Irving Greenberg, David Hartman, Jonathan Sacks, and the Future of Jewish Theology in America
A revealing account of the three main disciples of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, an essential figure in Orthodox Judaism in America
Orthodox Judaism is one of the fastest-growing religious communities in contemporary American life. Anyone who wishes to understand more about Judaism in America will need to consider the tenets and practices of Orthodox Judaism: who its adherents are, what they believe in, what motivates them, and to whom they turn for moral, intellectual, and spiritual guidance.
Among those spiritual leaders none looms larger than Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, heir to the legendary Talmudic dynasty of Brisk and a teacher and ordainer of thousands of rabbis during his time as a Talmud teacher at Yeshiva University from the Second World War until the 1980s. Soloveitchik was not only a Talmudic authority but a scholar of Western philosophy. While many books and articles have been written about Soloveitchik’s legacy and his influence on American Orthodoxy, few have looked carefully at his disciples in Torah and Talmud study, and even fewer at his disciples in Jewish thought and philosophy.
Soloveitchik’s Children: Irving Greenberg, David Hartman, Jonathan Sacks, and the Future of Jewish Theology in America is the first book to study closely three of Soloveitchik’s major disciples in Jewish thought and philosophy: Rabbis Irving (“Yitz”) Greenberg, David Hartman, and Jonathan Sacks. Daniel Ross Goodman narrates how each of these three major modern Jewish thinkers learned from and adapted Soloveitchik’s teachings in their own ways, even while advancing his philosophical and theological legacy.
The story of religious life and Judaism in contemporary America is incomplete without an understanding of how three of the most consequential Jewish thinkers of this generation adapted the teachings of one of the most consequential Jewish thinkers of the previous generation. Soloveitchik’s Children tells this gripping intellectual and religious story in a learned and engaging manner, shining a light on where Jewish religious thought in the United States currently stands—and where it may be heading in future generations.
“In his important study of the great twentieth-century Orthodox Jewish theologian Joseph Soloveitchik and his enduring legacy, Daniel Ross Goodman gives us profound and fascinating insights. His book is a highly original analysis of contemporary trends in Jewish thought.”
—Susannah Heschel, Eli M. Black Distinguished Professor, Dartmouth College
“In Soloveitchik’s Children, Goodman presents an incisive portrait of modern Orthodox Jewish thought as presented by its greatest exemplars of the past century—Joseph Soloveitchik, Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, David Hartman, and Jonathan Sacks. Goodman himself is obviously an ‘insider’ to this world of modern Orthodox Judaism and his philosophical-theological erudition as well as rabbinic knowledge permits him to identify both the major topics and concerns that occupy his subjects and to provide an appropriate intellectual framework for the analysis of these men. No other individual has written a comprehensive book-length manuscript on this school of thinkers as Goodman has. Goodman demonstrates a complete command of the writings of the four men that are featured in this work. His erudition in rabbinics and secular philosophy and theology as well as his encyclopedic knowledge of Soloveitchik, Hartman, Greenberg, and Sacks allows him to weave together an interesting narrative and insightful analysis of their thought on the numerous topics these men address in their writings. The book superbly provides a description of two generations of modern Orthodox Jewish thinkers who provide a foundation for future thinkers in this school of thought—and I suspect Goodman will be included in that number one day."
—David Ellenson, author of Jewish Meaning in a World of Choice: Studies in Tradition and Modernity
"No one else besides Goodman has provided this kind of group intellectual history of such an important set of Orthodox thinkers. Whether the reader is interested in contemporary Jewish thought or modern Orthodoxy, Soloveitchik's Children fills in so many of our current holes in understanding these globally renowned Jewish intellectuals and their relationships with each other. All the while, Goodman helps us think through issues of legitimacy and influence in modern Orthodoxy."
—Rachel Gordan is the Samuel "Bud" Shorstein fellow in American Jewish Culture at the University of Florida