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Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa

Pledges of Jewish Allegiance Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa book cover

Finalist, Scholarship category in the 2012 National Jewish Book Awards, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council.

Since the late 1700s, when the Jewish community ceased to be a semiautonomous political unit in Western Europe and the United States and individual Jews became integrated—culturally, socially, and politically—into broader society, questions surrounding Jewish status and identity have occupied a prominent and contentious place in Jewish legal discourse. This book examines a wide array of legal opinions written by nineteenth- and twentieth-century orthodox rabbis in Europe, the United States, and Israel. It argues that these rabbis' divergent positions—based on the same legal precedents—demonstrate that they were doing more than delivering legal opinions. Instead, they were crafting public policy for Jewish society in response to Jews' social and political interactions as equals with the non-Jewish persons in whose midst they dwelled.

Pledges of Jewish Allegiance prefaces its analysis of modern opinions with a discussion of the classical Jewish sources upon which they draw.

About the author

David Ellenson, President and I. H. and Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought at Hebrew Union College–Jewish institute of Religion, is a distinguished rabbi, scholar, and leader of the Reform Movement.

Daniel Gordis is President of the Shalem Foundation and Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and a frequent contributor to the New York Times and was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism.