Hertzberg, Arthur 1921-
HERTZBERG, Arthur 1921-
PERSONAL: Born June 9, 1921, in Lubaczow, Poland; son of Zvi Elimelech (a rabbi) and Anna (Altstadt) Hertzberg; married Phyllis Cannon, March 19, 1950; children: Linda, Susan. Education: Johns Hopkins University, A.B., 1940; Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi and M.H.L., 1943; Columbia University, Ph.D., 1966.
ADDRESSES: Home—83 Glenwood Rd., Englewood, NJ 07631. Offıce—Temple Emanu-El, 147 Tenafly Rd., Englewood, NJ 07631; New York University, 726 Broadway, Rm. 603, New York, NY 10003-9502. E-mail—[email protected].
CAREER: Rabbi, educator, and author. Temple EmanuEl, Englewood, NJ, rabbi, 1956-1985, rabbi emeritus 1985—. American Jewish Policy Foundation, president, 1978—. Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, professor of religion, 1985-91, professor emeritus, 1991—. New York University, New York City, NY, visiting professor of humanities, 1991—. Has been a lecturer and visiting scholar at numerous universities, including the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris, and Rutgers University in New Jersey. Served as a rabbi in several states, 1943—. Also a leader in Jewish affairs, serving as president of the American Jewish Congress (1972-1978), vice president of the World Jewish Congress (1975-1991), and president of the American Jewish Policy Foundation (1978—). Military service: U.S. Air Force, 1st Lieutenant, 1951-53; deputy staff chaplain in England.
AWARDS, HONORS: Amram Award, Jewish Publication Society, 1967, for The French Enlightenment and the Jews; D.D., Lafayette College, 1970; Institute of Advanced Studies, Jerusalem, fellow, 1982; award for Lifetime Achievement Present Tense, 1989; Jewish Cultural Achievement Award, 2001.
(Editor with Joseph L. Blau) Essays on Jewish Life and Thought, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1959.
The Zionist Idea, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1959.
Judaism, George Braziller, Inc. (New York, NY), 1961.
(With Martin Marty and Joseph L. Moody) The Outburst That Awaits Us, Macmillan (Hampshire, England), 1963.
The French Enlightenment and the Jews, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1967.
(With Shemaryahu Talmon) Jerusalem en la historia judia, Congreso Judio Latinoamericano (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1972.
Anti-Semitism and Jewish Uniqueness: Ancient and Contemporary, Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY), 1975.
Being Jewish in America: The Modern Experience, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 1979.
The Jews in America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter: A History, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor and translator) Judaism: The Key Spiritual Writings of the Jewish Tradition, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.
Jewish Polemics, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Aron Hirt-Manheimer) Jews: The Essence and Character of a People, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 1998.
A Jew in America: My Life and a People's Struggle for Identity, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
Regular columnist, National Catholic Reporter; contributor to Commentary. Editor, Midstream, 1965—, and of Journal on Jewish Social Studies; consulting editor, Encyclopaedia Judaica. Contributor to Arnold Eagle's At Home with Only God: Believing Jews and Their Children, Aperture (New York, NY), 1992.
SIDELIGHTS: Arthur Hertzberg is one of the major voices of Judaism today. The son and grandson of Hasidic rabbis, he spent his early childhood in Poland. In 1926, at the age of five, he immigrated with his family to the United States, where he lived in New York, Ohio, and Maryland. As a teenager in Baltimore, he was first introduced to his family's indepth faith when his father, Rabbi Zvi Elimelech, taught him about the Talmud and the literature of the Hassid. After this, the path Hertzberg would take in the future life became clear. He immersed himself in all aspects of Jewish religion, society, and politics as a rabbi, university professor, activist, and author. Writing in Booklist, George Cohen commented that Hertzberg "is considered in some circles the moral conscience of American Jews."
Hertzberg began writing books on Jewish life in 1959. Within four years, he had produced, or assisted in the production of, several other books, including The Zionist Idea and Essays on Jewish Life and Thought, which were anthologies of shorter works on the subject and brief profiles of major figures in the Zionist world. Hertzberg's introduction to The Zionist Idea "remains, arguably, the finest exploration of the movement's ideology in any language," wrote Steven J. Zipperstein in the New York Times Online. Critics also noted that the entries in Essays were very detailed and carefully crafted, despite their relatively small size.
Hertzberg's next book, also considered a critical success by reviewers, is The French Enlightenment and the Jews, which examines how faith was affected by a brief but undeniably important time period, the era of Enlightenment and Revolution. The major events of this period, Hertzberg theorizes, gave rise to modern anti-Semitism more than any other movement. In The French Enlightenment and the Jews he traces the origins of recent oppression of Jews back to the dictatorial libertarianism of Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire, Marat, and Diderot. Steven J. Zipperstein wrote in the New York Times Online that this book was "highly contentious . . . a brilliant attack" on these philosophers' foul opinions of the Jews. In 1967, the Jewish Publication Society awarded Hertzberg their Amram Award to recognize the effectiveness of this undertaking. More books on Judaism followed in the next years, including Jerusalem en la historia judia, which Hertzberg cowrote for an Argentinean publication.
Hertzberg's next major critical success in the United States was The Jews in America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter: A History. In this book the author outlines the interaction between mainstream Anglo-Saxon America and its Jewish population, starting at the birth of the nation. Hertzberg's thesis here is that Jews who immigrated to America did so for largely economic—and not religious—reasons, and in the process, they made for themselves a watered-down lifestyle and handed down to their progeny an uncertain grasp of their ancestral faith. Jews in the United States today often have weakened, ambiguous Jewish roots because of this, Hertzberg explains in the book and tries to give them a sense of a "usable past" and some direction for the future. The thinking behind Hertzberg's analysis of Jews in America extends further than just the people of that religion; this book can also be seen as an examination of the American Dream. "What do you do once you have attained security and affluence? When Jews cannot rely on fighting anti-Semites or on escaping poverty to give their Jewishness meaning, what will they turn to?" wrote Dennis Prager in National Review. In a world increasingly full of "liberal democracy and free enterprise, will history, or at least history with passions and ideological tensions, be replaced by a boring world of shoppers?" Prager questioned. The cure for this, according to Hertzberg, is religion. In The Jews in America, he relates that Jews need to again embrace their religion—instead of just ethnic, secular differences—in order to retain their identity not only as Jews but as dynamic human beings.
Jewish Polemics is a collection of various essays by Hertzberg with a unifying theme: polemics, or conflicts and controversies. Among the topics addressed in the essays are the Holocaust, Arab-Israeli problems, Christian-Jewish problems, and the assimilation of Jews into the American mainstream. Hertzberg conducts three main polemics or wars in this book, according to David Novak's review in First Things: the "'establishment' of the American Jewish Community", as well as former Israeli governments; "with many of his fellow Zionists for what he takes to be their spiritual blindness"; and, most compellingly "with God—at least the God of his father, Rabbi Zvi Elimelech Hertzberg." Jewish Polemics also includes analyses of central leaders in Judaism and other religions, including Pope John Paul II and former Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin. Robert A. Silver wrote in Library Journal that Jewish Polemics is a "stimulating, argumentative collection recommended for large Judaica collections."
Hertzberg joined Aron Hirt-Manheimer to produce the controversial Jews: The Essence and Character of a People, which attempts to find and explicate the commonalities among all Jews—a controversial endeavor. The authors contend that there is an external Jewish character that has remained largely unchanged since the days of Abraham, 4,000 years ago. Parts of this character include "the chosen, the factious, and the outsider." Hertzberg and Hirt-Manheimer show how these qualities are manifested in well-known Jews from Abraham himself to Kafka to Mendelssohn to Woody Allen. "[The authors'] portrait gallery of modern Jews . . . serves as a prism for their exploration of Jews' ambivalence over what it means to be Jewish," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. "I found the dual voices stylistically appealing," wrote Shofar's Pamela S. Nadell, who also added, "the authors' breadth of knowledge of the historical Jewish experience shines through." Nadell felt that Jews "draws widely" upon the authors' "deep reading" and noted that the book's "sources range from the Bible and classical rabbinic literature to the modern Jewish voices of Rav Kook and the American Jewish Committee."
Hertzberg blended memoir into his study of Judaism in A Jew in America: My Life and a People's Struggle for Identity. Here he uses instances from his own experience to illustrate his theories about Jews. He refers to his childhood feelings of being different, uninterested in assimilating, and liberated by his differences—qualities typical of Judaism, according to Hertzberg. The author shares some of his most personal insights in the book, such as "the future of America will be made by those who will hold fast to their tradition and their memories . . . but who will understand that the old wars of religion and the old ethnic angers are redundant and dangerous."
A Jew in America met with mixed reviews. "Memoirs are, almost by definition, self-referential, although not all are so self-promotional. . . . [H]e provides inside stories and settles personal scores that will be of interest to readers who are attentive to intra-Jewish conflicts," wrote a reviewer in First Things. Conversely, Library Journal's Marcia Welsh concluded that Hertzberg's book "has been a lively and fascinating journey indeed, and here it is not only well examined but also brilliantly told."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Hertzberg, Arthur, A Jew in America: My Life and a People's Struggle for Identity, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
American Historical Review, December, 1991, review of The Zionist Idea, p. 1450.
Booklist, July 15, 1979, review of Being Jewish in America: The Modern Experience, p. 1598; November 1, 1989, review of The Jews in America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter: A History, p. 520; September 15, 2002, George Cohen, review of A Jew in America, p. 198.
Bookwatch, November, 1998, review of Jews: The Essence and Character of a People, p. 10.
Book World, January 21, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 11; September 13, 1998, review of Jews, p. 8.
Christian Century, June 6, 1979, review of Being Jewish in America, p. 647; July 25, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 710; October 28, 1992, review of Jewish Polemics, p. 978.
Commentary, August, 1979, review of Being Jewish in America, p. 66; February, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 49.
Economist, January 27, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 91.
First Things, March, 1993, David Novak, review of Jewish Polemics, pp. 48-50; January, 2003, review of A Jew in America, p. 69.
Guardian Weekly, July 15, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 20.
Journal of Religion, January, 1992, review of The Jews in America, p. 141.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1978, review of Being Jewish in America, p. 1396; September 1, 1989, review of The Jews in America, p. 1298; April 15, 1998, review of Jews: The Essence and Character of a People, p. 552.
Library Journal, January 1, 1979, review of Being Jewish in America, p. 117; December, 1989, review of The Jews in America, p. 142; December, 1991, review of Judaism: The Key Spiritual Writings of the Jewish Tradition, p. 152; May 1, 1992, Robert A. Silver, review of Jewish Polemics, p. 86; May 15, 1997, Michael Rogers, review of The Zionist Idea, p. 107; November 1, 2002, Marcia Welsh, review of A Jew in America, p. 95.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 27, 1998, review of Jews, p. 3.
Middle East Journal, summer, 1997, review of The Zionist Idea, p. 466.
National Review, February 19, 1990, Dennis Prager, review of The Jews in America, p. 52.
New Leader, January 22, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 17.
New Republic, March 5, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 38.
New York Review of Books, April 12, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 11; August 13, 1998, review of Jews, p. 34.
New York Times Book Review, April 15, 1979, review of Being Jewish in America, p. 15; November 26, 1989, review of The Jews in America, p. 5; October 21, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 38; January 24, 1993, review of Jewish Polemics, p. 16; May 17, 1998, review of Jews, p. 36.
Publishers Weekly, December 4, 1978, review of Being Jewish in America, p. 57; September 15, 1989, review of The Jews in America, p. 103; September 14, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 122; April 27, 1998, review of Jews, p. 52; September 2, 2002, review of A Jew in America, p. 63.
Reference and Research Book News, April, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 7.
Religious Studies Review, January, 1991, review of The Jews in America, p. 84.
Reviews in American History, June, 1991, review of The Jews in America, p. 296.
Saturday Night, June, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 62.
Shofar, winter, 2001, Pamela S. Nadell, review of Jews, p. 137.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 46; autumn, 1999, review of Jews, p. 782.
West Coast Review of Books, 1990, review of The Jews in America, p. 40; 1991, review of The Jews in America, p. 12.
Wilson Library Bulletin, September, 1992, review of Jewish Polemics, p. 110.
Columbia University Press Web site, http://www.columbia.edu/ (June 3, 2004), review of The French Enlightenment and the Jews and Jewish Polemics; (June 17, 2004), review of The Jews in America.
Jewish Post Web site, http://www.jewishpost.com/ (January 14, 2003), Marilyn Silverman, review of Jews: The Essence and Character of a People.
New York Times Online, http://www.nytimes.com/ (January 14, 2003), Steven J. Zipperstein, "A Jewish Education."*