Synopses & Reviews
'Sefton Temkin has provided us with a much-needed critical and balanced portrayal of Wise . . . The best scholarly work on Wise to date. It presents an admiring yet critical picture of Wise's achievements and personality . . . a welcome contribution to our understanding of the man and his times.' George L. Berlin, AJS Review'Thorough and extremely competent . . . Temkin contributes a great deal through his careful use of materials . . . The book will be of interest to general readers . . . who wish not only to understand Isaac Mayer Wise but, moreover, to comprehend the attitudes and events that led to the formation of a truly American form of Judaism.' A. J. Avery-Peck, Choice'An important book which illumines a formative era of American Jewry and of the United States itself . . . scholarly and readable.' William Frankel, Jewish ChronicleAmerican Reform Judaism's major institutions-Hebrew Union College, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Reform prayer book Minhag America-were all due to the singular efforts of Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900). Sefton Temkin's biography captures the vigour of Wise's personality and the politics and concerns of Jewish life and leadership in America at that time. It is a lively portrait of a rabbi who was a pivotal figure in the naturalization of Jews and Judaism in the New World.
American Reform Judaism's major institutions - Hebrew Union College, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Reform prayerbook Minhag America - were all due to the singular efforts of Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900). Professor Temkin's biography captures the vigor of Wise's personality and the politics and concerns of Jewish life and leadership in America at that time. It is a lively portrait of a rabbi who was a pivotal figure in the naturalization of Jews and Judaism in the New World.
Many books on Maimonides have been written and still more will appear. Few present Maimonides, as Menachem Kellner does against the actual religious background that informed his many innovative and influential choices. He not only analyses the thought of the great religious thinker but contextualizes it in terms of the 'proto-kabbalistic' Judaism that preceded him. Kellner shows how the Judaism that Maimonides knew had come to conceptualize the world as an enchanted universe, governed by occult affinities. He shows why Maimonides rejected this and how he went about doing it. Kellner argues that Maimonides' attmepted reformation failed, the clearest proof of that being the success of the kabbalistic counter-reformation which his writings provoked. Kellner shows how Maimonides rethought Judaism in different ways. It is in highlighting this and identifying Maimonides as a religious reformer that this book makes its key contribution. Maimonides created a new Judaism, 'disenchanted', depersonalized, and challenging; a religion that is at the same time elitist and universalist. Kellner's analysis also shows the deep configuration of Judaism in a new light.
If, as Moshe Idel says in his Foreword, Maimonides was able to 'reform so many aspects of rabbinic Judaism single-handedly, to enrich it by importing such dramatically different concepts, it shows that the profound structures of this religion are flexible enough to allow the emergence and success of astonishing reforms. The fact that, great as Maimonides was, he did not overcome the traditional forms of proto-kabbalism shows that the dynamic of religion is much more complex than subscribing to authorities, however widely accepted.'