Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, who recently passed away in his late nineties, was one of the most accomplished Orthodox rabbis of the 20th century. Trained as a lawyer and political scientist as well as a rabbi, he served several prestigious congregations in the U.S., headed the New York Board of Rabbis as well as the Rabbinical Council of America, was assistant to the president of Yeshiva University, and during the latter portion of his life, was first president and then chancellor of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University. A Modern Orthodox Life contains sermons and columns assembled by members of Rabbi Rackman’s family in order to provide a sense of his vast interests, passion for justice and activism, spiritual sensitivity, and considerable erudition. During the course of these writings, no fewer than 81 different rabbis, jurists, philosophers, historians, political figures, and authors are referenced and/or critiqued. Rabbi Rackman repeatedly comments upon Judaism’s emphasis on self-discipline, the avoidance of self-centeredness, the evils of anti-Semitism, the special qualities of modernity, and the importance of a positive outlook on the variegated experiences of life. One cannot fail to be impressed and inspired by the words of this courageous, outspoken, and original Jewish thinker and leader.
Yaakov (Jack) Bieler was the founding Rabbi of the Kemp Mill Synagogue in Silver Spring, MD until his retirement in 2015. He has been associated with Jewish day school education for over thirty years. R. Bieler served as a mentor for the Bar Ilan University Lookstein Center Principals’ Seminar and he has published and lectured extensively on the philosophy of Modern Orthodox education.