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Reviewed by:
  • Maven in Blue Jeans: A Festschrift in Honor of Zev Garber
  • Alan L. Berger, Raddock Family Eminent Scholar Chair of Holocaust Studies
Maven in Blue Jeans: A Festschrift in Honor of Zev Garber, edited by Steven Leonard Jacobs. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2009. 513 pp. $59.95

Jewish Studies is a vast field which, by definition, is interdisciplinary and international. Increasingly, it is becoming interfaith as well. Its areas of concern are broadly speaking cultural, historical, linguistic, and religious. Moreover, these areas frequently overlap and intersect. This collection of essays pays tribute to a professor whose insights and scholarly contributions traverse a wide range of the disciplines associated with the field: Sacred Scripture; Jewish-Christian-Muslim interchange; Jewish Historiosophy (a term Garber helped popularize); Pedagogy; Theology and the Shoah; Zionism; and Hebrew Language Studies. Each of these disciplines opens a separate angle of vision on the multifaceted discipline of Jewish Studies. The book is a richly woven tapestry which reveals the endless fascination of the discipline and its contribution to the study of Western culture.

These essays were written in tribute to the contribution of Zev Garber to the scholarly study of Judaism. Garber is a professor whose breadth and depth of vision has illumined scholarship and forged bonds of friendship for over three decades. The nature of his contribution to the field is captured by the book's apt title. A maven is an expert, one whose expertise is acknowledged and lauded by other experts, as in the Hebrew phrase hamayveen yaveen which translates roughly as one who knows will know, meaning that specialists can appreciate the insights offered by the maven. Garber's expertise and wisdom, however, transcend the confines of academia: as a public speaker and communicator of Jewish culture and religion he has delivered countless public lectures and written numerous newspaper columns.

The range of Garber's scholarship is impressive. His bibliography alone fills 24 pages. Moreover, in addition to his written works, which themselves address many aspects of Judaica, Garber has extensive editorial experience, [End Page 162] and has served as scholar-in-residence in various institutions and universities. Although scholarship has always been the focus of his intellectual pursuits, Garber has also participated in Israeli politics. His influence on the field of Judaica has been considerable. To take but one example, his oft-cited article Why Do We Call the Holocaust 'the Holocaust'? An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Labels (with Bruce Zuckerman) appearing in Modern Judaism, Vol. 9, No. 2 (1989), is a gem in the psychological study of the Holocaust. It is, in the Garber tradition, hard hitting, thought-provoking, and well written.

It is beyond the scope of this review to examine each particular essay thoughtfully assembled by Steven Jacobs. However, I think it appropriate to note that Jacobs garnered contributions from some of the most outstanding scholars in the field, including those from Lawrence Baron, Michael Berenbaum, Louis H. Feldman, Eugene Fisher, Esther Fuchs, James F. Moore, Gilead Morahg, Jacob Neusner, David Patterson, John T. Pawlikowski, John K. Roth, and Richard L. Rubenstein. They all reflect Garber's imaginative creativity and scholarly tenacity, the two sides of her husband's rich personality Susan Garber chooses to highlight in the poem she wrote in tribute to her husband, a poem that adds a personal dimension to Jacobs' collection. In what follows, I focus on the sections "Dialogue" and "Shoah Theology," two issues which Garber has increasingly and extensively addressed.

Legitimate Jewish/Christian dialogue is a new development in the tortured relationship between the elder and younger brothers of the Abrahamic tradition. Less than a half century has passed since the Second Vatican Council in 1965 promulgated Nostra Aetate [N.A.]-one of the most significant religious documents of modernity. N.A. emerged from the ashes of Auschwitz and signaled the beginning of a profound soul-searching on the part of the Catholic Church in relation to its theology of the Jewish people. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council and subsequent implementing documents of N.A., the Church took progressive steps in moving away from the preceding nineteen hundred years of the teaching of contempt and...


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