Jewish Studies

Celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month

May in the US is Jewish American Heritage Month, a celebration that pays tribute to the generations of Jewish Americans who helped form the fabric of American history, culture and society. To mark this we’ve put together a reading list of books from the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization that explore the heritage and contributions of Jewish Americans.

Rupture and Reconstruction by Haym Soloveitchik

The essay that forms the core of this book is an attempt to understand the developments that have occurred in Orthodox Jewry in America in the last seventy years, and to analyse their implications. The prime change is what is often described as ‘the swing to the right’, a marked increase in ritual stringency, a rupture in patterns of behaviour that has had major consequences not only for Jewish society but also for the nature of Jewish spirituality.

This new edition allows the author to deal with criticisms raised since the essay, long established as a classic in the field, was originally published, and enables readers to gain a fuller perspective on a topic central to today’s Jewish world and its development.

Social Change and Halakhic Evolution in American Orthodoxy by Chaim I. Waxman 

Chaim I. Waxman, a prominent sociologist of contemporary Orthodoxy, is one of the keenest observers of American Jewish society. In illustration of how Orthodoxy is adapting to modernity, in this book he presents a detailed discussion of halakhic developments, particularly regarding women’s greater participation in ritual practices and other areas of communal life. He shows that the direction of change is not uniform: there is both greater stringency and greater leniency, and he discusses the many reasons for this, both in the Jewish community and in the wider society.

Creating American Reform Judaism: The Life and Times of Isaac Mayer Wise by Sefton D. Temkin 

American Reform Judaism’s major institutions—Hebrew Union College, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Reform prayer-book Minhag America—were all due to the singular efforts of Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900). Professor Temkin’s biography captures the vigour of Wise’s personality and the politics and concerns of Jewish life and leadership in America at that time. It is a lively portrait of a rabbi who was a pivotal figure in the naturalization of Jews and Judaism in the New World.

Hadassah: American Women Zionists and the Rebirth of Israel by Mira Katzburg-Yungman

Hadassah is the largest Zionist organization in the Diaspora, the largest and most active women’s organization in Jewish history, and the largest women’s organization in the United States. The history of Hadassah is inseparable from the history of American Jewry and of the State of Israel; this is an extensive, diverse, and balanced contribution to both those areas as well as to the history of Jewish women.

Jewish Day Schools, Jewish Communities edited by Alex Pomson and Howard Deitcher

About 350,000 Jewish children are currently enrolled in Jewish day schools, in every continent other than Antarctica. This is the first book-length consideration of life in such schools and of their relationship both to the Jewish community and to society as a whole. It provides a rich sense of how community is constructed within Jewish schools, and of how they contribute to or complicate the construction of community in the wider society.

Founded by Louis Littman in memory of his father to explore, explain, and perpetuate the Jewish heritage, the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization published its first book in 1965. It has gone on to publish many highly regarded titles and has established a reputation as one of the leading publishers in the field. Littman’s academic books are selected for their outstanding scholarship, objectivity, and new insights. Many are considered definitive in their field. Littman’s more general titles, written in an accessible style, aim to make important ideas available to a readership concerned with the state of the Jewish world.

For more information or to submit a proposal, contact Littman’s managing editor Connie Webber at

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