Bernard Revel: Builder of American Jewish Orthodoxy/

by | in New Books from OU Press

revelBernard Revel: Builder of American Jewish Orthodoxy
By Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff
OU Press/Yeshiva University Press

The Silver Era in American Jewish Orthodoxy: Rabbi Eliezer Silver and His Generation
By Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff
OU Press/Yeshiva University Press

Available December 2013

OU Press is proud to announce the republication of two books by celebrated historian Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff that have already become modern classics.

As his students can attest, history is never boring in Rabbi Rakeffet’s hands. He views major historical events and eras in human terms; he understands institutions and movements by conveying the stories of the individuals behind them.

Orthodoxy in America was embattled at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the pundits confidently and eagerly predicted the demise of Torah-true Judaism in America. But the heroic efforts of a few unique Orthodox leaders who refused to concede to defeat ultimately succeeded in establishing a robust Orthodoxy in America.

One such leader was Dr. Bernard Revel, the guiding force in the establishment of Yeshiva University who became the first president and rosh yeshivah of Yeshiva College and RIETS. Dr. Revel was a product of the old country with its classical yeshivah system, but championed the importance of combining Torah study with worldly knowledge. Moreover, his vision for Yeshiva University was an educational institution that would provide for the fundamentals of a vibrant Jewish community: a college for sophisticated secular studies, a yeshivah to ordain rabbis and a teachers institute to train educators. For all of Dr. Revel’s worldliness, his commitment to halachah was absolute and uncompromising, no matter what the political, personal or institutional cost. Always with dignity and respect, but with strength and passion, Dr. Revel fought tirelessly to fortify his vision of a Torah-true Judaism that would appeal to modern American sensibilities.

Bernard Revel: Builder of American Jewish Orthodoxy is the story of the complex human being behind the legend and the very human dramas that underlie the history of the flagship institution of Modern Orthodoxy in America.

The timing of the book’s return to print couldn’t be better, as we are fast approaching Dr. Revel’s seventy-fifth yahrtzeit.

The Silver Era in American Jewish Orthodoxy: Rabbi Eliezer Silver and His Generation relates the story of another extraordinary individual who exerted enormous influence on the American Orthodox scene.

When Rabbi Eliezer Silver came from Eastern Europe to America in 1907, he faced many of the same challenges that confronted Dr. Revel, although he pursued very different kinds of solutions.

At the time, Eastern European rabbis who immigrated to America faced two daunting handicaps: they found themselves in an utterly unfamiliar milieu, where all the rules of the game had been changed, and the Reform movement had had ample time to entrench itself in the New World by the time they arrived. Rabbi Eliezer Silver would become a prime mover and a dominant force in the immigrant Orthodox rabbinate. For fifty-one years, until his death in 1968, he served as an officer of the rabbinic organization Agudath Harabonim, gave it a voice and relevance, and influenced the development of subsequent generations of American Orthodox rabbis.

The Silver Era recounts the details of Rabbi Silver’s eventful life, from his early years in Europe through the final years of his courageous efforts to lead the Agudath Harabonim. When American Jewry came face to face with the nightmare of the Holocaust, Rabbi Silver, as a leader of the Vaad Hatzalah, played a crucial role in American Jewish efforts to help the survivors. As a founder of Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Silver exerted a forceful influence on the development of a more right-wing Orthodoxy on the American scene.

Together, these two modern-day classics tell the story of an extraordinarily challenging period in modern Jewish history and the two men who contributed immeasurably to the successful establishment and extraordinary growth of Orthodoxy in America.

This article was featured in Jewish Action Winter 2013.

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