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Since Dovid Katz's cultural history of Yiddish Words on Fire appeared last summer, it has garnered major reviews in both scholarly and popular periodicals. That Professor Katz published a second landmark book during the same period is an extraordinary achievement. Lithuanian Jewish Culture, his monumental work on Jewish history and culture in the old Litvak lands, appeared with Baltos Lankos Press in Vilnius and surely will soon become the focus of broad critical attention.
Here, the richness of Lithuanian Jewish Culture can only be hinted at. Lavishly produced, with over 300 rare photographs and 26 original maps and charts, it is the most comprehensive religious and secular history of Litvak Jewry ever to appear in English. With the rise of Lithuanian Jewry as background, Professor Katz first surveys the traditional rabbinic culture of Ashkenazic Jewry. Within this framework, he then treats specifically Lithuanian rabbinic and kabalistic traditions, along with the momentous Hasidic-Misnagdic conflict. Further, he portrays the modernist secular movements of Yiddishism, Hebraism, Zionism, Socialism, Jewish Art, and still others. Additional focal points are Litvak life in the interwar East European republics and in the emigration centers of the Americas, Israel, and elsewhere. The remaining Litvak Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe, among whom Katz has done extensive research, add still another significant theme to his wide-ranging portrayal.
Professor Katz's chapter on Lithuanian Jewry's most famous scholar, rabbi Eliyohu ben Shloyme-Zalmen, revered as the Gaon of Vilna (1720-1797), merits special note. It contains the first-ever English translation of the Gaon's biography, which was penned by his two sons shortly after their father's death.
We heartily congratulates research director and Professor of Judaic Studies at Vilnius University Dovid Katz on the completion and publication of this second major work within a single year.
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