Jewish Meaning in a World of Choice


Jewish Meaning in a World of Choice

Studies in Tradition and Modernity

David Ellenson

A JPS Scholar of Distinction Book Series

376 pages


October 2014


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eBook (PDF)
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October 2014


$50.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2014


$50.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Internationally recognized scholar David Ellenson shares twenty-three of his most representative essays, drawing on three decades of scholarship and demonstrating the consistency of the intellectual-religious interests that have animated him throughout his lifetime.


These essays center on a description and examination of the complex push and pull between Jewish tradition and Western culture. Ellenson addresses gender equality, women’s rights, conversion, issues relating to who is a Jew, the future of the rabbinate, Jewish day schools, and other emerging trends in American Jewish life. As an outspoken advocate for a strong Israel that is faithful to the democratic and Jewish values that informed its founders, he also writes about religious tolerance and pluralism in the Jewish state.


The former president  of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, the primary seminary of the Reform movement, Ellenson is widely respected for his vision of advancing Jewish unity and of preparing leadership for a contemporary Judaism that balances tradition with the demands of a changing world.


Scholars and students of Jewish religious thought, ethics, and modern Jewish history will welcome this erudite collection by one of today’s great Jewish leaders.

Author Bio

David Ellenson is chancellor of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. His book After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity won the National Jewish Book Council’s Award as the outstanding book in Jewish thought in 2005. His most recent book, coauthored with Daniel Gordis, is Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa.


"This volume is an excellent addition to academic Judaica collections."—Barbara M. Bibel, Jewish Book Council

"Scholars and students of Jewish religious thought, ethics, and modern Jewish history will welcome this erudite collection by one of today's great Jewish leaders."—Jewish Media Review

"This is an excellent collection of articles that any reader interested in the work of David Ellenson and the focus of his scholarship will surely appreciate."—David Tesler, Association of Jewish Libraries

"A welcome addition to public and college library Judaic Studies shelves."—Midwest Book Review

“For over three decades David Ellenson has shaped the life of world Jewry through the power of his scholarship, depth of vision, and kindness of soul. His uniqueness is that in his writings he searches not to hide or homogenize complexity but rather to study it, celebrate it, and enable it to challenge our preconceptions. This book is critical for all who want to know not only the foundations and struggles of modern Jewish life but, more important, the future direction it can take.”—Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute

“From the gifted pen of Rabbi David Ellenson come lucid essays covering Zionism, religious pluralism, feminism, and equal rights that illuminate not only a lifetime of scholarship and activism but also the complex bonds that link Jews in the United States with their forebears in Europe and contemporaries in Israel. Each essay sparkles like a gem, with compelling grace and power.”—Deborah Dash Moore, Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, University of Michigan

Table of Contents


Part 1. Shaping Jewish Life in an Open Society

1. A Response by Modern Orthodoxy to Jewish Religious Pluralism: The Case of Esriel Hildesheimer

2. German Orthodox Rabbinical Writings on the Jewish Textual Education of Women: The Views of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer

3. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch to Liepman Phillip Prins of Amsterdam: An 1873 Responsum on Education

4. An Ideology for the Liberal Jewish Day School: A Philosophical-Sociological Investigation

5. Denominationalism: History and Hopes

6. The Integrity of Reform within Kelal Yisra-el

Part 2. Searching for a Balanced Theology

7. A Theology of Fear: The Search for a Liberal Jewish Paradigm

8. Eugene B. Borowitz: A Tribute on the Occasion of His 70th Birthday

9. Laws and Judgments as a “Bridge to a Better World”: Parashat Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1–24:18)

10. Heschel and the Roots of Kavanah: Responsibility and Kavanah in Postwar America

11. Rabbi Hayim David Halevi on Christians and Christianity: An Analysis of Selected Legal Writings of an Israeli Authority

12. Interreligious Learning and the Formation of Jewish Religious Identity

Part 3. Visions for Israel

13. A Zionist Reading of Abraham Geiger and His Biblical Scholarship

14. National Sovereignty, Jewish Identity, and the “Sake of Heaven”: The Impact of Residence in Israel on Halakhic Rulings on Conversion

15. The Talmudic Principle, “If One Comes Forth to Slay You, Forestall by Slaying Him,” in Israeli Public Policy: A Responsum by Rabbi Hayim David Halevi

16. The Rock from Which They Were Cleft: A Review-Essay of Haim Amsalem’s Zera Yisrael and Mekor Yisrael

17. Moshe Zemer’s Halakhah Shefuyah: An Israeli Vision of Reform and Halakhah

18. Reform Zionism Today: A Consideration of First Principles

Part 4. Rabbis and the Rabbinate: Lezakot et Harabim

19. Wissenschaft des Judentums, Historical Consciousness, and Jewish Faith: The Diverse Paths of Frankel, Auerbach, and Halevy

20. “Creative Misreadings” in Representative Post-Emancipation Halakhic Writings on Conversion and Intermarriage

21. A Portrait of the Poseq as Modern Religious Leader: An Analysis of Selected Writings of Rabbi Hayim David Halevi

22. Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits on Conversion: An Inclusive Orthodox Approach

23. Transformation of the Rabbinate: Future Directions and Prospects

Source Acknowledgments

Bibliography of the Published Writings of David Ellenson

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