Page 22 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
volumes. Much of their work is done in Israel, but this distinction
may not be important for our purposes.
It is my impression that these houses are the two largest pub­
lishers of exclusively Orthodox works in the United States, but
there are many other groups whose combined total output far
exceeds theirs.8 One need only enter any Jewish book store to
find hundreds of recently published volumes that will be pu r­
chased almost immediately by synagogue libraries, teachers, stu­
dents, rabbis, and general readers of all sorts — Orthodox and
non-Orthodox.
WHY SUCH SUCCESS?
The reasons for the recent increase in literary output and its
financial success are not difficult to determine. Declared doomed
to oblivion less than a generation ago, Orthodox life in America
had a weak and often criticized colonial beginning but has been
revitalized in recent years. As is well known, the last several
decades have witnessed the return to Judaism of many formerly
unaffiliated or uncommitted Jews. Their interests and needs
require the translation of important works into English, as well as
the production of new publications that can help them augment
their often late and incomplete education. Also, American free­
dom of religious expression and especially the laissez-faire atti­
tude of the sixties have created an opportunity to express what­
ever religious proclivities might be valued. And the existence of
many second and third generation Americans who feel comfort­
able composing in English and many more for whom English is
the only accessible medium, make these books a political and reli­
gious necessity. One must not underestimate the extent to which
non-Orthodox readers share a serious interest in the books pro­
duced by the O rthodox, either. Rashi, Maimonides, Nah-
manides, Ibn Ezra, and Hirsch, to name a few, are potentially
important to a wide segment of the Jewish population. And the
8 Ktav, not an exclusively Orthodox company, has also published a number o f
Orthodox works, and some are serious contributions to both scholarship and
Orthodoxy. While the availability o f this growing collection requires further
analysis, particularly for what it may teach about the links between religious
and academic writing, the very fact that it is being produced under non-
Orthodox auspices speaks for itself.