Jewish Preaching in Times of War, 1800 - 2001

BookJewish Preaching in Times of War, 1800 - 2001

Jewish Preaching in Times of War, 1800 - 2001

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


August 31st, 2012

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'In this rich collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century sermons, Marc Saperstein demonstrates both the enduring rhetorical power of Jewish preaching and the value of the sermon as window onto Jewish history . . . a compelling selection . . . He argues persuasively that Jewish preachers often found themselves confronted with the challenge of interpreting difficult moral and political questions for their congregations but that these questions took on particular urgency in moments of military conflict . . . In reading through this provocative collection of British and American sermons there are times when one wishes for more . . . Given the value of the material Saperstein presents here, one can only hope that other such studies will follow.'
- Jessica Cooperman, American Jewish Archives Journal

'Sermons brilliantly anthologized by Marc Saperstein . . . rich collection. The very nature of the book's core source material—originally addressed to the Jewish masses—renders this book eminently accessible and of natural interest to a very broad readership. At the same time, Saperstein's extensive historical introductions to each of the sermons, along with his erudite annotations of these texts, will be of enormous value to scholars of modern Jewish theology and history.'
- Allan Nadler, Forward

'Students and scholars of the history of preaching will find it invaluable. The footnotes and introductions that comprise nearly half the book are a scholarly tour de force and the 72-page Introduction to the book as a whole is a riveting overview of elements of Jewish preaching in America and Great Britain and a stunning example of the use of sermons as data in a broader history of the intersection between religious groups and civic life.'
- Margaret Moers Wenig, Homiletic

'Immensely readable . . . a pioneering contribution to the social, religious, and political history of Anglo-Jewry.'
- Jeffrey Cohen, Jewish Chronicle

'Probably the world's greatest expert on Jewish homilectics from the medieval period onwards . . . wide-ranging preface . . . Following a magisterial introduction comne the sermons, each one introduced, explained, and discussed as well as sensitively and helpfully annotated. The selections is acute and the sermons themselves potent and highly readable.

'Marc Saperstein has virtually created a new field of Jewish studies: the scientific study of sermons . . . for having brought together, across the denominational lines that usually separate them, some of the great voices of the past and for having studied their word carefully, both in terms of their context and in terms of what they have to say to us today, we owe Saperstein our gratitude. he has made a genuine contribution to the study of a little-known field of Jewish scholarship.'
- Jack Riemer, Palm Beach Jewish Journal

Wartime sermons reveal how Jews perceive themselves in relation to the majority society and how Jewish and national values are reconciled when the fate of a nation is at stake. They also illustrate how rabbis guide their communities through the challenges of their times. The sermons reproduced here were delivered by American and British rabbis from across the Jewish spectrum—Orthodox to Liberal, Ashkenazi and Sephardi—from the Napoleonic Wars to the attacks of 9/11. Each sermon is prefaced by a comprehensive introduction explaining the context in which it was delivered. Detailed notes explain allusions unfamiliar to a present-day readership and draw comparisons where appropriate to similar passages in contemporary newspapers and other sermons. A general introduction surveys more broadly the distinctive elements of modern Jewish preaching—the new preaching occasions bound up with the history of the countries in which Jews were living; new modes for the dissemination of the sermons (printed pamphlets and the Jewish and general press), and the emergence of women’s voices from the pulpit. It also surveys the distinctive themes of modern Jewish sermons, including responses to Jewish suffering, social justice, eulogies for national leaders, Zionism, and war. What Jewish religious leaders said to their congregations when their countries went to war (or, in some cases, were considering going to war) raises questions of central significance for both modern Jewish history and religious thinking in the civic context. What evidence do these sermons present concerning the degree of patriotism felt by Jews? Where and when do we find examples of dissent from the policies taken by their governments, or explicit criticism? What theological problems are raised by the preachers in the context of unprecedented and unimagined destruction, and how do they respond to these problems? How is the enemy presented in these texts? How is the problem of Jews fighting and killing other Jews addressed? Are the preachers functioning to articulate traditions that challenge the consensus of the moment, or as instruments of social control serving the needs of governments looking for unquestioning support from their citizenry? In all these areas, this book makes an important contribution to the American- and Anglo-Jewish history of this period while also making available a collection of mostly unknown Jewish texts produced at dramatic moments of the past two centuries.

Author Information

Marc Saperstein is Professor of Jewish Studies at King's College London, and Professor of Jewish History and Homiletics at Leo Baeck College, London, where he formerly served for five years as Principal. He is the author of several books, and is widely recognized as the leading authority in this generation on the history of the Jewish sermon in medieval and modern times.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover 1
Half Title2
Title Page4
Note on Editorial Practice28
Note on Transliteration29
INTRODUCTION: Modern Jewish Preaching30
1. Isaac Luria, ‘A Penitential Sermon’, 19 October 1803, London102
2. Solomon Hirschel, Sermon of Thanksgiving ‘for the Success of His Majesty’s Fleet . . . off Trafalgar’, 5 December 1805, London122
3. Gershom Mendes Seixas, ‘Fast Day Sermon’, 2 February 1814, New York138
4. David Woolf Marks, ‘God Protects our Fatherland’, 7 October 1857, London154
5. M. J. Michelbacher, ‘A Sermon Delivered on the Day of Prayer’, 27 March 1863, Richmond, Virginia171
6. Sabato Morais, ‘A Sermon on the National Fast-Day’, 30 April 1863, Philadelphia194
7. Samuel Myer Isaacs, ‘Fast-Day Sermon’, 30 April 1863, New York207
8. David Einhorn, Two Civil War Sermons:221
A. ‘Sermon Delivered on Thanksgiving Day’, 26 November 1863, Philadelphia228
B. ‘War with Amalek!’, 19 March 1864, Philadelphia239
9. Isaac Mayer Wise, ‘The Fall of the Second French Empire’, 9 September 1870, Cincinnati251
10. Benjamin Artom, ‘The War’, 17 September 1870, London264
11. Sabato Morais, ‘Thanksgiving Day Sermon’, 24November 1870, Philadelphia279
12. H. Pereira Mendes, ‘The Plague of Inconsistency’ (selections), 23 April 1898, New York290
13. Joseph Krauskopf, ‘A Time of War, and a Time of Peace’, 1 May 1898, Philadelphia295
14. Hermann Adler, ‘Judaism and War’, 4 November 1899, London313
15. George (Gedaliah) Silverstone, ‘On the Terrible War of 5675’, 25 October 1914, Washington, DC328
16. Morris Joseph, ‘Christmas and War’, 25 December 1915, London339
17. Joseph H. Hertz, ‘Through Darkness and Death unto Light’, 1 January 1916, London346
18. J. Leonard Levy, ‘A Time for War, and a Time for Peace’, 8 April 1917, Pittsburgh353
19. Stephen S. Wise, ‘Can We Win the War without Losing America?’, 20 May 1917, New York375
20. Hermann Gollancz, ‘Nationalism within Bounds’, 7 September 1918, London393
21. Leo M. Franklin, ‘The Lure of Peace’, 13 October 1918, Detroit404
22. Abraham H. Feinberg, ‘America’s Hour of Decision’, 13 September 1939, Rockford, Illinois418
23. Jacob Philip Rudin, ‘God in the Blackout’, 2 October 1940, Great Neck, New York428
24. Eliezer Berkovits, Two Second World War Sermons:435
A. ‘On a Strategy of Faith’, 3 May 1941, Leeds438
B. ‘Triumph of the Spirit’, 7 September 1941, Leeds442
25. Maurice N. Eisendrath, ‘Blackout: How Long, O Lord, How Long?’, 21 September 1941, Toronto448
26. Israel H. Levinthal, ‘Is It Death or Rebirth of the World that We Behold?’, 22 September 1941, New York470
27. Ferdinand M. Isserman, ‘The United States Is at War’, 12 December1941, St Louis479
28. Joseph H. Hertz, ‘Civilian Morale’, 2 April 1942, London491
29. Walter Wurzburger, ‘The Individual in the Crisis’, 9 October 1943,Brighton, Massachusetts500
30. Roland B. Gittelsohn, ‘The Birth of a New Freedom’, 14 March 1945, Iwo Jima510
31. Roland B. Gittelsohn, Two Vietnam War Sermons:518
A. ‘Will There Be a Tomorrow?’, 26 September 1965, Boston521
B. ‘Answer to an Anonymous Letter’, 26November 1965, Boston529
32. Colin Eimer, ‘The Falklands Crisis’, 14 May 1982, Enfield, London537
33. Immanuel Jakobovits, ‘The Morality of Warfare’, 25 May 1982, London543
34. Three Sermons:558
A. Elias Lieberman, ‘A Sermon’, 14 September 2001, Cape Cod, Massachusetts561
B. Alexandra Wright, ‘New York: 11th September 2001’, 18 September 2001, Radlett and Bushey, Hertfordshire565
C. Barry Freundel, ‘Twin Towers of Smoke’, 15 September 2001, Washington, DC570
Source Acknowledgements578
Index of Passages Cited626
General Index630