Isaac Leeser and the Making of American Judaism

Isaac Leeser and the Making of American Judaism

by Lance J. Sussman
     
 

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The best, most comprehensive study of arguably the most important American Jewish leader between the late Jacksonian and Antebellum era, this illuminating biography of Isaac Leeser reconstructs his personal struggles, pioneer efforts on behalf of American Judaism, and visions of a viable American-Jewish synthesis... this book adroitly and articulately reveals not only

Overview

The best, most comprehensive study of arguably the most important American Jewish leader between the late Jacksonian and Antebellum era, this illuminating biography of Isaac Leeser reconstructs his personal struggles, pioneer efforts on behalf of American Judaism, and visions of a viable American-Jewish synthesis... this book adroitly and articulately reveals not only the full scope of Leeser's life but also greatly enhances our understanding of the fundamental condition and challenges of American Jewry during a critical historical period. - From praise from Benny Kraut, University of Cincinnati.

Editorial Reviews

Jewish Book World
This book offers a detailed and well-crafted portrait of one of the early leaders of American Jewry. Leeser arrived in the United States when the Jewish population was small and Jewish institutions provided limited religious and communal services. A fully observant, Orthodox Jew who, like other early American Jewish leaders, was educated but not an ordained rabbi, Leeser established the first Jewish newspaper and the Jewish Publication Society, headed Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia for many years, established the nation's first Jewish college (short-lived), and, along with Rebecca Gratz, the first Jewish Sunday School. These institutions served as an important model for organizations subsequently established throughout the nation as the size and diversity of the Jewish community increased.
Library Journal
Of German origins, Leeser immigrated to the United States in 1824. Despite a limited formal education, he had a profound influence on all aspects of Jewish communal life. He also produced the first English translation of the Bible and published The Occident, the first American-Jewish newspaper, which he edited from 1843 until his death. Using many original sources, Sussman (history, Univ. of Binghamton) relates fascinating details of the tumultuous relationship between Leeser and Mikveh Israel, where he served as rabbi for over 20 years. Sussman also describes the heated controversies and struggles that occurred as the Reform movement (which Leeser strongly opposed) developed. Sussman provides remarkable insight into the early development of organized Jewish life in the United States. This is a comprehensive, authoritative work about a long-neglected but central figure of 19th-century American Jewish life. Recommended for all readers.-Carol R. Glatt, VA Medical Ctr. Lib., Philadelphia
Booknews
Reform rabbi Sussman (State U. of New York-Binghamton) presents a biography of Leeser (1806-68) focusing on his pivotal role in creating an American Jewish identity and culture under the banner of modern Sephardic Orthodoxy before the Civil War. Among his achievements were professionalizing the rabbinate, introducing vernacular preaching, translating the entire Hebrew Bible into English for the first time, editing and publishing The Occident, speaking out for Jewish political rights, improving relations between Christians and Jews, and advocating modern Zionism. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814326718
Publisher:
Wayne State University Press
Publication date:
10/28/1996
Series:
American Jewish Civilization Series
Pages:
312
Product dimensions:
5.98(w) x 8.93(h) x 0.76(d)

Meet the Author

Lance J. Sussman is an associate professor at Binghamton University-State University of New York and a rabbi at Temple Concord, a reform synagogue in Binghamton. A Ph.D. from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, he is a coeditor of Reform Judaism: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (Greenwood Press, 1993).

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