Mr. Leonard Grunstein

Mr. Leonard Grunstein

It was a time of wisdom; it was a time of folly. It was a study in contrasts, as two individuals emerged and had a profound influence, one positive and the other negative, on the fate of others[i].

One awesome person saved her spouse from harm and is a source of inspiration to all those seeking understanding and discernment to this day. The other was instrumental in assuring her spouse’s spectacular failure and, as a couple, they reinforced each other’s negative attributes. They were an object lesson in the evils of narcissism, unscrupulous manipulation, moral relativism, shameless opportunism and hubris.

It was an unmitigated disaster. The people were despondent and G-d was angry with them[xii]. G-d heard Moses’ impassioned plea[xiii] and, ironically, gave the people the very thing they had asked for[xiv], not to face the challenge of conquering the Land. Instead, they were to wander the desert for 40 years. It was, effectively, a life sentence, without parole, for all adults, over the age of 20 at the time of the Sin of the Spies, other than Joshua and Caleb[xv]. The predictable reaction for most was one of depression and despair. They were so close to acquiring the Promised Land of Israel and fulfilling the promise, which G-d had made to the Patriarchs. However, because of their own folly and under the spell of the misguided leadership of the infamous ten, they suffered a self-inflicted defeat. It would be their children, who would inherit the Promised Land[xvi].

Some, though, had another reaction[xvii]. They saw an opportunity to take advantage of the fluid situation. They formed a cabal[xviii], intent on effectuating a change in leadership and direction.

The Bible, in this week’s Torah reading, reports[xix] that it began at a fateful gathering called by Korach. He claimed a presumptive leadership role by reason of his kinship[xx], in what he perceived to be the ruling class of Levites, headed by Moses and his brother Aaron. He was a very wealthy man[xxi] and, due in no small measure to the urging of his wife[xxii], he was particularly conscious of his standing and position. Korach invited Dathan, Abiram and On ben Peleth into his plot to seize power from Moses. They were chosen because they too had pretensions to leadership, as members of the Tribe of Reuben, Jacob’s first born.

The Talmud[xxiii] analyzes the global issue of the Korach rebellion in a more relatable context. Its perspective is focused primarily on the character and family life of the main actor, Korach and that of a lesser player, On ben Peleth. The dynamics of each person’s relationship with his spouse is also considered. The contrast between the two relationships speaks volumes about the ultimate outcome.

The Talmud derives extremely valuable lessons about human nature from the life experience of these two couples. The analysis informs us as to some of the reasons why some couples are able to overcome the challenges of life, while others are consumed by them. The differences between the two couples’ spousal relationships are cogent, as detailed below.

The Talmud expresses this real life drama with genuine flair. Its report of the dialogue between each of the pairs of spouses is vivid, sometimes gritty and most engaging. The words and emotions expressed are so real and recognizable. The lessons taught are nuanced but understandable.

The decline and fall of Korach is not some abstract political study nor is On’s survival a mere footnote to history. These were real people, who had aspirations, egos, multi-faceted characters and flaws. They made real-life mistakes. Yet On was saved from his own folly at the penultimate moment, while Korach rushed head on towards his ultimate demise.

Was there an intervening event or force that helped determine the different outcomes each experienced? After all, On was no hero. He was a consenting adult, who voluntarily joined in Korach’s plot. What then changed On’s fate from that suffered by his co-conspirators, as a result of the Korach rebellion?

The Talmud begins by exploring the meaning of each name of the individual plotters. The names are viewed as a literary device, which yields insights into the natures of the various characters in this real-life drama.

On ben Peleth’s first name is said to imply he was a loner, who acted as if he were in a perpetual state of mourning. It is derived from the word “Aninut”, a term used to describe the immediate family’s most intense state of mourning, between the time the decedent passes on and interment. It is an acute period of loneliness, prior to the Shiva, when condolence calls are permitted. The name Peleth is derived from the word “Pelah”, which means amazing or wondrous. As the Talmud describes it, he was saved due to the amazing intervention of his wife. She was awesome, as detailed below.

Korach, on the other hand, was a master manipulator. The Bible[xxiv] reports he made an acquisition but does not specify what he acquired. The Talmud[xxv] explains it refers to owning his ego driven self-satisfying actions; a bad acquisition, which drove him from the world.

The name Korach literally means bald. However, Korach was not bald. Indeed, as the Talmud notes, his wife pointed out that he had great hair. She even taunts her husband Korach about it, by suggesting Moses was jealous of his beautiful mane. She asserts that this was why Moses shaved off all of Korach’s hair. Never mind that Moses’ hair, as well as that of all the Levites, was also shaved. She urged that it was all a part of Moses’ plan to demean her husband Korach. She didn’t mince words and goes so far as to make the gritty proclamation that Moses rolled Korach like a piece of excrement. The manipulator Korach had a master, his spouse.

The Talmud[xxvi] explains that name Korach implies that he created a void (bald spot) in the people of Israel because, as a result of his misdeeds, so many were killed. As the Talmud goes on to say, the Biblical reference to his father’s name, Yitzhar, means he incited the wrath of others, like the heat of the afternoon (Tzohoraim). The Biblical reference to his grandfather’s name, Kehat, was intended to disclose another facet of his character. The Talmud notes that the name Kehat is related to the term “Hikah” meaning blunt, as in Korach blunted his ancestor’s teeth. In essence, he shamed his ancestors by his conduct.

It is suggested that the term bald as used in this context is also idiomatic. Taken as a whole, the usage is much like the phrase “bald faced”, which means shameless. Both Korach and his wife were unscrupulous manipulators, who shamelessly used people to accomplish their goals of promoting themselves and their interests.

It would appear that Korach and his wife had classic sociopathic tendencies[xxvii]. They were selfish, prideful, clever and manipulative. They also had superficial charm, which Korach used to good effect in attracting and conning his followers. Korah and his wife rejected the system of Halacha and the universal moral code embodied in the Torah. They had their own set of morals based on what was good for them. They used clever wordplay to advance specious legal arguments in order to undermine the Divine origin, authenticity and validity of the Torah, as taught by Moses. For example, Korach questioned why a mezuzah, containing a few lines from the Torah, should be required in a room full of Torah scrolls. He asserted the law was irrational and invented by Moses.

Korach’s wife also contrived another similar gambit. She suggested that Moses had fabricated the commandment that the ritual fringes (known as Tzizit), required for a four-cornered garment, include a Techelet[xxviii] colored strand. She asserted that if the Techelet coloring was so important, then why not dye the entire garment Techelet? Why the need for just a strand of Techelet? She urged Korach to assemble a group of men clothed in Talitim, without ritual fringes, but which were entirely dyed Techelet. Korach then paraded them in front of Moses and, using his wife’s logic, derisively challenged the rule requiring only a Techelet colored strand. The shocking and insincere spectacle was designed to cause ridicule and derision. It was a pretext to undermine the authority of the Torah and Moses.

Korach and his wife blamed Moses for their failure to achieve the position in society they felt they deserved. They disdained any personally responsibility for their own situation. They were unabashed in their quest for power and exhibited no remorse or shame. Moses stood in their way and so they callously sought to displace him. Given the results of their misadventure, it is clear they had extremely poor judgment and lacked genuine insight. They also felt no accountability to others and were not mindful of the consequences of their actions.

The Talmud, in striking contrast, recounts what happened when On returned home on the evening of his fateful meeting with Korach. Imagine the small talk upon his arrival home. His wife might have casually asked him how his day went. He responded by reporting his meeting with Korach and the boys and what they had decided. She listened carefully and asked him why he was involved in the nefarious scheme to overthrow Moses? What difference did it make to him who was the leader? After all, under Moses he was a follower and that would be the case even if Korach took over as leader. On considered his wife’s wise counsel and came to recognize his folly. However, he did not know what he could do under the circumstances. He was stuck, because he had been a part of the cabal of plotters and swore allegiance to them. Never mind that Korach had manipulated him into this position. The quandary was very real to On. His wife’s answer was a clarion call to all those who have found themselves in these kind of difficult situations. In effect, she advised him to stop, wake-up and face up to the fact that what Korach enlisted him to do was wrong. On’s assurance that he would be a faithful partner in crime was also wrong. She offered that he should sit down and she would save him from himself. She gave him wine to drink and he fell asleep in a drunken stupor. She then sat at the entrance to the tent they called home and loosened her hair as though preparing to wash it. Anyone, who came by was taken aback by the display and retreated. In the meantime, the rebellion of Korach occurred, on time as planned; but failed miserably. Korach and his cohorts were swallowed up by the ground[xxix] and delivered alive to the Sheol[xxx]. Through his wife’s efforts and prowess in dealing with the situation, On missed his appointment with destiny and was saved.

On’s spouse genuinely cared about him. She listened carefully to him and understood his motivations. She did not taunt him; she empathized with him. She formulated a plan and acted to save him from his self-destructive path.

Korach was not so lucky. His spouse cared only about herself. She egged him on and set him upon his risky and self-destructive course of action. She did this because she hoped it would lead to her becoming the First Lady. She was not mindful of his answers to her vicious taunts or considerate of his circumstances. If she genuinely cared about him, then she would have helped him carefully analyze his situation. A great deal of pain and suffering might have been avoided if only she cared about his fate. She should have been concerned about the risks her husband was taking. She also didn’t perceive the blowback she and her children might suffer if his putsch failed. In the end, the rebellion was miraculously foiled by G-d and both she and Koarch suffered a unique and unprecedented punishment[xxxi].

It is a tale of two different households. The varied reactions of each of the couples to the challenges they faced were, in no small part, determinative of the outcomes. The highly stressed and pressurized environment of life often exposes character flaws, but it is also a catalyst for the manifestation of true nobility.

The power of caring is in the execution. On’s wife cared and her empathy, wise counsel and constructive action saved her husband’s life.

Go home and show your spouse and family you genuinely care. Do something constructive to help them. It is an awesome thing to do. Why not tell your spouse he or she is awesome. The warm smile it usually generates makes it all worthwhile. Kudos to all the awesome people, who care enough to help another in their time of need and wishing them a hearty L’Chaim.

[i] See Proverbs 14:1, which states that the wisest of women builds her house; but folly tears it down with her own hands.

[ii] Numbers, Chapter 13 and 14.

[iii] Numbers 14:2-4.

[iv] Numbers 13:3.

[v] Number 14:24, as well as, 13:16 and 13:30. See also Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sotah, at page 35a.

[vi] Numbers 13:16 and see Rashi and Sforno commentaries thereon.

[vii] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sotah, at page 34b.

[viii] Numbers 13:28-31.

[ix] Numbers 13:32.

[x] Number 14:6-9.

[xi] Numbers 14:3-4.

[xii] Numbers 14:11-13.

[xiii] Numbers 14:13-19.

[xiv] Numbers 14:19-23.

[xv] Numbers 14:30.

[xvi] Numbers 14: 31.

[xvii] Numbers 16:1-4.

[xviii] Numbers 16:1-.

[xix] Number 16:1.

[xx] Midrash Rabbah, Bamidbar 18.

[xxi] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Pesachim, at page 119a.

[xxii] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, at pages 109b-110a.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] Numbers 16:1.

[xxv]Ibid. See also Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, at page 109b and Rashi commentary thereon.

[xxvi] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, at page 109b.

[xxvii] Ibid and see also Midrash Rabbah, Bamidbar 18 and Midrash Tanchuma, Korach 10. Reference should also be made to the discussion of this term in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

[xxviii] A unique color mentioned in connection with the commandment of Tzizit in Numbers 15:38. The color dye pigment is derived from the Chilazon, an aquatic or semi-aquatic creature. It produces a permanent color said to resemble the blue sky. See Babylonian Talmud, Tractates Menachot (at pages 43b-44a) and Shabbos (at page 75a).

[xxix] Number 16:30-33

[xxx] The term Sheol (literally meaning, pit) is equated to Gehinnom (purgatory). See Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Eruvin, at page 19a.

[xxxi] Numbers 16:31-33.

 

Dr. Ronnie Perelis Appointed Director of Rabbi Arthur Schneier Center for International Affairs 

Dr. Ronnie Perelis

Dr. Ronnie Perelis

Dr. Selma Botman, provost and vice president for academic affairs, has announced the appointment of Dr. Ronnie Perelis as director of The Rabbi Arthur Schneier Center for International Affairs at Yeshiva University.

Founded in 2004, the Center advances international understanding and stimulates discussion of important global issues. Dr. Perelis holds the Chief Rabbi Dr. Isaac Abraham and Jelena (Rachel) Alcalay Chair in Sephardic Studies and is Associate Professor of Sephardic Studies. His research and teaching situate the Sephardim within the context of global trade and the international exchange of ideas. Dr. Perelis is keenly interested in the ways that people, culture and ideas cross borders and transform communities through human encounter and dialogue.

“Dr. Perelis will lead the Center with distinction,” said Botman, “advancing cross-cultural understanding and bringing to light the complex challenges that exist throughout the globe. The Schneier Center’s programs will continue to enhance the University by providing students, faculty and staff the opportunity to discuss and debate the moral, political, spiritual and social problems of the day.”

Dr. Perelis succeeds Dr. Ruth Bevan, who has retired from Yeshiva University after many years of leadership and service to the Center.

 

As a young man in high school and college, we were taught a very different lesson. We were urged not just to accept the status quo, but to go out and protest. We traveled to Washington, DC to march in support of freeing Soviet Jewry. There were also the protests against the Vietnam War. There were even walkouts from classes in college to protest a proposed increase in the student activity fee.

Some of the protests were peaceful and quite effective. The message was well defined and the means chosen to deliver it to the actual decision-makers, who could affect the outcome, were carefully crafted. Sometimes, it was a silent march accompanying the representatives who would be personally delivering a petition to a decision-maker or at his or her offices.

Other times, though, the situation degraded, when some chose to sit in at the offices or violence erupted. The focus of the march or rally quickly deteriorated and the message was usually lost in the clamor. Many took the opportunity to complain about unrelated matters or just to protest for its own sake. The scene could become chaotic. It was a heady mixture of danger, excitement and hormones, as young men and women were thrust together in furtherance of some perceived higher purpose or virtue. The scene was addictive to many and the cause became irrelevant. It was all about the so-called movement, not any particular cause.

The world doesn’t seem to be so very different today, more than 45 years later. Many who casually attend protests can’t readily and coherently explain the actual substance of what they are protesting. It’s still all about the movement or, as it is often presently labeled, the resistance.

Human nature also hasn’t fundamentally changed. Just giving voice to suffering does not necessarily achieve the beneficial purpose of obtaining relief or even a catharsis. Sometimes it only prolongs and deepens the feelings of desperation. Why then complain? What useful purpose does it serve? Is complaining ever really justified?

The Bible recognizes the human propensity to complain. Indeed, the famous groan heard round the world occurred when the Jewish people were slaves in Egypt. They were afforded some time off to mark the death of the Egyptian Pharaoh. They finally had a moment to groan[i] and cry out because of the crushing burden of their bondage. They may not have expressly appealed to G-d for help; but their sighs were heard by G-d, as if they were a prayer[ii]. It was this collective groan[iii], which precipitated the ultimate redemption from slavery in Egypt. The Bible does not chastise those who groaned and cried out. Indeed, it would appear that they had the right to complain about their plight and G-d responded positively.

Yet the Bible[iv], in this week’s Torah reading of Parshat Behalotecha, describes a series of incidents involving people complaining, with decidedly negatively results. The very act of complaining was viewed as extremely sinful behavior. It appears that not all complaints are treated the same. What then are the distinguishing characteristics that enable one kind of complaint to be treated positively and another with extreme prejudice? Is there a guiding set of principles that govern in these kinds of situations and, if so, then what are they?

The first such incident described in this week’s Torah reading[v] begins by identifying a sinful group as those who acted like they were complaining bitterly. This is because they were not voicing a genuine complaint, about some matter as to which they truly felt personally aggrieved. Rather, they were complaining merely as a pretext[vi] to undermine the existing order. They did not complain to G-d and voice heartfelt concerns that could be addressed; they just complained and inspired others to do so, as well. They mounted what in modern parlance would be referred to as a resistance.

It was all about rebellion against G-d and the new order embodied in the Torah, which G-d revealed at Mount Sinai only a little more than a year prior to these events. It was a resistance against the perceived burdens of the system of Torah. The Bible views the use of a contrived wrong as a pretext for justifying negative behavior most disparagingly.

It began with the mixed-multitude[vii], who accompanied the Jewish people as they left Egypt. They were uncomfortable with bearing the yoke of Torah and wanted the freedom to do as they wished, just like the permissive lifestyle they enjoyed in Egypt. However, they did not overtly complain about having to fulfill     G-d’s commandments, as provided in the oral and written laws of the Torah. This kind of an open break with the Torah and G-d may not have been acceptable to or tolerated by the vast majority of the Jewish people around them. Instead they were more insidious, choosing to fixate on not having meat to eat. They used this as a pretext to challenge the prevailing authority of G-d, the Torah and Moses.

To better understand the fatuous nature of their complaints, it is important to appreciate that slaves were not fed meat in Egypt. In addition, sheep were worshipped as a deity in Egypt and, thus, it is likely that few others ate meat, as well. Moreover, the Jewish people left Egypt with flocks of cattle and there were plenty available to be slaughtered to provide meat for those who truly desired it. Why then the sudden overwhelming craving for meat to eat? In a sense, it was a wholly self-induced and contrived crisis. As noted above, it was never really about the meat and it did not end well for those who artificially precipitated the crisis[viii].

The Torah[ix] reading this week also describes the incident of Miriam complaining to Aaron about Moses. This time the complaint was genuine and heartfelt. Miriam was concerned about her brother Moses separating from Tziporah, his wife[x]. Her concern for her brother and her sister-in-law was noble. However, speaking to her brother, Aaron about it served no useful purpose. It was just, in effect, malicious gossip. As a result, Miriam was punished with the affliction of Tzara’at. Moses did pray for her to be cured and G-d did intervene to do so; but only after she had endured ostracism for seven days[xi].

In striking contrast, prior to the incident with Miriam, the Bible[xii] recounts Moses’ extraordinary complaints to G-d about his impossibly difficult job and working conditions. He plaintively remarks that he is not the mother, who conceived and bore the Jewish people. He should not have to be their nursemaid or carry them. He offers that it just too much for him to bear. He even goes so far as to say if this is what the position really entails then it would be better if G-d just killed him and be done with it. These words may seem harsh, but they were genuine and heartfelt. Moses just couldn’t take it any more.

The Bible does not record that G-d had any problem with Moses complaining this way. Moses was expressing his pain and suffering to G-d and not anyone else. It was G-d alone who could actually do something about solving the problem. This G-d did and Moses was instructed to gather 70 talented and experienced people, who could help him govern. G-d then ennobled them with prophetic inspiration so that they could function well in this new capacity and truly ease Moses’ burdens. What is the difference between Moses’ complaints and those of Miriam and the others noted above? Why are Moses’ complaints favorably resolved and those of the others result in severe punishments?

It is suggested that the answer lies in a careful analysis of these incidents. There is a fundamental difference between complaining to G-d for help in resolving a genuine problem and just complaining for its own sake or as a pretext. Just complaining for the sake of complaining and not as a means of seeking a solution is generally wrong. Similarly, complaining to someone, who can’t help is a form of gossip. Both these activities serve no useful purpose. Even worse, though, is complaining as a pretext to resist and undermine adherence to the Torah. This is tantamount to a rebellion against G-d.

On the other hand, heartfelt genuine complaints to G-d, including crying out in sheer pain and desperation, are the equivalent of prayer. Moses’ language may have been harsh, but G-d is gracious, understanding and forgiving. In this regard, reference may be made to the Book of Job in the Tanach. The Talmud[xiii] reports Moses likely wrote Job and that it was probably a fictional work[xiv]. The Book of Job discusses suffering, complaining and the nature of Divine Providence. Job suffered so mightily that he wished he had never been born[xv]. When Job’s three friends visited him, they, in effect, reprimanded him for complaining about his lot[xvi]. Yet G-d defended Job and rebuked Job’s friends[xvii]. As the Talmud[xviii] explains, what Job said may have been inappropriate, but G-d does not hold a person responsible for what he says when he is in distress.

The art of complaining is a part of how we face the challenges of life. Like life, it is a nuanced experience. Don’t waste it on mindless protests and aimless resistance. Choose to live it like Moses, with faith that G-d is listening, even to our complaints. May we be blessed to live life free of reasons to complain.

[i] Exodus 2:23.

[ii] Ibid and see Ohr Hachaim and Chizkuni commentaries on the verse.

[iii] Exodus 6:5 and see Rashi and Sforno commentaries thereon.

[iv] Numbers, Chapters 11 and 12.

[v] Numbers 11:1.

[vi] Ibid and see Rashi and Malbim commentaries on the verse, as well as, Sifrei, Bamidbar 85:1.

[vii] Numbers 11:4.

[viii] Numbers 11:33.

[ix] Numbers 12:1-16.

[x] See Abarbanel and Chizkuni commentaries on Number 12:1, as well as, Sifrei, Bamidbar 99:1.

[xi] Numbers 12:12.

[xii] Number 11:11-15.

[xiii] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Batra, at page 14b.

[xiv] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Batra, at page 15a. See also Maimonides, Guide to the Perplexed 3:22.

[xv] Job, Chapter 3.

[xvi] See, for example, Job 2:11 and Chapters 4, 8 and 11.

[xvii] Job 42:7-8.

[xviii] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Batra, at page 16b and see Rashi commentary thereon.

 

Dr. David Berger, dean of the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, presented at “Polemics and Prophethood in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” an international conference from May 14–16, 2018, sponsored by the Sigi Feigel Visiting Professorship for Jewish Studies and the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

The central question addressed by the conference concerned how each of the three monotheistic religions justifies the authority of its own texts while fashioning “rationales of rejection” that dismiss the authority of the other texts. As Dr. Berger explained, “The conference addressed a wide variety of issues relevant to the validation and rejection of prophets. These included among many others the Muslim belief that Muhammad is the ‘seal of the prophets,’ the arguments for the authenticity of Jewish revelation by R. Saadya Gaon and Judah Halevi, and Quranic responses to declarations that Muhammad was the victim of demonic possession rather than the recipient of genuine prophecy.

“My presentation, ‘Prophecy, Law, and Messianism: Judaism’s Identification and Assessment of Prophets in Its Encounter with Christianity and Islam,’ analyzed three Jewish expressions of the conference theme. The first was the Jewish argument against assertions that the prophet like Moses promised in Deuteronomy was Jesus or Muhammad. The second examined the efforts of Gersonides (Ralbag) to defend the uniqueness of Moses’ Torah prophecy despite the serious problems that this doctrine posed within the context of his naturalistic theory of prophecy and limitation of divine knowledge. The third explored the innovative rabbinic ruling by Lubavitch messianists that the Rebbe met the criteria to be used in identifying a prophet and that his purported self-identification as the Messiah consequently requires belief in his Messiahship as a function of the injunction to obey a prophet.”

More information about the conference can be found here.

 

New Book Edited by Dr. Jeffrey S. Gurock Convenes Senior Scholars to Discuss Evolution of the Field

A new book edited by Dr. Jeffrey S. Gurock, Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University, curates the intriguing insights of 16 senior scholars of American Jewish history as they discuss the intellectual and personal roads they have traveled in becoming leaders in their areas of expertise.

Conversations With Colleagues: On Becoming an American Jewish Historian (Academic Studies Press, April 2018) offers reflections from the men and women whose work and advocacy have moved the discipline of American Jewish history into the mainstream of academia. Through their thoughtful and candid recollections of the challenges they faced in becoming accepted academics, they retell the story of how the study of the Jews and Judaism in the United States rose from being long dismissed as an amateurish enterprise not worthy of serious consideration in the world of ideas to its position today as a respected field in communication with all humanities scholars. They also imagine and chart the direction the writing on American Jews will take in the coming era.

“Recently, American historians have become increasingly interested in understanding how varying subfields that make up what is now a very diverse discipline evolved and who the foremost scholars have been,” said Dr. Gurock. “Books on the evolution of American ethnic history and women’s history immediately come to mind. As a longtime student and scholar of American Jewish history and as an advocate for the field, I wanted to have what I and my closest colleague do ‘on the record’ for appreciation in the academy. Second, I wanted to put in writing the question that I am always asked when I am on the lecture circuit: ‘When and how did you decide to enter this area of study?’”

“As well, I wanted to pay tribute to my teachers who started me out in my career 40 years ago,” added Dr. Gurock, who is the prize-winning author or editor of 20 books in the field of American Jewish history. “I hope this book will intrigue both academics and general readers.”

Contributors include Joyce Antler, Dianne Ashton, Mark K. Bauman, Hasia Diner, Jeffrey S. Gurock, Jenna Weissman Joselit, Eli Lederhendler, Deborah Dash Moore, Pamela S. Nadell, Riv–Ellen Prell, Jonathan D. Sarna, Shuly Rubin Schwartz, Gerald Sorin, Beth S. Wenger, Stephen J. Whitfield, and Gary Phillip Zola.

“While all of the scholars assembled in this volume are well known for their intellectual perspicacity, their essays here shine light on the humanness of the scholar—the struggles and triumphs each experienced as children, young adults, students, and beyond,” said Lila Corwin Berman, Murray Friedman Chair of American Jewish History and director of the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University.

“In many ways a coming-of-age story narrated by multiple voices, Conversations with Colleagues offers an unprecedented exploration of the evolution and structure of American Jewish history as a field,” she added. “Jeffrey Gurock’s excellent introduction serves as a guide, enabling the reader to see how each of the scholars fits into a broader set of questions about the organization of intellectual knowledge and its connection to the human beings who create those schemes of organization. Those of us in the field undoubtedly will feel humility and gratitude as we read these pieces; and for those outside of the field, whether historians, scholars or simply readers, the same stories will resonate for their warmth, intelligence, humor and remarkable self-understanding.”