The thesis I would submit to you this morning may be somewhat surprising: it is that the task of the rabbinic programme at Leo Baeck College is impossible. We have a five-year programme of study. What do we want to accomplish with our students by the end of this period? What kind of training do we believe that our rabbis will require for meeting the needs of the progressive Jewish community, and the general Jewish community in the next generation? What follows is an outline of what I believe is required.
Rabbi Hugo Gryn was both the leading rabbinic figure of British Reform Judaism for several decades and one of the best-known and highly admired rabbis in British society. The sermons he delivered regularly throughout the entire period of his leadership as Rabbi of the West London Synagogue show that preaching was a significant component of his rabbinic role. Most of the extant texts of Gryn's sermons are not fully written, but rather detailed outlines on cards. They suggest a communication that reached its final formulation only as the preacher faced his listeners, depending on the delivery for much of its power. Almost all are rooted in the weekly Torah reading, exploring a biblical passage in its own context before applying it to an issue of contemporary significance. Many draw not only from his wide reading but also from his own personal experience, as Holocaust survivor, young rabbi in India, community leader deeply involved in interfaith dialogue. The present article uses the extant texts to recapture something of the impact of the sermons, and concludes with one fully written text given at a public tribute to the memory of Gryn's teacher, Rabbi Leo Baeck.
The Sermon in Response to Historical Events
John Rayner certainly believed that delivering regularly a carefully prepared sermon was an integral and important component of the rabbi's role. The evidence is in his more than 1,000 sermon texts that serve as an important historical source for Liberal Judaism in the U.K. Rayner helped future scholars by preparing a detailed listing of all his sermons, from 21 June 1953 ('Ordination') to number 1,137, on 5 October 2003 (Kol Nidre: 'The People's Self-Righteousness'), including topical indices at the end. After describing more fully this unique resource, I will focus on some of his topical sermons, especially those not published in A Jewish Understanding of the World. These include thoughtful and courageous analyses of moral issues raised by the British role in the 1956 Suez campaign, near the beginning of his career, and in the Falklands War of spring 1982, and many powerful sermons on Israel in times of crisis. The texts reveal a Jewish leader with prophetic courage — though expressed always with love for the Jewish tradition, the Jewish people and the universalist dimension of Jewish values — combined with profound knowledge and penetrating intellect, expressed with clarity and directness that speaks both to the mind and to the heart.
Marc Saperstein and Ruth Scott
Laliv Clenman, Marc Saperstein and Frederick A. Lubich
Solomon, Norman, The Talmud: A Selection, London, Penguin Classics, 2009, 822 pp., ISBN 978-0-141-44178-8, soft cover
Grossman, Avraham, Rashi, transl. Joel Linsider, Oxford, Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2012, 327 pp., ISBN 978-1-90411-89-8
Gilens, Alvin, Reconciling Lives, Berlin, Westkreuz-Verlag, 2012, 233 pp., ISBN 978-3-943755-00-8, paperback
Jeremy Schonfield, Alinda Damsma and Marc Saperstein
Marc Saperstein, Frank Dabba Smith, Susan Cohen and Howard Cooper
Robin Judd, Contested Rituals: Circumcision, Kosher Butchering, and Jewish Political Life in Germany, 1843–1933, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007), £24.95, 283 pp., ISBN 978-0-8014-4545-3. Review by Marc Saperstein
Bernard Kops, Bernard Kops’ East End, By the Waters of Whitechapel (Nottingham: Five Leaves Publications, 2006), £9.99, 238 pp., ISBN 978-1-905512-11-9.
Philip Davis, Bernard Malamud, A Writer’s Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), £18.99, 377 pp., ISBN 978-0-19-927009-5. Reviews by Frank Dabba Smith
Edie Friedman and Reva Klein, Reluctant Refuge. The Story of Asylum in Britain, foreword by Maeve Sherlock, British Library, London, 2008, 153 pp., ISBN 978-0-7123-0887-8 Review by Susan Cohen
Karen E. Starr, Repair of the Soul: Metaphors of Transformation in Jewish Mysticism and Psychoanalysis, New York/London, Routledge, 2008, 134 pp., ISBN 978-0-88163-487-7 Review by Howard Cooper
Jewish Secularism on the March
David J. Goldberg, Stephen Berkowitz, Frank Dabba Smith and Marc Saperstein
The Origins of Jewish Secularization in Eighteenth-Century Europe, Shmuel Feiner, translated by Chaya Naor. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011, 330 pp.
Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Jewish Secular Thought, David Biale, Princeton University Press, 2011, 228 pp.ISBN 0812242734
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea?: French Jewry and the Problem of Church and State, Zvi Jonathan Kaplan, Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 2009. 148 pp. ISBN 1930675615
Rediscovering Traces of Memory: The Jewish Heritage of Polish Galicia, Jonathan Webber, and Chris Schwarz, Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2009.200 pages ISBN 1906764034
Secret Judaism and the Spanish Inquisition, Michael Alpert, Nottingham: Five Leaves Publications, 2008.ISBN: 1905512295, 262 pages
Child Survivors of the Holocaust in Israel: ‘Finding their Voice’, Sharon Kangisser Cohen, Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2005.
The Scandal of Kabbalah: Leon Modena, Jewish Mysticism, Early Modern Venice, Yaacob Dweck, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011, 280 pp. £?? ISBN 978–0–691–14508–2.
Marc Saperstein, Frank Dabba Smith, Robin Ostow and Ruth Langer
Menachem Kellner, Maimonides’ Confrontation with Mysticism, Oxford: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2006. 343 pp., ISBN 978-1-904113-29-4. £35.00.
Michael Walzer (ed.), Law, Politics, and Morality in Judaism, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2006. 224 pp., ISBN 00-691-12508-2. £35.95 (cloth), £11.95 (paper).
Alena Heitlinger, In the Shadows of the Holocaust and Communism: Czech and Slovak Jews Since 1945, New Brunswick, USA, and London, UK: Transaction Publishers, 2006. 238 pp., ISBN 0-7658-0331-3. $39.95 US.
Forms of Prayer, I: Daily, Sabbath and Occasional Prayers, Eighth Edition, London: The Movement for Reform Judaism, 2008. 750pp., ISBN 978-0-947884-13-0. Standard hardback edition £24.95.
Charles Middleburgh, Marc Saperstein, Ursula Rudnick and Lia D. Shimada
Bar Mitzvah: A History, by Rabbi Michael Hilton, University of Nebraska Press/Jewish Publication Society, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-8276-0947-1, 360pp., £22.99
The Beginnings of Ladino Literature: Moses Almosnino and His Readers, by Olga Borovaya, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2017, ISBN: 978-0- 253-02552-4 (hardback), 317 pp., $60.00
Deep Calls to Deep: Transforming Conversations between Jews and Christians, edited by Tony Bayfield, London, SCM, 2017, ISBN: 978-0-334-05512-9 (paperback), 368 pp., £40.00
Confessions of a Rabbi, by Jonathan Romain, London, Biteback Publishing, 2017, ISBN: 978-1-78590-189-8 (paperback), 306 pp., £12.99