Volume 81 of Hebrew Union College Annual Features Essays by HUC-JIR Faculty Members

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) recently published the eighty-first volume of the Hebrew Union College Annual.  Edited by Edward A. Goldman, Editor, and Richard S. Sarason, Associate Editor, the new volume includes essays from HUC-JIR’s Stephen M. Passamaneck, Jason Kalman, and Yossi Leshem.

In “Aspects of Truth and Deception in Jewish Law and Tradition,” Stephen M. Passamaneck writes, “While truth is a revered in virtue in Jewish tradition, and deceit is frowned upon and reviled, the sad fact is that both jostle each other in the ordinary round of human activity and even in the interpretation and understanding of classic Jewish law.  People are not supposed to deceive, and yet what if that deception serves a worth while purpose? What if it is just a lie to foil a thief? Informing, which I shall contend is tantamount to treason, was viewed with horror in Jewish law. The informer might be killed. Yet the information might well be accurate even though the informer may be styled ‘a lying slanderer’ — lashon hara may in fact be a true statement! An individual who informs becomes a marked man, yet a community may employ the same tactic to protect itself. Even the interpretation of mishnaic law may depend upon a proposition which is itself a deception. Both truth and deception for better or worse are both part of the fabric of life. When we view them as abstract concepts, they are clearly at odds, but in the twists and turns of life they are not very far apart.”

In “Dark Places Around the University: The Johns Hopkins University Admissions Quota and the Jewish Community, 1945-1951,” Jason Kalman writes, “At the end of World War II, The Johns Hopkins University implemented a Jewish admissions quota while other American universities were terminating their discriminatory policies. The quota was largely the result of the antisemitism of JHU president Isaiah Bowman. The Baltimore Jewish community did not respond vocally to the quota and, in fact, deliberately kept the matter quiet. This reaction was the result of multiple factors. Bowman played an important role for both the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, particularly in refugee settlement matters. He served as an adviser to the United Nations meeting in San Francisco in 1945. The Jewish community feared that antagonizing him with regard to the JHU quota might backfire when they needed his help in supporting Jewish concerns in international affairs. Further, many of the leading figures in the Baltimore Jewish community had connections to JHU and had profited there from both socially and economically. Challenging the quota so other Jews might share in the benefit of a JHU education could have undermined their elite position and thus reveals their insecurity in the attainment of social status in the postwar years. It further differentiates the Baltimore Jewish community from others in New York and elsewhere where forceful challenges to antisemitism could be raised.”

In “Two Biblical Families and their Differences,” Yossi Leshem writes, “The stories in Genesis 30-31 and 1 Samuel 1 strongly resemble one another: in both a husband prefers his barren wife, who is eventually to bear a son destined for greatness. Initially, the point of both authors appears to be the same: love conquers all. However, the aims of the two authors are not identical. While the latter presents us a harmonious web of love-relationships, the author of the Genesis story does not focus on deep love but rather on Jacobs’s mistakes, themselves an inseparable part of the lifelong web of relationships binding Jacob to his family. By contrast, the newly-introduced Elkanah is presented as loving Hannah totally in spite of her barrenness, while managing not to hurt Peninah. Jacob’s love is portrayed as complex, due to issues from his birth and youth. This will impact on Jacob’s later relationships with Joseph and his other sons.  The central female protagonists also show different orientations: Hannah prays to God, rather than involve Elkanah. Rachel, in contrast, blames Jacob for her predicament. She is incapable of bearing her sorrow alone. These differences reveal the fundamentally different nature of love described in each story: only that between Hannah and Elkanah is unconditional.”

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Since 1924, the Hebrew Union College Annual has published the finest scholarship in the areas of Jewish and Cognate Studies, Ancient and Modern: Bible, Rabbinics, Language and Literature, History, Philosophy, and Religion, providing a scholarly forum of the highest quality. Each article is anonymously peer-reviewed by two readers, and is selected on the basis of its making a new and significant contribution to the discipline in which it is being submitted. Learn more.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is the nation'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


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