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BIC Excellence Award

Agony in the Pulpit
Jewish Preaching in Response to Nazi Persecution and Mass Murder 1933-1945

By Marc Saperstein

Agony in the Pulpit
Hardback, 1200 pages £81.00
Published: 2018
ISBN: 9780878201600
Format: 228mm x 152mm
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Subjects: Hebrew Union College Press, History, Philosophy and Religion

Many scholars have focused on contemporary sources pertaining to the Nazi persecution and mass murder of Jews between 1933 and 1945--citing dated documents, newspapers, diaries, and letters--but the sermons delivered by rabbis describing and protesting against the ever-growing oppression of European Jews have been largely neglected.

Agony in the Pulpit is a response to this neglect, and to the accusations made by respected figures that Jewish leaders remained silent in the wake of catastrophe. The passages from sermons reproduced in this volume--delivered by 135 rabbis in fifteen countries, mainly from the United States and England--provide important evidence of how these rabbis communicated the ever-worsening news to their congregants, especially on important religious occasions when they had peak attendance and peak receptivity.

A central theme is how the preachers related the contemporary horrors to ancient examples of persecution. Did they present what was occurring under Hitler as a re-enactment of the murderous oppressions by Pharaoh, Amalek, Haman, Ahasuerus, the Crusaders, the Spanish Inquisition, the Russian Pogroms? When did they begin to recognize and articulate from their pulpits an awareness that current events were fundamentally unprecedented? Was the developing cataclysm consistent with traditional beliefs about God's control of what happened on earth?

No other book-length study has presented such abundant evidence of rabbis in all streams of Jewish religious life seeking to rouse and inspire their congregants to full awareness of the catastrophic realities that were taking shape in the world beyond their synagogues.

Preface and Acknowledgments Abbreviations, and a Note on Style
Introduction Chronological Selections
Sermons from 1932
Sermons from 1933
Sermons from 1934
Sermons from 1935
Sermons from 1936
Sermons from 1937
Sermons from 1938
Sermons from 1939
Sermons from 1940
Sermons from 1941
Sermons from 1942
Sermons from 1943
Sermons from 1944
Sermons from 1945
Complete Sermons 1932
(Prelude) Jacob Xenob Cohen, ‘The Menace of Hitlerism to American Jewry,’ Free Synagogue, New York 1933
Harry Joshua Stern, ‘Hitlerism, Germany and Civilization,’ Temple Emanu-El, Montreal, Mass Rally Israel Levinthal, ‘Old Pharaoh in Modern Garb,’ Brooklyn Jewish Center, NY
Jacob P. Rudin, ‘Dark Horizons - 1933,’ Temple Beth-El, Great Neck, NY 1934
Harold I. Saperstein, ‘The Call to Battle,’ Temple Emanu-El of Lynbrook, NY 1935
Ferdinand Isserman, ‘My Second Visit to Nazi Germany,’ Temple Israel, St. Louis, MO 1936
Abba Hillel Silver, ‘But Mordecai Bowed Not Down,’ The Temple, Cleveland, OH 1937
Israel Mattuck, ‘The Church Conflict in Germany,’ Liberal Jewish Synagogue, London 1938
Abraham Mayer Heller, ‘A Peoples Voice is Silenced,’ Flatbush Jewish Centre, Brooklyn, NY
Tobias (Tuviah) Geffen, ‘Sermon on .ayyei Sarah 5699, at the Time of the Great Destruction of the Jews in Germany at the Hands of the Evil Oppressor, Hitler, May his name and his Memory be Blotted Out,’ Congregation Shearith Yisrael, Atlanta, GA 1939
Julius Cohn, ‘Farewell Sermon (Abschiedspredigt), Ulm Congregation’ Ignaz Maybaum, ‘The Anniversary of November 10,’ Brondesbury Synagogue, London 1940
Leo Franklin, ‘Is This the End?’ Temple Beth-El, Detroit, MI 1941
Eliezer Berkovits, ‘Because of Our Sins?’ United Hebrew Congregation, Leeds, England 1942
Yitzhak Katz, ‘Things I Intended to Say ... ,’ Conference of Jewish Social Self-Help (Zy-dowska Samapomoc Spolczna, ZSS), Warsaw Ghetto
Michael Elton (formerly Emil Ehrnthal), ‘The Death Camps,’ Intercession Service, Day of Fast and Mourning, Bedford, England 1943
Bertram Korn, ‘The Prayer for Life,’ Shaarei Shomayim, Mobile, AL Akiba Predmesky, ‘The Ark of G-D Has Been Taken,’ Jewish Center of Williamsbridge, Bronx, NY 1944
Joseph Hertz, ‘The Battle of Warsaw,’ Bevis Marks Synagogue, London Louis I. Newman, ‘The Cup of Fury,’ Congregation Rodeph Sholom, New York 1945
Abraham Cohen, ‘Peace Celebration,’ Birmingham Hebrew Congregation, England
Sources and Bibliography
Rabbis Cited

Marc Saperstein is professor emeritus of Jewish history at George Washington University and professor of Jewish history and homiletics at Leo Baeck College, London.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 1200 pages
 228mm x 152mm

BIC Code:
  HIS043000, REL040030, REL058020, SOC049000
 Hebrew Union College Press


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