HUC Faculty Receive 2020 National Jewish Book Awards by Jewish Book Council

Sarah Benor HUC FacultySarah Bunin Benor, Ph.D., Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at HUC/Los Angeles, has been awarded the 2020 National Jewish Book Award in Education and Jewish Identity by Jewish Book Council for her book, Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps, co-authored with Jonathan Krasner and Sharon Avni (Rutgers University Press). Benor received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in Linguistics in 2004. She is the author of Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism and founding co-editor of the Journal of Jewish Languages and co-editor of Languages in Jewish Communities, Past and Present and We the Resilient: Wisdom for America from Women Born Before Suffrage. She founded and directs the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project, which produces the Jewish Language Website and the Jewish English Lexicon. Her current projects analyze Hebrew use at Jewish supplementary schools and the names Jews give their children and their pets.

Michael Meyer

Michael A. Meyer, Ph.D., Adolph S. Ochs Professor Emeritus of Jewish History, HUC/Cincinnati, has been named a Finalist in the 2020 National Jewish Book Awards in Biography by Jewish Book Council for his book, Rab­bi Leo Baeck: Liv­ing a Reli­gious Imper­a­tive in Trou­bled Times (University of Pennsylvania Press). Meyer has been awarded several Jewish Book Awards: The Origins of the Modern Jew:  Jewish Identity and European Culture in Germany, 1749-1824 (1967);  Response to Modernity:  A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (1988);  Jewish Identity in the Modern World (1990); and a collection of essays entitled Judaism Within Modernity (2001).  Among books he has edited are Ideas of Jewish History (1974); the four-volume German-Jewish History in Modern Times (1996-1998); Volume Six of the collected writings of Leo Baeck (2003); and Joachim Prinz, Rebellious Rabbi: An Autobiographythe German and Early American Years (2007). In 1996 Professor Meyer won the National Foundation for Jewish Culture’s Scholarship Award in Historical Studies for major influence on colleagues and students in his field and in 2015 he received the Moses Mendelssohn Award “for lifelong dedication to teaching and publishing about German-Jewish history and culture” from the Leo Baeck Institute in New York.

HUC President Andrew Rehfeld stated, “We express great pride in Professors Sarah Bunin Benor and Michael A. Meyer for their path-breaking books, recognized by the National Jewish Book Awards this year. Their academic publications exemplify the scholarship and thought leadership of our faculty. The discoveries and insights in their books are transmitted to our students, who as future leaders will disseminate a deeper understanding of Jewish history, heritage, and identity to communities throughout North America, Israel, and around the world.”

Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps:

Hebrew Infusion cover Based on sev­en years of research and per­son­al obser­va­tion, Hebrew Infu­sion explores the many ways in which sum­mer camps have adopt­ed Hebrew to serve a vari­ety of goals, ulti­mate­ly draw­ing a par­al­lel to the larg­er impact of Hebrew on iden­ti­ty with­in the Jew­ish Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty. Camps present a dis­tinct oppor­tu­ni­ty to pro­mote val­ues and com­mu­ni­ty atti­tudes. Away from home and every­day respon­si­bil­i­ties, campers form a dis­tinc­tive cul­ture, enriched by activ­i­ties, rit­u­als, songs, and cheers. The authors of Hebrew Infu­sion—all pro­fes­sors of lin­guis­tics and Jew­ish edu­ca­tion — view lan­guage as an effec­tive vehi­cle for com­mu­ni­ty-build­ing. It is social, they write, open to cre­ative prac­tices, can be writ­ten or spo­ken, and is part of everyone’s iden­ti­ty. Is Hebrew, then, a vital part of Jew­ish iden­ti­ty? Hebrew Infu­sion explores how so-called ​“sum­mer camp Hebrew,” from lan­guage immer­sion to what the authors call ​“camp Hebraized Eng­lish (CHE),” meets the ​“chal­lenge of fash­ion­ing a dias­poric identity.”

Rab­bi Leo Baeck: Liv­ing a Reli­gious Imper­a­tive in Trou­bled Times:

Rabbi Leo Baeck Cover Rab­bi, edu­ca­tor, intel­lec­tu­al, and com­mu­ni­ty leader, Leo Baeck (1873−1956) was one of the most impor­tant Jew­ish fig­ures of pre­war Ger­many. The pub­li­ca­tion of his 1905 Das Wesen des Juden­tums (The Essence of Judaism) estab­lished him as a major voice for lib­er­al Judaism. He served as a chap­lain to the Ger­man army dur­ing the First World War and in the years fol­low­ing, resist­ing the call of polit­i­cal Zion­ism, he expressed his com­mit­ment to the belief in a vibrant place for Jews in a new Ger­many. This hope was dashed with the rise of Nazism, and from 1933 on, and con­tin­u­ing even after his depor­ta­tion to There­sien­stadt, he worked tire­less­ly in his capac­i­ty as a leader of the Ger­man Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty to offer his core­li­gion­ists what­ev­er prac­ti­cal, intel­lec­tu­al, and spir­i­tu­al sup­port remained pos­si­ble. While oth­ers after the war worked to rebuild Ger­man Jew­ish life from the ash­es, a dis­il­lu­sioned Baeck pro­nounced the effort mis­guid­ed and spent the rest of his life in Eng­land. Yet his name is per­haps best-known today from the Leo Baeck Insti­tutes in New York, Lon­don, Berlin, and Jerusalem ded­i­cat­ed to the preser­va­tion of the cul­tur­al her­itage of Ger­man-speak­ing Jewry.