Arthur Hertzberg’s memories are a fascinating read. During his 80 years in America he grows from a very poor son of immigrants in Baltimore to become a Conservative rabbi, a teacher and lecturer, a fighter for decency and for Israel. We meet people we’ve all heard of, seen through his eyes. And we go with him on his travels to Israel, beginning at the birth of the Jewish State.
It is quite extraordinary that this man, born to a Hassidic family, deeply affected by the Holocaust and the loss of so many members of his own family, would become so liberal in his religious views. Hertzberg’s liberalism was demonstrated early in his career as rabbi in Memphis, Tennessee where he fought for the rights of African Americans in a difficult era. Before it was common practice, this influential rabbi was a champion, of women’s rights in Judaism. He did not hesitate to ask women to join a minyan when he was obliged to say prayers for his departed parents, and from the beginning he not only urged all women to study, but taught his own daughters.
Edgar M. Bronfman is President of the World Jewish Congress and Chair of the Board of Governors of Hillel.