The editors of American Jewish History occasionally conceptualize and produce issues organized around a specific theme. One might assume this to be the case for our most recently published issue, since all three articles feature, to varying degrees, the editor, publisher, and lay minister, Isaac Leeser (1806-1868). But in fact, Leeser’s overarching presence in this issue is a happy accident. It’s also indicative of his unabated relevance for historians of American Jewish religion and culture.
The three essays in the most current issue of AJH engage with Leeser’s work, and his legacy, in various ways. While David Weinfeld offers a thorough reappraisal of Leeser’s view of race and slavery in the United States, Jeffrey Marx and Laura Yares highlight Leeser’s role within nineteenth century debates over how American Jews should worship, how they should educate their young people, and how they were perceived by their non-Jewish neighbors. Together, these essays provide an opportunity to consider (and to reconsider) Isaac Leeser’s towering presence as a Jewish leader in his time.
In addition to these essays, the current issue includes reviews of ten new books – including Jacques Berlinerblau’s recent consideration of Philip Roth, and Julian Zelizer’s new biography of Abraham Joshua Heschel – as well as an appraisal of I’ll Have What She’s Having, a popular museum exhibit on the history of the Jewish delicatessen in American life. We hope that readers will “relish” all of the offerings in the current issue this summer!