ZLOTOWITZ, MEIR (1938– ), U.S. publisher. Born in New York, son of Rabbi Aron Zlotowitz, a European-born rabbinic scholar, vice president of the Agudat Harabonim in the 1940s and one of the leaders of the Rabbis March on Washington, on the eve of Yom Kippur 5703 – 1943.
Zlotowitz attended Yeshiva Rabbi Jacob Joseph on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, then spent eight years at Mesivtah Tifereth Jerusalem studying under Rabbi Moses Feinstein, from whom he received his ordination.
As a graphic artist, he established *ArtScroll Studios, specializing in illuminated scrolls, brochures, journals, and invitations. In 1976, he produced a translation of and commentary on Megillat Esther as a tribute to a recently deceased friend. The book so impressed those who saw it, that he was encouraged to leave his job and to found Mesorah Publications, publishers of the ArtScroll Series, which has over 1,000 titles in print. He founded the organization with Rabbi Nosson *Scherman and Sheah Brander.
When he first began, in quick succession he similarly translated four other Megillot and wrote an exhaustive six-volume translation and phrase-by-phrase commentary on the Book of Genesis. During the first decade of the ArtScroll Series, he authored numerous other books, but then reluctantly withdrew from his personal writing and devoted himself to shepherding Mesorah Publications into its period of explosive growth.
Zlotowitz is also president of the Mesorah Heritage Foundation, a not-for-profit organization which funds more than 80 scholars in Israel, America, and Europe who write and edit such scholarly works as the Schottenstein Talmud. Asked what accomplishments mean the most to him, Zlotowitz speaks of the strangers who approach him to say that ArtScroll has transformed their lives.
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 (learning a page of Talmud a day) programs. It has offered those learning in yeshivah the "English" experience of the bet midrash and has far outpaced the more sophisticated and erudite commentary of Adin *Steinsaltz in popularity and use.
[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]