Rabbi Outcast


Rabbi Outcast

Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism

Jack Ross

258 pages


June 2011


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eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

September 2011


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About the Book

Dramatic changes have taken place in the last decade with respect to the views of the American Jewish community toward Israel and Zionism. Since the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000, the involvement of the Israel lobby in precipitating the Iraq War and promoting war on Iran, and Israel’s widely condemned wars in Lebanon and Gaza, large swaths of the American Jewish community have been disenchanted with Israel and Zionism as at no other time since the founding of the State of Israel.

However, anti-Zionism in America has a long history. Elmer Berger was undoubtedly the best-known Jewish anti-Zionist during most of his lifetime, particularly from World War II through the 1967 Six-Day War and its aftermath. A Reform rabbi, Berger served throughout that period as the executive director of the American Council for Judaism, an anti-Zionist organization founded by leading Reform rabbis.

Author Jack Ross places liberal Jewish anti-Zionism (as opposed to that of Orthodox or revolutionary socialist Jews) in historical perspective. That brand of anti-Zionism was virtually embodied by Rabbi Berger and his predecessors in the Reform rabbinate. He advocated forcefully for his position, much to the chagrin of his Zionist detractors. The growing renaissance of liberal Jewish anti-Zionism, combined with the forgotten work of Rabbi Berger and the American Council for Judaism, makes a compelling case for revisiting his work in this full-length, definitive biography.

Author Bio

Jack Ross is a freelance editor and independent historian in Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in the American Conservative, Tikkun, the Mitrailleuse, Daily Caller, Mondoweiss, and Antiwar.com. He is the author of Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism (Potomac, 2011). 


"This is a seminal book, nothing less than the rediscovery of American Jewry’s dissenting tradition. Ostensibly about the fascinating and controversial Rabbi Elmer Berger, it is really much more—a nuanced and readable portrait of people and ideas undeservedly erased from American Jewish history."—Murray Polner, former editor of Present Tense, author of Rabbi: The American Experience, and coeditor of Shalom: The Jewish Peace Letter

"An important book for anyone interested in understanding the complex history of how American Jews have related to the State of Israel. Jack Ross not only tells a fascinating story about the life and times of Rabbi Elmer Berger, a deeply committed anti-Zionist, but he also makes it clear that Zionism is not the religion of all American Jews and certainly was not in the decades before Israel was created."—John J. Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Harrison Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago, and coauthor of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

"As Jews of conscience continue to speak out today against Israeli atrocities in Palestine, Israel’s claim to represent world Jewry has lost all credibility. As this book will show you, there is not and has never been consensus among Jews on the Zionist project."—Anna Baltzer, author of Witness in Palestine

"In his informative and engaging biography of Berger, Jack Ross resurrects the memory of an important Jewish dissident, a man with whom many may disagree, but whose important insights into the nature and consequences of Zionism may be ignored only at our own peril."—Thomas Kolsky, History News Network Book Review

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