Jewish Preaching in Times of War, 1800-2001 (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)

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9781904113546: Jewish Preaching in Times of War, 1800-2001 (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)

Wartime sermons reveal how Jews perceive themselves in relation to the majority society and how Jewish and national values are reconciled when the fate of a nation is at stake. They also illustrate how rabbis guide their communities through the challenges of their times. The sermons reproduced here were delivered by American and British rabbis from across the Jewish spectrum-Orthodox to Liberal, Ashkenazi and Sephardi-from the Napoleonic Wars to the attacks of 9/11. Each sermon is prefaced by a comprehensive introduction explaining the context in which it was delivered. Detailed notes explain allusions unfamiliar to a present-day readership and draw comparisons where appropriate to similar passages in contemporary newspapers and other sermons. A general introduction surveys more broadly the distinctive elements of modern Jewish preaching-the new preaching occasions bound up with the history of the countries in which Jews were living; new modes for the dissemination of the sermons (printed pamphlets and the Jewish and general press), and the emergence of women's voices from the pulpit.

It also surveys the distinctive themes of modern Jewish sermons, including responses to Jewish suffering, social justice, eulogies for national leaders, Zionism, and war. What Jewish religious leaders said to their congregations when their countries went to war (or, in some cases, were considering going to war) raises questions of central significance for both modern Jewish history and religious thinking in the civic context. What evidence do these sermons present concerning the degree of patriotism felt by Jews? Where and when do we find examples of dissent from the policies taken by their governments, or explicit criticism? What theological problems are raised by the preachers in the context of unprecedented and unimagined destruction, and how do they respond to these problems? How is the enemy presented in these texts? How is the problem of Jews fighting and killing other Jews addressed? Are the preachers functioning to articulate traditions that challenge the consensus of the moment, or as instruments of social control serving the needs of governments looking for unquestioning support from their citizenry?

In all these areas, this book makes an important contribution to the American- and Anglo-Jewish history of this period while also making available a collection of mostly unknown Jewish texts produced at dramatic moments of the past two centuries.

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About the Author:

Marc Saperstein is Principal of Leo Baeck College, London. After receiving a Ph.D. at Harvard, he taught there for nine years, holding the first regular faculty position in Jewish Studies at Harvard Divinity School. Before relocating to London, he was the Charles E. Smith Professor of Jewish History and Director of the Program in Judaic Studies at the George Washington University. A Fellow and former Vice President of the prestigious American Academy for Jewish Research, he has been visiting professor at Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University. He is the author of five books, including Jewish Preaching, 1200-1800 and 'Your Voice Like a Ram's Horn': Themes and Texts in Traditional Jewish Preaching, both of which won National Jewish Book Awards, as well as many other works on Jewish history and thought. Professor Saperstein is widely recognized as the leading authority in this generation on the history of the Jewish sermon in medieval and modern times.

Review:

'Sermons brilliantly anthologized by Marc Saperstein ... rich collection. The very nature of the book's core source material-originally addressed to the Jewish masses-renders this book eminently accessible and of natural interest to a very broad readership. At the same time, Saperstein's extensive historical introductions to each of the sermons, along with his erudite annotations of these texts, will be of enormous value to scholars of modern Jewish theology and history.' Allan Nadler, Forward 'Students and scholars of the history of preaching will find it invaluable. The footnotes and introductions that comprise nearly half the book are a scholarly tour de force and the 72-page Introduction to the book as a whole is a riveting overview of elements of Jewish preaching in America and Great Britain and a stunning example of the use of sermons as data in a broader history of the intersection between religious groups and civic life. Margaret Moers Wenig, Homilectic 'Immensely readable ... a pioneering contribution to the social, religious, and political history of Anglo-Jewry.' Jeffrey Cohen, Jewish Chronicle 'Marc Saperstein has virtually created a new field of Jewish studies: the scientific study of sermons ... for having brought together, across the denominational lines that usually separate them, some of the great voices of the past and for having studied their word carefully, both in terms of their context and in terms of what they have to say to us today, we owe Saperstein our gratitude. he has made a genuine contribution to the study of a little-known field of Jewish scholarship.' Jack Riemer, Palm Beach Jewish Journal

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