Page 134 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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Rabbi Borowitz said clearly and simply, “The problem of mod­
ern Jewish thought is one of how we affirm the best of what
the modern world has taught us while simultaneously maintain­
ing our commitment to the covenantal tradition that is at the
base of genuine Jewish belief and practice. In a sentence —
how can we simultaneously be ‘modern’ and ‘authentically Jew­
ish?’ ”
It is the challenge of defining and understanding this dia­
lectical interplay between the poles of “tradition” and “moder­
nity” that lies at the heart of modern Jewish thought, and Eu­
gene Borowitz has been foremost among Jewish thinkers of his
generation in explicating the nature and directions of the mul­
tiple responses that have been offered to meet this challenge.
His books, articles, and lectures have been instrumental in en­
couraging the American Jewish community to take theology and
issues of religious faith seriously. He has described the param­
eters of modern Jewish thought and chronicled its develop­
ments in the twentieth century. Most significantly, he has also
sought to provide some answers to the dilemmas posed by this
modern chapter in the history of Jewish religious thought. My
own experience that day in Lynchburg, Virginia, was neither
isolated nor unique, but one that many other modern Jews have
experienced through dialogue and discussion with the words
and writings of Borowitz. This article, a companion piece to
one I have recently written with my colleague Lori Krafte-Jacobs
on Borowitz and his thought, is intended to provide further
insight into the development of that thought and to measure
the dimensions of Borowitz’s contributions to Jewish religious
thinking in our day.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1924, Borowitz was educated
as an undergraduate at the Ohio State University. In 1948, he
was ordained a rabbi by the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati
and in 1950 received the degree of Doctor of Hebrew Letters
from Hebrew Union College for a dissertation in the field of
Rabbinic Thought. In the 1950s he served as founding rabbi
of The Community Synagogue in Port Washington, Long Is­
land, New York, and was enrolled in the Columbia-Union joint
Ph.D. program in Religion, where he completed all work except