Judaism Confronts America
Jonathan D. Sarna
This course examines, through a close reading of selected primary sources, central issues and tensions in American Jewish life, paying attention to their historical background and to issues of Jewish law.
1. Introduction - Why this course could not have been offered a generation ago: (a) cult of synthesis; (b) “the law of the land is the law.”
- · Jonathan D. Sarna, “The Cult of Synthesis in American Jewish Culture,” Jewish Social Studies 5 (Fall/Winter 1998), 52-79.
- · Shlomo Shilo, “Dina De-Malkhuta Dina,’ Encyclopedia Judaica 6 col.51-55 [see also his book in Hebrew on this subject.]
2. Traditional Authority vs. American Freedom
- · For background on responsa, see M. Elon, Jewish Law: History, Sources, Principles (Philadelphia: JPS, 1994), III, 1454-1468 or Solomon Freehof, The Responsa Literature (Philadelphia: JPS, 1954)
- · Prepare text: Who is Saul Loewenstamm and why is this letter sent to him? What is US background of this era (1785)? What are the issues here? If you know some Yiddish, try and compare original and translation.
3. Jewish Prayers for the United States Government
- · Jonathan D. Sarna, “Jewish Prayers for the U.S. Government: A Study in the Liturgy of Politics and the Politics of Liturgy,” Moral Problems in American Life: New Perspectives on Cultural History, ed. Karen Halttunen & Lewis Perry (Ithaca: Cornell, 1998), 200-221
4. Majority Rule
- · Menachem Elon, Jewish Law: History, Sources, Principles (Philadelphia: JPS, 1994), II, 715-727
- · “Majority Rule,” Encyclopedia Judaica 11, pp.804-806.
- · Diane Ashton, “The Lessons of the Hebrew Sunday School” [ER]
- · Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, I, chapter 15 (“Unlimited Power of the Majority in the United States and Its Consequences”). Available online at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/1_ch15.htm.
5. The Problem of Kashrut
- · Jeremiah J. Berman, Shehitah: A Study in the Cultural and Social Life of the Jewish People (New York: Bloch, 1941), 274-305 (306-395 recommended).
- · Harold P. Gastwirt, Fraud, Corruption and Holiness (Port Washington: Kennikat, 1974) - recommended.
Read documents (if you know Hebrew, read Aruch HaShulchan text. What is his concern?)
- · Read up on PETA vs. Rubashkin controversy: see, e.g. Gabriel Sanders, “Animal-rights Activists Take Aim at Glatt Kosher Meat Plant” Forward. New York, N.Y.: Dec 3, 2004.Vol.CVIII, Iss. 31,526; pg. 7 http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=795301931&sid=1&Fmt=3&clientId=3269&RQT=309&VName=PQD and David Cohen, “The Slaughterer’s Conscience,” Jerusalem Report, Jun 13, 2005, pg. 27.
6. The Charleston Organ Controversy
- · Allan Tarshish, “The Charleston Organ Case,” American Jewish Historical Quarterly 54 (1965), 411-449.
- · Jonathan D. Sarna, “The Question of Music in American Judaism: Reflections at 350 Years,” American Jewish History 91 (June 2003), 195-204
- · Alexander Guttmann, The Struggle Over Reform in Rabbinic Literature (1977), 19-32, 177-203, 220-221, 234-236, 292-297
- · Read the Occident, vol.3 and 4 on this issue [ http://www.jewish-history.com/Occident/volume4/apr1846/appeal.html]
- · Mark A. Noll, “The Bible and Slavery,” Religion and the American Civil War, eds. Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout and Charles R. Wilson, (New York: Oxford, 1998), 43-73
- · M.J.Raphall, “The Bible View of Slavery” (1861)
- · Replies by Michael Heilprin and David Einhorn
8. Temperance & Prohibition
- · Jonathan D. Sarna, “Passover Raisin Wine, the American Temperance Movement, and Mordecai Noah: The Origins, Meaning and Wider Significance of a Nineteenth-Century American Jewish Religious Practice,” Hebrew Union College Annual 59 (1988), pp. 269-288.
- · Sprecher, Hannah. “‘Let Them Drink and Forget Our Poverty’: Orthodox Rabbis React to Prohibition.” American Jewish Archives 43 (Fall-Winter 1991): 134-179.
- · Golinkin, David. Responsa of Professor Louis Ginzberg. (Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1996), pp.111-133 [Eng]; 1-77 [Heb]
9. Driving and Electricity on Shabbat
- · Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement 1927-1970, vol. III, 1109-1185
- · Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism: A History (New Haven: Yale, 2004), 282-285.
- · Jenna Weissman Joselit, “In the Driver’s Seat: Rabbinic Authority in Postwar America,” Jewish Religious Leadership Image and Reality, ed. Jack Wertheimer (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 2004), II, 659-670.
10. Women’s issues: seating, agunah, head covering, feminism, women rabbis
- · Jonathan D. Sarna, “The Debate over Mixed Seating in the American Synagogue.” in The American Synagogue: A Sanctuary Transformed, edited by Jack Wertheimer. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
- · Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement 1927-1970, vol. II (peruse) [For brief background, see Sarna, American Judaism, 240-241.
- · Norma Baumel Joseph, “Hair Distractions: Women and Worship in the Responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein,” Jewish Legal Writings By Women, ed. Micah D. Halpern and Chana Safrai (Jerusalem 1998), 9-22.
- · Marc Shapiro, “Another Example of “Minhag America,” Judaism 39 (Spring 1990), 148-154. [See response in Judaism 40 (1991), 79-87].
- · Lynne Schreiber, Hide and Seek: Jewish Women and Hair Covering (Jerusalem: Urim, 2003).
- · Moshe Feinstein, “Concerning the New Movement of Confident and Important Women” [Igrot Moshe OH 4:49].
- · Simon Greenberg, The Ordination of Women As Rabbis: Studies and Responsa (NY: JTS, 1988).
- · Pamela S. Nadell, Women Who Would Be Rabbis (Boston: Beacon, 1998).
- · Charlotte Fonrobert, “From Separatism to Urbanism: The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Rabbinic Eruv,” Dead Sea Discoveries 11 #1 (2004), 43-71.
- · Calvin Tillin, “Drawing the Line,” New Yorker, December 12, 1994, 50-63.
- · Yosef G. Bechhofer, The Contemporary Eruv (New York: Feldheim, 1998).
- · Kassel Abelson and David J. Fine (eds.), Responsa: 1991-2000-The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement (New York: RA, 2002), 612-675 (required), 676-729 (recommended).
- · Steven Greenberg, Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004).
Write an introduction to a published rabbinic responsum (Orthodox, Conservative or Reform, English or Hebrew) that deals with some conflict between Judaism and America. Your job is to introduce the responsum and to provide readers with the necessary background to understand it. Although you want to focus on the issue underlying the responsum, your introduction should also provide the reader with vital information concerning the author of the responsum, when it was written, and how to contextualize it. Feel free to point the reader toward critical passages or points of interpretation.
Note that many Reform responsa are on www.ccarnet.org/index.cfm and are also in published form in the library. Some Conservative responsa are on the net and many are found in volumes like Responsa 1991-2000 by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly; Responsa in a Moment: Halakhic Responses to Contemporary Issues, ed. Rabbi David Golinkin, The Institute of Applied Halakhah; Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement; The Ordination of Women as Rabbis: Studies and Responsa, Simon Greenberg, JTS, 1988. The Responsa of Professor Louis Ginzberg, ed. David Golinkin, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1996. Most Orthodox responsa are in Hebrew and found on the Bar Ilan CD-Rom in the library and many on www.hebrewbooks.org. See also the Journal of Contemporary Halachah and the famous volumes of Igrot Moshe: The Responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (in Hebrew; some are translated).
Explore utilizing primary sources (in conjunction with secondary sources) any theme that highlights aspects of the tension between Judaism and American culture. Your research may utilize newspapers, magazines, responsa, institutional documents, correspondence or other sources; it may deal with one branch of Judaism or various branches; and it may deal with a theme considered in the course so long as it does so using additional (different) primary sources. You must include copies of the primary sources you use as an appendix to your paper (if you use websites, you can provide me with the URLs). Suggested topics (no need to select any of these, they are just suggestions): use of the microphone on Shabbat, mixed dancing, free (unassigned) seating; shaving by men; eating out while on business trips; Celebration of Thanksgiving Day; Christmas & Chanukah; and the approach of one or more contemporary poskim [rabbinic decisors] to America.