"Between Jewish Tradition and Modernity: Rethinking an Old Opposition" Honors Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Although the ideas of “tradition” and “modernity” may seem to be directly opposed, Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., Chancellor, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, understood that these concepts can also enjoy a more fluid relationship. In honor of Dr. Ellenson, editors Michael A. Meyer and David N. Myers have gathered contributors for Between Jewish Tradition and Modernity: Rethinking an Old Opposition (Wayne State University Press, 2014) to examine the permutations and adaptations of these intertwined forms of Jewish expression. Contributions draw from a range of disciplines and scholarly interests and vary in subject from the theological to the liturgical, sociological, and literary. The geographic and historical focus of the volume is on the United States and the State of Israel, both of which have been major sites of inquiry in Rabbi Ellenson’s work.

In twenty-one essays, contributors demonstrate that modernity did not simply replace tradition in Judaism, but rather entered into a variety of relationships with it: adopting or adapting certain elements, repossessing rituals that had once been abandoned, or struggling with its continuing influence. In four parts—Law, Ritual, Thought, and Culture—contributors explore a variety of subjects, including the role of reform in Israeli Orthodoxy, traditions of twentieth-century bar/bat mitzvah, end-of-life ethics, tensions between Zionism and American Jewry, and the rise of a 1960s New York Jewish counterculture. An introductory essay also presents an appreciation of Dr. Ellenson's scholarly contribution.  

Bringing together leading Jewish historians, anthropologists, sociologists, philosophers and liturgists, Between Jewish Tradition and Modernity offers a collective view of a historically and culturally significant issue that will be of interest to Jewish scholars of many disciplines.

Ten faculty members from HUC-JIR contributed to this collection, including: 

  • Rabbi Rachel R. Adler, Ph.D.
  • Isa Aron, Ph.D.
  • Rabbi Carole B. Balin, Ph.D.
  • Rabbi Lewis M. Barth, Ph.D.
  • Rabbi William Cutter, Ph.D.
  • Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D.
  • Rabbi Michael Marmur, Ph.D.
  • Rabbi Dalia Marx, Ph.D.
  • Michael A. Meyer, Ph.D.
  • Wendy Zierler, Ph.D.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading 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 Jacob Rader Marcus Center of 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