After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity

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Hebrew Union College Press, 2004 - Religion - 547 pages
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David Ellenson prefaces this fascinating collection of twenty-three essays with a candid account of his journey from boyhood in Virginia to a long and distinguished academic career immersed in the history, thought, and literature of Jewish people. Ellenson, president of the Hebrew Union College, has been particularly intrigued by the attempts of religious leaders in all denominations of Judaism - from Liberal to Neo-Orthodox - to redefine and re-conceptualize themselves and their traditions in the modern period as both the Jewish community and individual Jews entered radically new realms of possibility and change. The essays in After Emancipation are grouped into five sections. In the first, Ellenson reflects upon the expression of Jewish values and Jewish identity in contemporary America, explains his debt to Jacob Katz's socioreligious approach to Jewish history, and shows how the works of non-Jewish social historian Max Weber highlight the tensions between the universalism of Western thought and Jewish demands for a particularistic identity. nineteenth-century Europe demonstrated that the Jewish religion and Jewish culture were worthy of respect by the larger gentile world. In the third section, Ellenson shows how the leaders of Liberal and Orthodox branches of Judaism in Central Europe constructed novel parameters for their communities through prayer books, legal writings, sermons, and journal articles. The fourth section looks at twentieth-century Jewish legal decisions on new issues such as the status of women, fertility treatments, and even the obligations of the Israeli government toward its minority populations. Review essays in the last section analyze landmark contemporary works of legal and liturgical creativity: the new Israeli Masorti prayer book, David Hartman's works on covenantal theology, and Marcia Falk's Book of Blessings. As Ellenson demonstrates, The reality of Jewish cultural and social integration into the larger world after Emancipation did not signal the demise of Judaism. ongoing creativity and adaptability of Jewish religious leaders of all stripes has been tested and displayed.

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About the author (2004)

Ellenson is President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and I.H. and Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought. He is a distinguished rabbi, scholar, and leader of the Reform Movement. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and was ordained by HUC-JIR.

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