monument Controversy: Aniconism vs. Anti-Idolatry in a Mid-Nineteenth-Century American Jewish Religious Dispute

Jonathan D. Sarna

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pp. 80-95

The Jewish traveler Israel Joseph Benjamin,1 known as Benjamin II since he followed in the footsteps of the medieval Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela, stirred up controversy in 1860 when he condemned a proposal to memorialize the New Orleans Jewish philanthropist Judah Touro with a public statue. “How is it possible that Jews can entertain the wish to carry out an act which...

Part 2: Ritual

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6. Reverse Engineering the Twentieth-Century Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Isa Aron

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pp. 96-109

In his essay “Judaism Resurgent” David Ellenson notes a paradox in contemporary Jewish life: “The twin trends of renewed ethnic-religious expression and pride, on the one hand, and the ever-growing attenuation of such attachments, on the other.”1 In this essay I focus on what is, to me, a particularly piquant example of this paradox, the increased importance of the...

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7. “And It Not Be Stilled”: The Legacy of Debbie Friedman

Deborah E. Lipstadt

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pp. 110-122

When Debbie Friedman died in January 2011 the cantorial soloist at a Canadian Reform congregation posted a statement on the official blog of the Reform movement: “It is impossible to overstate Debbie’s importance to our prayer, to our sense of spirituality, to our music, and to our Jewish lives. . . . She changed the way that congregations sing.”1 The World Union for Progressive Judaism, the international organization of Reform Judaism, credited Friedman with...

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8. From the Rhine Valley to Jezreel Valley: Innovative Versions of the Mourners’ Kaddish in the Kibbutz Movement

Dalia Marx

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pp. 123-141

One can hardly imagine a prayer that evokes stronger emotional responses among Jews than the Mourners’ Kaddish. Some draw consolation from its theology, many more are compelled and soothed by its familiarity and repetitiveness, still others are alienated by its theological message. Yet few remain indifferent to the Kaddish, and even the fiercest atheists among my acquaintances...

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9. New Waters in an Old Vessel: A History of Mikveh in Modern Judaism

Michael A. Meyer

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pp. 142-158

The interaction of tradition and innovation, rather than replacement of the first by the second, has been a characteristic of Judaism in modern times. For David Ellenson, displaying evidence of their lack of separation has long marked his work, leading him to explore both the role of modernity in Jewish Orthodoxy and the persistence of tradition in Reform Judaism. It is the purpose of...

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10. German Jewry and Dutch Jewry: Two Separate Paths to Modernity

Steven M. Lowenstein

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pp. 159-174

Throughout his career David Ellenson has been exploring the sociology of developments in Jewish religion and culture and especially the process we generally refer to as modernization. His work covers several countries including Germany, Israel, and the United States and has occasionally touched on other countries, including the Netherlands. In this preliminary study, I would...

Part 3: Thought

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11. Zionism, American Jewry, and the “Negation of Diaspora”

Arnold Eisen

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pp. 175-191

Introducing a set of his collected essays called “The Dialectics of Modern Jewish Religion and Identity,” David Ellenson makes the point, that “Judaism, like all religions . . . is fundamentally a history of interpretations. Each generation in the chain of tradition links itself in multiple ways to the past and, in so doing, opens various portals to the future.”1 The same holds true for any tradition,...

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12. Traditional Exemplars in a Time of Crisis

Michael Marmur

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pp. 192-208

Abraham Joshua Heschel published a series of eight articles titled “Personalities in Jewish History” in the Berlin Jüdisches Gemeindeblatt in 1936.1 The pieces were written at a time of unparalleled concern in the Jewish community. The Nuremberg laws had been passed only a few months earlier. The eight articles appeared over six months, starting February 23, 1936, some two weeks before...

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13. Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Rav J. B. Soloveitchik’s Perspective on Gender

Rachel Adler

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pp. 209-220

Joseph Baer Soloveitchik (1903–93), known to his followers simply as the Rav, was a man caught between tradition and modernity. This was especially true concerning two controversial areas: secular learning and gender relations. He grew up a veritable prince of the Torah, the intellectual heir of his father and of his grandfather R. Hayim Soloveitchik, the Brisker Rav, who had created a new...

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14. The Tendency of Stories and the Ethics of Life’s Endings

William Cutter

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pp. 221-236

Narratives—especially those uninhibited by didactic goals—seem particularly well suited to the more flexible definitions of right and wrong that characterize our time. They can serve as vehicles for empathy and for examining multiple points of view, a kind of heuristic play with opposing possibilities and alternative outcomes. Reading stories is an excellent way to grasp the context...

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15. Thoughts on Forgiveness in Psychoanalysis and Judaism

Lewis M. Barth

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pp. 237-248

Life forces us to make difficult decisions.1 To ask for forgiveness and to forgive are among the most problematic of these. “To err is Humane; to Forgive, Divine” is the phrase often quoted in reference to this subject.2 Human beings by nature make mistakes. The capacity to forgive is a property of deity. God alone has this capacity, or perhaps God is required to manifest it as an expression of the divine nature....

Part 4: Culture

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16. Ethnicity, Religion, and Spirituality in Postwar Jewish America

Lawrence A. Hoffman

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pp. 249-262

In 1975 Tony Judt arrived in America from England to find “nothing to suggest community—except the Church.” Religion was “often the sole link to anything recognizably social, to a higher striving. If I lived in such a place,” he concluded, “I too would join the elect.”1...

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17. Complicating a Jewish Modernity: The Jewish Theological Seminary, Columbia University, and the Rise of a Jewish Counterculture in 1968

Riv-Ellen Prell

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pp. 263-279

David Ellenson was among the very first of the American Jewish baby boom generation to assume an international leadership position in a major Jewish organization. As he moved from his role as a distinguished scholar and teacher to become, in addition, the president of the Hebrew Union College– Jewish Institute of Religion, he brought with him the culture and ideas of, if...

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18. Reform Rabbis, Betty Friedan, and the Uses of “Tradition”

Carole B. Balin

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pp. 280-293

David Ellenson had a total of three female colleagues in 1977 when he was ordained a rabbi. A year later, that number more than doubled when four additional women received ordination and entered the Reform rabbinate.1 In the fall of 1978 these pioneering women found themselves at the center of a political maelstrom that had erupted earlier that summer in Toronto at the annual...

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19. On Memento: Remaking Memory from the Outside In

Wendy Zierler

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pp. 294-311

In his draft address “Upon the Opening of the Jüdisches Lehrhaus,” Franz Rosenzweig sees the modern Jewish turn to “the realms of alien knowledge of the ‘outside book’” as occasioning the birth of a new kind of Jewish learning: “It is learning in reverse order. A learning that no longer starts from the Torah and leads into life, but the other way around: from life, from a world that knows...

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20. At the Centenary of Agnon’s “Ve-hayah he‘akov le-mishor”: A New Reading

Arnold J. Band

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pp. 312-319

The angel of historiography, unlike Walter Benjamin’s dour angel of history, challenges us to wrest meaning out of an examination of historical events. While Benjamin’s angel was inspired by a painting of Paul Klee, the angel of historiography I allude to derives from a more familiar locus: Genesis 32:23–33 and its many commentaries. The angel of historiography may struggle...

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Coda: From Tradition to Radicalism: Jewish Women in Pre-Holocaust Poland

Paula E. Hyman

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pp. 320-332

The focus of my lecture today is on Jewish women in Poland and how their radicalism, even more than their secularism, transformed Polish Jewry. The three million Jews who lived in interwar Poland constituted the single largest European Jewish population at the time.
The Jewish women of Poland are forever fixed in our mind as we imagine them to have been in the late nineteenth century. They are “bobbes,” pious ancestral grandmothers, wearing their scarves, or tikhls, forever unchanging....

Bibliography of Works by David Ellenson

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pp. 333-342

List of Contributors

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pp. 343-346

Index

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pp. 347-360