Meyer, Michael A.

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MEYER, MICHAEL A. (1937– ), U.S. historian. Born in Berlin and brought to the United States in 1941, Meyer was educated at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of California, Los Angeles (B.A. 1959), Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (huc-jir), Los Angeles (B.H.L. 1960), and huc-jir, Cincinnati (Ph.D. 1964). He taught at huc-jir, Los Angeles, 1964–67, and from 1968 at huc-jir, Cincinnati, where he was named Adolf S. Ochs Professor of Jewish History. He also taught regularly at huc-jir in Jerusalem and was a visiting professor at ucla, Antioch College, the University of Haifa, Ben-Gurion University, and the Hebrew University. Meyer served as chairman of the International Association of Historical Societies for the Study of Jewish History and was one of the founders of the (American) Association for Jewish Studies and its president in 1978–80. He was also the international president of the Leo Baeck Institute.

Meyer has been called "the dean of German-Jewish historians," and he has said that "my awareness of being one of the niẓẓolei ha-Shoah – those saved from the Holocaust – has deepened my commitment to things Jewish and to the study of German-Jewish history." He was considered perhaps the leading authority on Reform Judaism, about whose future he expressed optimism. His major work is Response to Modernity (1988), a history of the Reform movement through the 1970s, which won the National Jewish Book Award; it has become a standard work and has influenced all subsequent scholars on the subject. He has also edited (with Michael Brenner) a comprehensive four-volume history of modern German Jewry, sponsored by the Leo Baeck Institute, which is also recognized as a landmark work (its first volume won the National Jewish Book Award in 1997). In 1996 Meyer was awarded the Zeltzer Scholarship Award in Historical Studies by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, in recognition of his stature and influence.

Meyer published many scholarly articles and edited a volume of the papers of Leo Baeck. His books include The Origins of the Modern Jew: Jewish Identity and European Culture in Germany, 1749–1824 (1967), Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (1988), Jewish Identity in the Modern World (1990), Ideas of Jewish History (edited, 1974), German-Jewish History in Modern Times, 4 vols. (edited with Michael Brenner, 1996–98), The Reform Judaism Reader: North American Documents (edited, with W. Gunther Plaut, 2001), and Judaism within Modernity: Essays on Jewish History and Religion (2001).

[Drew Silver (2nd ed.)]