The Changing Anglo-Jewish Community: Forces of Division
NOT long ago, an American firm (Meridian Books) reprinted a singular work entitled A Rabbinic Anthology which was originally published in England in 1938. As its title indicates, A Rabbinic Anthology is a selection of texts culled from the full range of Rabbinic literature, but approximately a third of this 853-page volume is given over to material written by the two editors, Claude Goldsmid Montefiore and Herbert Loewe. Both Montefiore (who was a Liberal–or in American terminology, a Reform-Jew) and Loewe (who was Orthodox) contributed long introductions in which each expressed, on the basis of his own very different religious commitment, a view of Rabbinic literature; there is also an ad hoc running commentary on the texts (done chiefly by Montefiore) and many pages of notes (done chiefly by Loewe).
A commentary can sometimes transcend its subject in value: Rabbinic literature itself, indeed, very often testifies to that fact. While it would not be true to say that the material contributed by Montefiore and Loewe to A Rabbinic Anthology is more important than the texts, there is no question that the book is in some respects more valuable for its wrappings than for what is inside-which is, after all, available elsewhere. Not that it is easily available, or available in so digestible a form, for there is still nothing in the English language quite equal to this volume as an introduction to Rabbinic literature for the layman. Even if we compare it with what is perhaps the greatest Rabbinic anthology in another language-Bialik and Rabnitski’s Sefer Ha-Aggadah-it still stands in a class of its own.
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