A Unique Per­spec­tive: Rav Breuer’s Essays, 1914 – 1973

Rav. Dr. Joseph Breuer; Elliott Bon­di and David Bech­hofer, eds.
  • Review
By – October 10, 2011

Rab­bi Dr. Joseph Breuer (1882 – 1980), a grand­son of Rab­bi Sam­son Raphael Hirsch, was the last Rosh Yeshi­va of the Frank­furt Yeshi­va and the found­ing rab­bi of Con­gre­ga­tion K’hal Adath Jeshu­run and Yeshi­va Rab­bi Sam­son Raphael Hirsch in Wash­ing­ton Heights, N.Y. Dur­ing his years in Frank­furt, he taught his stu­dents to become pro­fi­cient in Tal­mud and remain enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly Ortho­dox in what­ev­er walk of life they pur­sued there­after. He wrote com­men­taries on Yir­miyahu and Yechezkel as well as on the Piyu­tim (litur­gi­cal writ­ings) for the High Hol­i­days, fol­low­ing the approach used by Rab­bi Hirsch in his Com­men­taries to the Torah and the Psalms. Fol­low­ing Kristall­nacht, Rab­bi Breuer escaped to New York where he re-built the famed Frank­furt Kehilla” (elect­ed local com­mu­nal (sec­u­lar as well as reli­gious) Jew­ish struc­ture in Cen­tral and East­ern Europe between 1918 – 1940) orig­i­nal­ly estab­lished by Rab­bi Hirsch. As Rab­bi Hirsch did for Ger­many, Rab­bi Breuer brought to post­war Amer­i­ca his grandfather’s unique approach to Ortho­doxy—Torah im Derech Eretz. 

Rab­bi Breuer was a pro­lif­ic writer both in Frank­furt and New York. This anthol­o­gy of 136 of his essays, A Unique Per­spec­tive, reflects his approach to mat­ters of the­ol­o­gy, com­mu­ni­ty, edu­ca­tion, and spe­cial occa­sions in Jew­ish life. The essays are in chrono­log­ic order and at times reflect the momen­tous peri­ods in which they were penned — for exam­ple, the essays writ­ten dur­ing the Holo­caust years are haunt­ing as one can feel the anguish of the peri­od. The need for edu­ca­tion along the lines of Torah imDerech Eretz will find a res­o­nant ear among those who advo­cate that Ortho­dox youth should be edu­cat­ed to even­tu­al­ly find sat­is­fy­ing careers. The strug­gle to build his Kehilla, the his­toric chal­lenge of the found­ing of Israel, a guide to the holi­ness of mar­riage and the pro­found lessons taught by the Sab­bath and hol­i­days are sub­jects in the 550-page book which both inspire and teach the reader. 

The essays were orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten in Ger­man; the Eng­lish trans­la­tion is con­tem­po­rary. The sub­ject mat­ter per se does not lend itself to easy read­ing and at times the style is some­what Ger­man­ic.” But for those who wish to appre­ci­ate the rel­e­van­cy of Ortho­doxy in our times, A Unique Per­spec­tive is a fun­da­men­tal text.

Sam­son R. Bech­hofer, a grand­son of Rab­bi Breuer, is a mem­ber of K’hal Adath Jeshu­run (he serves as con­duc­tor of its Shul Choir) and real estate attor­ney in Manhattan.

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