Page 171 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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B l a u — J e w i s h P h i l o s o p h y a n d R e l i g i o n
of these books. Perhaps the crucial difference between this group
of publications and the academic publications mentioned earlier
is that non-Jews could also benefit greatly (and have done so)
from the academic works, but would gain far less from reading
the works by these rabbis.
In some cases the inadequacy of these books to the scholarly
critic may stem precisely from their adequacy to the audience
and the situation to which they were originally directed. One
recent trend in American religious life, in both its Jewish and
non-Jewish sectors, has been the return to religious affiliation,
partly out of social need and partly in the search for meaningful
life. A large number of Jews who have joined the synagogues in
this “revival” lack any adequate preparation in the Jewish tradi-
tion. To help such people find their way to significant participa-
tion rather than mere affiliation, many synagogues, Jewish cen-
ters, and other Jewish organizations have maintained adult
education programs of varying degrees of depth. Since the chief
lecturers are rabbis, it is surely no cause for surprise that some
of the lecture series find their way into print. In such cases the
presentation of the material is likely to be simple and direct. The
author properly stresses those features most likely to appeal to
a popular audience, even though this may lead to disproportion
or unbalance from a scholarly viewpoint.
Denominational Literature
Another current trend with literary consequences is the sharp-
ening of denominational lines. Orthodox, modern Orthodox, Con-
servative, Reconstructionist, and Reform groups are all caught
up in this trend (as well as in a counter-trend toward a Jewish
“ecumenism”). Each group has given birth to a number of inter-
esting and, to an extent, scholarly interpretations of its char-
acteristic accommodation between Jewish tradition and contem-
porary life. Here, again, homiletic and apologetic tendencies
abound, but the patient and wary reader can thread his way
through this material to a core of valuable insights. Samuel Bel-
Essays in T rad itiona l Jewish Though t
(Philosophical Li-
brary, 1956) and
In H is Image: The Jewish Philosophy of Man
as Expressed in R abb in ic T rad ition
(Abelard-Schuman, 1960),
together with Eliezer Berkovits'
Man , and H istory: A Jew
ish In terpreta tion
(Jonathan David, 1959) offer a picture of the
Orthodox position at its best. Conservative thought is well repre-
sented in a cluster of books by Robert Gordis:
Judaism: An American Philosophy
(Behrman’s Jewish Book
House, 1945);
Judaism for the Modern Age
(Farrar, Straus and
Cudahy, 1955);
A Faith for Moderns
(Bloch Publishing Co.,