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.