Page 36 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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JANE S. GERBER
Jewish Historical Writing inAmerica
1970-1980
T
h e
p a st
d ec a d e
has witnessed new and largely unpred ic ted d e ­
velopments in the field o f Jewish scholarship in America, de ­
velopments which have had an im po rtan t impact on Jewish his­
torical writing. The growth o f Jewish studies at American un iver­
sities in the past decade has resulted in the introduction o f Jewish
studies on over 300 campuses in the country, the marked increase
in a serious Jewish readership , the training o f hund reds o f young
scholars in the fields o f Judaica or in various disciplines with
strong research interests in Judaica, and the resulting p roduc tion
o f a multiplicity o f dissertations, monog raphs, articles and
“readers” for classroom use. The publishing o f books o f serious as
opposed to popu lar Jewish content has even produced unantici­
pated commercial success for more than one o f the university
presses or Juda ica publishers. This context has had significant
implications for the field o f Jewish historical writing.
Sociologists will undoubtedly ponder the ex traordinary growth
o f Jewish studies in the past decade, tracing it to external as well as
internal causes. Particularly in America, but also to a noted ex ten t
elsewhere, this growth in Jewish studies has been accompanied by
a corollary growth in resources for Jewish Studies — libraries,
lectures, scholarly journals, upgraded adult education offerings.
Since there is always a time lag between the training o f young
scholars and th e ir period o f m a tu ra tion and g rea te s t p ro ­
ductivity, one can anticipate that the literary and scholarly ou tpu t
in Judaica will increase notably in the 1980’s. In fact, as we tu rn to
ou r survey o f books produced in the past ten years it is app a ren t
that the “masters” o f the field still dom inated in many areas and
that noteworthy contributions o f the “younger genera tion” are
very recent.
Among the fields o f Jewish learning which have witnessed the
greatest growth, historical studies have been the most popu la r in
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