Studies in the Meaning of Judaism

Studies in the Meaning of Judaism

Studies in the Meaning of Judaism

Studies in the Meaning of Judaism


A JPS Scholar of Distinction title

Noted educator, author, and speaker Eugene Borowitz delivers the fruits of his scholarship with grace in this new addition to the JPS Scholar of Distinction series. Gathered in this single volume are 33 essays covering the themes of modern Jewish theology, education, the history of Reform Judaism in America, Jewish law, ethics, and religious dialogue. This collection will appeal to a wide audience, including rabbis; scholars; and readers of religion, modern Jewish thought, and liturgy.


In most academic disciplines, the balance between accepted method and individual creativity is weighted heavily toward the accepted ways of doing things. The researcher’s special insight expresses itself largely in finding new modes of applying the established methodology, or finding new materials that merit consideration, or some other productive new take on carrying on this work. Only rarely does an academic in such a field hope to create a significantly new manner of thinking about and studying the old discipline. This pre-understanding led to my first intellectual shock when I came to rabbinical school in 1942.

What interested me was something that I naively, and for want of a better term, called “Jewish theology.” The Hebrew Union College (HUC) was unique in those days because it had a Professor of Jewish Theology, one professor who did not limit himself to investigating the history of Jewish ideas. But his unique title meant that there were no colleagues whose cognate work could set the standards for estimable ways of “doing” Jewish theology and whose evaluation of each other’s thinking could create a field of discussion. Worse, most of my fellow students derided the area as Jewishly inauthentic, its very name testifying that this activity was but another fawning effort to gain favor with the gentiles.

I felt differently. Even as a youngster I exasperated my synagogue schoolteachers and my rabbi with my questions about the general nature and content of contemporary Jewish belief and its validation. Something, too, helped me reject the inflated self-confidence that led my university teachers of philosophy and the social sciences to scorn religious belief while confidently preaching that reason was the . . .

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