Ruderman, David B

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 50
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  • Publication
    The 12 Covenants of Pinchas Hurwitz: How an 18th-Century Eastern European Kabbalist Jew Produced One of the First Hebrew Bestsellers
    (2016-10-13) Ruderman, David B
    The Book of the Covenant (Sefer ha-Brit) was one of the most popular Hebrew books read by modern Jews, as reflected in 40 editions spanning two centuries, including three Yiddish and six Latino translations. Part scientific encyclopedia, part manual of mystical ascent, and part plea to Jews to embrace a universal ethics, the work was widely influential in an era of radical change and internal debate for Jews as well as for others. The amazing popularity of the author, the Eastern European Jew Pinchas Hurwitz (1765-1821), stemmed from his kabbalistic pedigree. He offered his readers an exciting compendium of scientific knowledge they could read in their holy language under the pretext that its acquisition fulfilled their highest spiritual goals.
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    Tragedy and Transcendence: The Meaning of 1492 for Jewish History
    (1992) Ruderman, David B
    This year we commemorate the five hundredth anniversary of a tragic expulsion. Our history is replete with tragic moments, but this moment is of enormous significance for Jewish as well as for Christian and Moslem history. For Jews, 1492 constituted the abrupt end of an extraordinary cultural experience, a formative and repercussive period in the life of our people affecting every area of its civilization: Halakha, philosophy, kabbalah, poetry, ethical literature, messianism, political thought, and more.2 A world of enormous vitality and effervescence, a world, both in its high and low points, that can teach us a great deal about the nature of our faith and community, about our interaction with others, in short, about ourselves.
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    Review of Robert Bonfil, The Rabbinate in Renaissance Italy
    (1980) Ruderman, David B
    At least since the publication of Shlomo Simonsohn's comprehensive study of Mantuan Jewry, Italian Jewish history has emerged as a significant scholarly field for a growing number of researchers in Israel and abroad. Their numerous publications have considerably supplemented and refined the earlier attempts by Cecil Roth, Moses Avigdor Shulvass, Israel Zinberg and Attlilio Milano to chart the course of Italian Jewish history in the Renaissance period and before. They have also revealed all too glaringly the inadequacies of the edifice the earlier researchers had constructed. When Shulvass and Roth, in particular, wrote their popular surveys of Jewish life in the Renaissance, neither had sufficiently utilized the voluminous archival and manuscript resources now more readily available some twenty years later; nor did either of their works deeply penetrate the larger Christian cultural and social context of Jewish life on Italian soil.
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    Three Anglo-Jewish Portraits and Their Legacy for Today: Moses Marcus, the Convert; Abraham Tang, the Radical Maskil; David Levi, the Defender of Judaism
    (2007-01-01) Ruderman, David B
    My fascination with Anglo-Jewish history emerged by chance, but has been profound enough for me to write two books on the subject. My appreciation of the richness, diversity and significance of the history of Jewish cultural history on English soil continues to grow and deepen. There is a long tradition of Jewish historical writing, exemplified by the work of the Jewish Historical Society of England. But modern historians have barely begun to take pre-twentieth century Anglo-Jewish history seriously. The drama of modernity seems still to be regarded as a German story, beginning with Mendelssohn and continuing into Eastern Europe. Historians such as Todd Engelman and David Katz have made major contributions to our subject, but in so doing have sometimes revealed their own biases.
  • Publication
    De Culturele Betekenis van het Getto in de Joodse Geschiedenis
    (2003-01-01) Ruderman, David B
    Bezien vanuit het perspectief van het joodse culturele geheugen wordt de term 'getto' vaak beschouwd als een vies woord.* De joden, die naar verondersteld wordt voor een groot deel van de joodse geschiendenis een gettobestaan leden, raakten pas 'geëmancipeerd' in de moderne tijd en ondanks de vaak negatieve consequenties van hun bevrijding en hun integratie in de westerse seculiere culturen — het virulente antisemitisme en de genocide die volgden — wordt hun geëmancipeerde staat meestal gezien als een zegen vergeleken met het hermetisch afgesloten en vervreemde bestaan van voor hun bevrijding. In het bijzonder voor hedendaagse joden heeft de term 'getto' allerlei negatieve bijklanken. Uitdrukkingen als 'het gettotijdperk', 'gettomentaliteit', 'gettojood' en 'weg van het getto' impliceren allemaal een erg negatief bestaan, een terugval naar een tijd waarin joden legaal en sociaal beteugeld werden en waarin hun cultuur zich karakteriseerde door beperkingen en bekrompenheid, die duideiijk het gevolg van hun afzondering waren. De term 'getto' heeft met de Holocaust een nog negatievere klank gekregen, zoals in de aanduiding 'het getto van Warschau'. Anderen hebben de term gebruikt om te refereren aan alle wijken die dicht bevolkt worden door leden van een minderheidsgroep, zoals de 'Afro-Americans' of 'native Americans', die gedwongen worden onder vreselijke en armzalige imstandigheden te leven als gevolg van sociaal-economische zowel als legale beperkingen.1
  • Publication
  • Publication
    The Hague Dialogues
    (2012-01-01) Ruderman, David B
    Imagine the following scenario: A young scholar from Vilna, having wandered through several cities in Eastern Europe and Germany arrived in the city of the Hague at the close of the 1780s, enjoyed the material support of the richest family of Jewish merchants in the city, the Boaz family, and sought and gained the religious approval of the rabbi of the city, Judah Leib Mezerich. His name was Pinhas Elijah ben Meir Hurwitz (1765-1821) and he was about to complete the first draft of a manuscript of his soon-to-be published book, an encyclopedia of the sciences entitled Sefer ha-Brit (The Book of the Covenant).1 The young Hurwitz soon learned of the presence of an aging sage who lived in the city, a rigorous philosopher and émigré from Mainz, Naphtali Herz Ulman (1731-87). Ulman had completed a multi-volume philosophic opus of which only the first volume, Hokhmat ha-shorashim [The Science of Roots or First Principles], had been published in 1781.2 Hurwitz was hardly a philosopher in his own right; in fact he had been drawn to the study of the kabbalah. But he did share something in common with Ulman — an appreciation of the life of the mind and particularly a fascination for the natural world and the new sciences, and they were both Ashkenazic Jews with knowledge of the German language.3 It seemed natural that Hurwitz would seek out Ulman and converse with the major intellectual figure of Hague Jewry.
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    The Academic Study of Judaism: A Challenge to the Reform Rabbi
    (1989) Ruderman, David B
    Any discussion of the Reform rabbinate and the academic study of Judaism presupposes some distinct notion of the primary function of a rabbi, as well as a clear definition of what Torah means in the context of our contemporary community and the new settings in which Jewish learning are presently located. Admittedly, both definitions that I offer are subjective and incomplete and arise from my own unique situation of being both an academic scholar and a Reform rabbi, as well as the son of a Reform rabbi.
  • Publication
    Medieval and Modern Jewish History
    (1995) Ruderman, David B
    There has been a virtual explosion of scholarly writing on Jewish history in the medieval and modern periods during the last thirty years. One rough measure of this development is to compare the present entries on Jewish history in this Guide with the previous edition published in 1961. Of the hundred and twenty items on Jewish history listed in the earlier Guide, less than half actually pertain to the medieval and modern periods. This compares with some 325 items allotted to this section of the present Guide dealing exclusively with postancient Jewish history. But the sheer number of cited works is only the beginning of the story. Among the entries in the 1961 edition, the number of individual authors is relatively small; Salo W. Baron is listed several times, as are Cecil Roth, Jacob Marcus, and Guido Kisch. This obviously reflects the relatively small number of professional historians in the field as of 1961 and an even smaller number holding full-time positions in North American universities.