Hebrew Union College Press announces the publication of After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity by Rabbi David Ellenson, President, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Hebrew Union College Press announces the publication of After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity, by Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

This collection of twenty-three essays reflects the scope of Ellenson's scholarship in Jewish religious thought, modern Jewish history, and ethics. Through his writings, Ellenson demonstrates, "The reality of Jewish cultural and social integration into the larger world after Emancipation did not signal the demise of Judaism. Instead, the modern setting has provided a challenging context where the ongoing creativity and adaptability of Jewish religious leaders of all stripes has been tested and displayed."

Ellenson prefaces this anthology with a remarkably candid account of his intellectual journey from boyhood in Virginia to the scholarly immersions in the history, thought, and literature of the Jewish people that have informed his research interests in a long and distinguished academic career. He 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 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 socio-religious 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.

In the second section, "The Challenge of Emancipation," he indicates how Jewish religious leaders in nineteenth-century Europe labored to demonstrate that the Jewish religion and Jewish culture were worthy of respect by the larger gentile world.

In a third section, "Denominational Responses," 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, "Modern Responsa," takes a close look 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 towards its minority populations.

Finally, review essays in the last section analyze a few 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.

Arnold Eisen, Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University, notes that After Emancipation is an "impressive, well-written, and truly important book. Scholars in the field of modern Judaism will want to read it (and own it, for future reference); rabbis, educators, and thoughtful congregants and community leaders will want to mine Ellenson's words for wisdom on a host of pressing Jewish issues. Ellenson is a consummate teacher: always clear, ever-mindful of what his readers want to know and how to get that knowledge across to them. This book is a masterful achievement by one of Amercan Jewry's most inspiring and beloved mentors."

David N. Myers, Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles, comments that "David Ellenson's scholarship is not merely sound; it is rich and multi-layered. He has an intimate familiarity with classical Jewish sources and interpretive methods that is itself rare. His ability to parse expertly a wide range of works - primarily halakhic and liturgical but also philosophic - is even more impressive. Building upon this command, Ellenson draws on broad historical knowledge to offer careful and illuminating contextualization. I can think of few scholars in the field of Jewish studies who possess such a unique blend of erudition. As he moves from one field or time period to another, he never loses sight of the core confrontation between the weight of tradition and the freedom afforded by modernity that stands at the center of this (and his other) work."

Dr. David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and I.H. and Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought, is a distinguished rabbi, scholar, and leader of the Reform Movement. He is internationally recognized for his publications and research in the areas of Jewish religious thought, ethics, and modern Jewish history. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1981 and was ordained by HUC-JIR in 1977. He is a Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem and a Fellow and Lecturer at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Rabbi Ellenson's extensive publications include Tradition in Transition: Orthodoxy, Halakhah and the Boundaries of Modern Jewish History (1989), Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy (1990), and Between Tradition and Culture: The Dialectics of Jewish Religion and Identity in the Modern World (1994).

Published by Hebrew Union College Press ISBN 0-87820-223-4

Distributed by Wayne State University Press 1-800-WSU-READ (1-800-978-7323)

6" x 9"

547 pages

Price: $35.00

Available from the HUC-JIR Bookstore at (513) 221-4651 or from Wayne State University Press at (800) WSU-READ or (800) 978-7323


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu