Sarah 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 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 Autobiography—the 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.”
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, 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.