|About this title|
|While Israel is producing an overabundance of rabbis, the American Jewish community, it seems, is experiencing the shortage of qualified personal. In addition to the questions of quantity, the direction and the role that is played by the Jewish leaders is questioned as well.|
These two volumes, a product of a multi-year project to examine the challenges facing current Jewish religious leaders—rabbis, cantors, educators, and lay congregation leaders— and read at two conferences, is an attempt to place contemporary circumstances within a larger historical framework. The work represents a tangible outcome of those deliberations.
The volumes review a broad sweep of the Jewish historical experience, starting with the essays on charismatic leadership in the Hebrew Bible and ending with contemporary Israel and the United States.
The essays encompass Jewish life in environments as diverse as ancient Alexandria and small-town America; they range over medieval communities in Muslim lands and in Christian Tuscany; they encompass the key centers of medieval Ashkenaz and Sepharad, Germany and Spain; they include offshoot groups, such as the Karaites, and also examine the largest centers of Jewish activity in ancient Palestine and Babylonia, medieval Egypt, and pre-Holocaust Poland and Russia.
Contributors run the gamut from historians to anthropologists; Bible scholars and talmudists have contributed, as have students of modern literature, philosophy, and sociology. Though organized in roughly chronological fashion and with
due deference to milieu, articles in these volumes can be read profitably for how they resonate with one another even when they are concerned with communities at quite a remove in time and place.
|Jack Wertheimer, —|
Dr. Jack Wertheimer is the Joseph and Martha Mendelson Professor of American Jewish History at The Jewish Theological Seminary. His area of specialization is modern Jewish history, with a particular focus on trends in the religious, educational, and organizational sectors of American Jewish life since World War II. Dr. Wertheimer is the author or editor of more than a dozen volumes, including Unwelcome Strangers: East European Jews in Imperial Germany (Oxford University Press, 1987); The American Synagogue: A Sanctuary Transformed (Cambridge University Press, 1987); The Uses of Tradition: Jewish Continuity in the Modern Era (JTS/Harvard); and The Modern Jewish Experience—A Reader's Guide (NYU Press). He also wrote A People Divided: Judaism in Contemporary America (Basic Books), which won the National Jewish Book Award for the best study on contemporary Jewish life from 1993 to 1994. A People Divided was reissued by the University Press of New England in September 1997.