Jew­ish Mean­ing in a World of Choice: Stud­ies in Tra­di­tion and Modernity

David Ellen­son
  • Review
By – January 30, 2015

For this vol­ume Rab­bi David Ellen­son, for­mer chan­cel­lor of Hebrew Union Col­lege-Jew­ish Insti­tute of Reli­gion and a renowned schol­ar of respon­sa lit­er­a­ture and mod­ern Jew­ish prayer books, has cho­sen twen­ty-three of his essays, writ­ten over three decades, that address the mul­ti­va­lent push and pull between Jew­ish tra­di­tion and West­ern cul­ture.” Reflect­ing his inter­est in the inter­sec­tion of the­ol­o­gy, his­to­ry, and soci­ety, the essays demon­strate the con­sis­ten­cy of his intel­lec­tu­al and reli­gious inter­ests through­out his life. 

The essays argue for and cel­e­brate an inclu­sive Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty that affirms gen­der equal­i­ty, a lenient approach to con­ver­sion, the embrace of GLBTQ per­sons as equals, and a strong Israel that is faith­ful to the demo­c­ra­t­ic and Jew­ish val­ues that informed the founders of the Jew­ish state.” Some of the essays are aca­d­e­m­ic: Rab­bi Sam­son Raphael Hirsch to Leip­man Phillip Prins of Ams­ter­dam: An 1873 Respon­sum on Edu­ca­tion”; A The­ol­o­gy of Fear: The Search for a Lib­er­al Jew­ish Par­a­digm”; Wis­senschaft des Juden­tums, His­tor­i­cal Con­scious­ness, and Jew­ish Faith: The Diverse Paths of Frankel, Auer­bach, and Halevy.” Oth­er entries will like­ly have more appeal to the gen­er­al read­er: Denom­i­na­tion­al­ism: His­to­ry and Hopes”; Reform Zion­ism Today: A Con­sid­er­a­tion of First Prin­ci­ples.” Tak­en togeth­er, they rep­re­sent Rab­bi Ellenson’s wide-rang­ing interests.

Relat­ed content:

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

Discussion Questions