As the preeminent scholar of American Jewish History Jonathan Sarna’s teaching, writing, and research have expanded the scope of the field. Zev Eleff’s review of two new books helps us gauge how Sarna has helped us understand ourselves and our past.
Israeli illustrator Shay Charka explains how Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” liberated Jewish culture by appropriating anti-Semitic stereotypes: “Spiegelman’s most significant contribution to the rehabilitation of the Jewish spirit after millennia of persecution culminating in the Holocaust is specifically through his depictions of Jews as mice.”
Tova Warburg Sinensky reads R. Norman Lamm’s classic work “A Hedge of Roses” and demonstrates how her grandfather’s 1966 overview of the laws of Jewish family purity is much more than a defense of a once-neglected halakha. In fact, it is a subtle and profound philosophical treatise about how Jewish law serves to protect loving relationships, including, but not limited to, the marital union.
The arrival of a large tribute volume is usually noteworthy, both for the potentially significant writing and scholarship it will contain, and for helping us frame the accomplishments of the festschrift’s honoree. The recent publication of “Hokhma LiShlomo: Essays in Honor of Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin” delivers on both counts, says Yitzchak Blau in reviewing the book. “This volume, honoring a rabbi with a distinguished resume, contains enough variety and interest to merit a worthwhile place on our bookshelves. The topics covered successfully convey the range of accomplishment of the honoree.”