Page 48 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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Rabbinic Literature in the United
States, 1761-1917: A Brief Survey
h i s
a r t ic l e
will attempt to describe the major trends and
point out the more significant and unusual works comprising
the various forms o f rabbinic literature that appeared in the
United States from 1761 until 1917. As suggested in an article
that appeared in vol. 43 o f the
Jewish Book Annual,
the term
To rah scholarship might be more appropriate. This study will
be almost exclusively limited to material addressed to an au ­
dience committed to T o rah study and observance. In some in­
stances, works popularly designated as “Jewish scholarship” or
“Jiidische Wissenschaft” would also fall into this area. But gen­
erally, the two designations describe material that is quite d if­
ferent. We will also not include works produced by non-Jews
or that are essentially addressed to a non-Jewish audience.
Because the size o f the Jewish community in the United States
varied widely over the centuries — from a few thousand at the
beginning o f the 19th century to the world’s largest in the inter-
World War period — it would be natural to assume that the
publication o f rabbinic books would also vary greatly.
To facilitate the presentation o f the material we have divided
the survey into three major periods, each o f which has certain
unique characteristics. These are:
1. From 1761 to 1881, when the mass em igration o f Eastern
European Jews to America began
2. From 1882 to 1917, the high point o f Jewish immigration
to America ending with the entry o f the United States in World
War I
3. 1917 to 1939, the inter-war period
The survey, which covers the first two major periods, will
speak for itself, bu t one general observation is in o rder. The
United States has always been considered a “wasteland” by the
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