OU Press Releases Rabbi Joseph Karasick’s Memoir

06 Feb 2018

New York, NY—OU Press announces the publication of Thirteen Steps—Orthodox Judaism in America Comes of Age: My Life and Times by Rabbi Joseph Karasick. Rabbi Karasick, a former president of the Orthodox Union, is both a front-row witness and contributor to the flourishing of Orthodox Judaism in America. In mid-twentieth century America, predictions of Orthodoxy’s demise were phrased in terms of “when,” not “if.” Confronted with these challenges, the Orthodox Union and a group of dedicated and talented individuals who shared its mission helped turn the tide. Rabbi Karasick was in the forefront of this group, and his memoir brings this crucial period in American Jewish history to life.

A natural leader, eloquent speaker, erudite rabbinic scholar, and successful businessman, Rabbi Karasick was active in a host of Jewish organizations and institutions and quickly rose to the presidency of the OU. Included as an integral part of his life story are his descriptions of interactions with such prominent personalities as Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Elie Wiesel, Nahum Goldmann, Baron Alain de Rothschild, and many others.

Rabbi Joseph Karasick at an NCSY Conference

This memoir contains more than a description of Rabbi Karasick’s trajectory of leadership and communal involvement in the Jewish organizational world. Woven into the narrative are the strands of a complete and well-rounded life. The saga of Rabbi Karasick’s illustrious family history and the challenges and rewards of his formative years, the adventure of his wife Pepa’s family’s incredible survival of the Holocaust, his romance with Pepa which lasted a lifetime as they nurtured and supported each other’s efforts, the success story of the business started by his refugee father-in-law and taken over by Rabbi Karasick which flourished by dint of hard work and determination, the raising of an Orthodox family in twentieth-century New York, anecdotes of travel and vacations, all come together with the record of his communal dedication to describe a wholeness of existence truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Rabbi Joseph Karasick with Elie Wiesel and OU Officers

This book is the chronicle of a remarkable individual and is an exceptional window on a formative era in Jewish history, when Orthodoxy in America, on both a communal and a personal level, was coming of age.

Thirteen Steps—Orthodox Judaism in America Comes of Age: My Life and Times joins other notable OU Press biographies and memoirs, including Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet’s two biographical studies of leading figures in American Orthodoxy, Bernard Revel: Builder of American Jewish Orthodoxy, and The Silver Era: Rabbi Eliezer Silver and His Generation, as well as Rabbi Rakeffet’s own memoir, From Washington Avenue to Washington Street.