Scherman, Nosson

views updated


SCHERMAN, NOSSON (1935– ), U.S. rabbi, publisher of *ArtScroll. Scherman was born in Newark, nj, where his parents owned a mom-and-pop grocery store, and he was a product of its public school system, studying in the afternoon at a local talmud torah. At the age of 10 he entered Yeshivah Torah Vodaath, where he remained through Beit Midrash. In 1953, he was admitted to Beit Medrash Elyon, Torah Vodaath's postgraduate division in Monsey ny, where he studied for 11 years and was ordained. His primary teachers and influences throughout his adult life were Rabbi Yaakov *Kaminetsky and Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr, the roshei yeshivah of Torah Vodaath.

Scherman was a teacher and assistant Hebrew principal and general studies principal at Yeshivah Torah Temimah in Brooklyn for eight years, and then principal of Yeshivah Karlin-Stolin in Brooklyn for six. He was also head counselor of Camp Torah Vodaath from 1967 to 1969. From 1969 to 1990 he was editor of Olomeinu/Our World, the children's magazine of Torah Umesorah.

In 1976, Rabbi Meier *Zlotowitz of ArtScroll asked Scherman to edit and contribute an introduction to the Book of Esther. Like Zlotowitz, Scherman gave up his career to develop the ArtScroll Series and its parent company, Mesorah Publications, with Zlotowitz and Sheah Brander.

Early on, Scherman became general editor and was best known as the author of the Overviews, the introductory essays that present the background and perspective of dozens of books of Scripture and liturgy. In 1984, he published his first major work, the translation and commentary of the siddur, which was followed by the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur maḥzorim. In 1993, he published the Stone Edition of the Ḥumash, with translation and commentary.

His "translation" of the siddur is not quite a translation – for example, the erotic Hebrew of the Song of Songs is not rendered into English. Instead, the allegory to God and Israel is treated as the peshat. The siddur appears in two versions. The Rabbinical Council of America, the Centrist Orthodox Rabbinical Movement, has its version with the prayer for the State of Israel and a slightly different introduction.

The success of the ArtScroll/Mesorah series is undeniable. ArtScroll is a fascinating combination of fervently Orthodox Judaism and an American aesthetic that wraps traditional Judaism in a visual idiom acceptable to the American sensibility. Zlotowitz's sense of the visual impact of a book is an indispensable ingredient in its success. Despite what outsiders may think, even the rejectionist Orthodox community that does not embrace modern culture has, perhaps inadvertently, acculturated itself to the offerings and packaging of the American marketplace.

ArtScroll publishes in English and in Hebrew and has brought its own unique styling to the Israeli and American marketplace. In the United States, it represents an important transition between Yiddish and English as the spoken language and the language of Jewish learning for fervently Orthodox Jews in America.

Modern Orthodox scholars have not been uncritical of ArtScroll's success. Its historical studies are wrapped, not in Western scholarship, but in hagiography; it seems as if every fervently Orthodox leader or rabbi is without blemish. Others on the right criticize it for enabling and empowering English rather than Yiddish or Hebrew to be the language of contemporary learning.

The Schottenstein Talmud has allowed many who would have otherwise lacked the skill and talmudic virtuosity to participate in daf yomi (studying a page of Talmud a day) programs. It has offered those learning in yeshivah the "English" experience of the Beit Midrash and has far outpaced the more sophisticated and erudite commentary of Adin *Steinsaltz in popularity and use.

Scherman's main project in 2006 was the Rubin edition of the Prophets, of which the Books of Joshua, Judges, and Samuel have been published and the Book of Kings was due to go to press.

For several years Scherman was a columnist for the Forward and the Jewish Week, and taught Mishnah and the Holocaust in a telephone lecture series.

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]