Page 18 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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B. BARRY LEVY
The Orthodox Publishing Explosion
in Perspective
O
r t h o d o x
p u b l ic a t io n
is
usually by Orthodox Jews for O rtho­
dox Jews and is devoted, at least in part, to furthering Orthodox
positions on religious matters. Recent years have witnessed the
production of a number of sociological studies of Orthodox
communities and institutions,1but they are quite different from
the kinds of publications that Orthodox agencies produce about
themselves. While sometimes used by the objects of the studies
for their own purposes, they cannot wear the Orthodox label.
Similarly, there are significant numbers of halakhically com­
mitted scholars — many of whom hold Orthodox ordination —
who teach in the universities of North America and write about
Jewish history, literature, philosophy and thought. While their
religious preferences and private convictions may affect their
choices of subjects and areas of specialization (there are very few
in the field of Biblical Studies, for example), most of their schol­
arly output has yet to be recognized as Orthodox to any greater
extent than that of Orthodox mathematicians and physicians.
This could happen if these scholars exhibited a stronger inter­
est in influencing the religious beliefs of American Jews or admit­
ted that their writings reflect a careful avoidance of certain issues
or problems and, therefore, belong in the ranks of contemporary
Orthodox composition; but either of these acknowledgments
might compromise their academic positions. O f course, their
work could be perceived as part of contemporary Orthodox writ­
ing anyway, if the Orthodox took more seriously the writings of
1 For example: William B. Helmreich,
The World of the Yeshiva
(New York,
1982); Samuel C. Heilman,
Synagogue Life
(Chicago, 1973) and
The People of the
Book
(Chicago, 1983).
6