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Howard B. Rock
Researching New York 2013 Conference Lecture

Howard B. Rock

“A Momentous Encounter:
Reform Judaism Challenges Orthodoxy in 19th Century New York"

NYS Writers Institute, November 15, 2013
3:45 p.m. Discussion | Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, Uptown Campus



The Enlightenment, the notion that science and reason could lead humankind to a more perfect level of civilization, was always a challenge to traditional Judaism. This included the small communities of British and Jeffersonian New York. The major encounter, however, came in the late 1840s when the foremost Orthodox (traditional) and Reform (Jewish Enlightenment) thinkers resided at or near New York. There Reformers began a passionate dialogue that advocated radical changes to Jewish prayer and practice and attacked the Orthodoxy as leading to the eventual demise of Judaism. The Orthodox responded in kind as the two parties argued over theology, the Talmud, ritual observance, and the place of women. For five years New York was the epicenter in the American confrontation between the two denominations of Judaism, continuing through the Civil War as contrasting outlooks led to contrasting views on slavery and politics.

Haven of LibertyHoward B. Rock is Professor of History, Emeritus at Florida International University where he taught for thirty-five years. His early writing and research focused on the Revolutionary and Jeffersonian eras in New York City.  His most recent publication is Haven of Liberty, New York Jews in the New World, 1654-1865, the first volume of the trilogy, City of Promise: A History of the Jews of New York City (2012, New York University Press), which received the 2012 Jewish Book of the Year Award from the Jewish Book Council.  He is the coauthor, with Deborah Dash Moore, of Cityscapes: A History of New York  in Images (2001, Columbia University Press).

Howard Rock’s talk is a featured event of the Researching New York 2013 Conference. The complete conference program and registration details are available at http://nystatehistory.org/researchny/program2013.htm.  

Sponsored by UAlbany’s Department of History and Judaic Studies Program, the NYS Archives Partnership Trust, and the NYS Writers Institute Professor Rock's  talk is free and open to the public.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.