New Books from OU Press

New from OU Press – Spring 2024

Hasidus Meets America: The Life and Torah of the Monastryshcher Rebbe zt”l (1860–1938)

By Ora Wiskind

OU Press | Ktav Publishers

Professor Ora Wiskind, head of the graduate program in Jewish Studies at Michlalah College, Jerusalem, is a noted scholar of Chassidism whose work brings to life the resonant teachings of the great Chassidic masters. In her latest volume, Professor Wiskind performs this service for a wrongly neglected figure. Rabbi Yehoshua Heschel Rabinowitz, the Monastryshcher Rebbe, arrived in the United States one century ago from a Ukraine stained with Jewish blood. In the US, he was the leader of an organization of Chassidic rabbis at a time when Chassidism was not yet firmly established in this country. His many works boldly combine Chassidic teachings with an uncommon open-mindedness and willingness to confront the changes taking place in society. In addition to providing a biographical sketch, Professor Wiskind provides translation of and commentary on selected teachings of the Rebbe, arranged according to the Jewish holidays (including an extensive chapter on the Passover Haggadah), which accentuate the Rebbe’s uniqueness and originality. To give one small example, in his commentary on the Haggadah, Rabbi Yehoshua Heschel writes: 

Witness the spectacular involvement of Jews in general culture. They turn the wheels of life in every secular field, unlock the mysteries of natural science. Jews’ active role in the development and perfection of human civilization greatly exceeds their tiny numbers. Truly, against unimaginable odds, “a wise and discerning people is this great nation!” A stunning, astonishing achievement. This indeed is the most compelling proof of G-d’s existence and providence: mercifully, secretly, He guards over each individual and enables their success. Thus, Jewish survival over the centuries, despite untold suffering and exile—this most of all bears witness to G-d’s greatness, an ongoing sanctification of His holy Name. . . . 

As Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb writes in his Preface, “Professor Wiskind has succeeded in reviving the image of a profound Jewish thinker and teacher, one who has much to offer an audience thirsty for such inspiration.” 


My Grandmother’s Candlesticks: Judaism and Feminism—A Multigenerational Memoir 

By Diane Schulder Abrams 

OU Press | Ktav Publishers

In this memoir about the transmission of Jewish tradition through the vicissitudes of the generations, Diane Schulder Abrams tells her story as a pioneering feminist legal scholar whose journey back to Judaism was illuminated by the warm glow of her grandmother’s candlesticks. After publishing an article about her grandmother and the inspiration she derived from her, she was encouraged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to expand it into a book. In this work, she fulfills her commitment to the Rebbe to do so. 

The author’s life is full of unexpected connections with figures as disparate as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose course on women and the law borrowed from the author’s own, and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz, the Bostoner Rebbe, among many others. Other themes interwoven in the book are the history of the feminist movement, the scourge of assimilation, and the resurgence of antisemitism. One remarkable anecdote about the Lubavitcher Rebbe is worth relating. At the age of forty-seven, the author and her husband went to a fertility specialist, only to be told that they had less than a 5 percent  chance of conceiving. Then: 

On the holiday of Hoshana Rabbah in 1985, on a Sunday in September, we drove to Chabad Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. . . . [The Rebbe] looked at me and said to us, “I give you a blessing for an addition to your family within the next year!” I was stunned. We had not told the Rebbe of our desire to have another child, nor had we gone to see him with any expectation of being given a blessing of this kind. . . . About six weeks later, early one morning, I took a pregnancy kit out of the medicine cabinet and did a quick test. . . . A few days later, the phone rang. When I heard Dr. Gribetz’s voice, I held my breath. “The test results are positive.” he said. “But it must be a mistake—it cannot be correct. Please come in for another test.” I took another test and again, it was positive. How great was our joy!

The distinguished scholar Ruth Wisse aptly sums up this unique work: “Unlike those who revel in contradiction and tension, Diane Schulder Abrams describes the harmonious integration she was able to weave of feminism with traditional values, professional achievement with rich family life, religious faith with modernity, and American Judaism with commitment to Israel. Her grandmother’s candlesticks find their praiseworthy home in this memoir.” 

This article was featured in the Spring 2024 issue of Jewish Action.
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