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Orthodox by Design

Orthodox by Design: Judaism, Print Politics, and the ArtScroll Revolution

Jeremy Stolow
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Orthodox by Design
    Book Description:

    Orthodox by Design, a groundbreaking exploration of religion and media, examines ArtScroll, the world's largest Orthodox Jewish publishing house, purveyor of handsomely designed editions of sacred texts and a major cultural force in contemporary Jewish public life. In the first in-depth study of the ArtScroll revolution, Jeremy Stolow traces the ubiquity of ArtScroll books in local retail markets, synagogues, libraries, and the lives of ordinary users. Synthesizing field research conducted in three local Jewish scenes where ArtScroll books have had an impact-Toronto, London, and New York-along with close readings of key ArtScroll texts, promotional materials, and the Jewish blogosphere, he shows how the use of these books reflects a broader cultural shift in the authority and public influence of Orthodox Judaism. Playing with the concept of design, Stolow's study also outlines a fresh theoretical approach to print culture and illuminates how evolving technologies, material forms, and styles of mediated communication contribute to new patterns of religious identification, practice, and power. Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in the scholarship category, Jewish Book Council

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94554-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-X)
    (pp. XI-XII)
    (pp. XIII-XVIII)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-29)

    Artscroll is a publisher known throughout the English-speaking Jewish world as a purveyor of handsomely designed, accessible, and uncompromisingly Orthodox print commodities, including bilingual prayer books and Bibles, rabbinic commentaries, legal manuals, historical works, novels, self-help books, and curricular material for Jewish education. The advertisement quoted above announces a new edition of ArtScroll’s highly popular Siddur, a liturgical text that in its various formats has sold roughly one million copies, making it arguably the most successful Jewish prayer book in the history of publishing. Since its founding in 1976, ArtScroll has enjoyed a stellar career, in many ways parallel to...

  7. ONE Authoritative and Accessible
    (pp. 30-63)

    The year 2005 was a big one for ArtScroll. It marked the completion of the seventy-third and final volume of theirTalmud Bavli: The Schottenstein Edition, a massive work of thirty-five thousand pages, involving over eighty rabbinic scholars for more than fifteen years, at a blistering production rate of one volume every nine weeks.¹ No other publication has more definitively signaled ArtScroll’s ascent in the publishing world. Several other ArtScroll books have had a dramatic impact on the English-language Jewish public sphere, such asThe Complete ArtScroll Siddur(their basic prayer book) and even their best-selling cookbook,Kosher by Design.²...

  8. TWO ArtScroll’s Public Life
    (pp. 64-102)

    As we have seen, ArtScroll defines its mission as one of reaching beyond the Haredi enclave, addressing and reclaiming a universal class of Jews in search of authentic meaning. Through the production and dissemination of texts that have been authorized and approved by the elites of the Haredi yeshiva world, ArtScroll offers a comprehensive body of Torahtrue literature, designed to inform, instruct, and emotionally uplift readers in all aspects of public and private life. The ideal readers are the ones who are able to fill up every dimension of their lives with ArtScroll books as sources of knowledge, as narrative...

  9. THREE Prayer Books, Cookbooks, Self-Help Books: Designs for Kosher Living
    (pp. 103-144)

    A common interpretation of the contemporary Haredi enclave points to a fundamental paradox. A society driven by the desire to safe-guard its cherished traditions of knowledge, cultural practice, and moral outlook discovers it can achieve its ends only through cultural innovation. The more it wishes to uphold tradition, the more intensely it must engage with bodies of knowledge, forms of political power, lifestyles, and cultural products that lie beyond the designated boundaries of authentic Jewish society, in the dense interactions and circulations that constitute global modernity. Whether their attention is directed inwardly, toward followers, or outwardly, toward competitors and prospective...

  10. FOUR Materializing Authenticity
    (pp. 145-175)

    Artscroll books, I have suggested, can be thought of as a kind of hinge that joins the cultural milieu of the Haredi yeshiva world with the broader realm of the English-language Jewish public sphere. Chapter 3 examined how some of ArtScroll’s best-known works provide a connective tissue between the life-world of the author and that of the reader through the communication of scenarios—for praying, cooking, or the management of one’s emotional life—written in extraordinary detail and exhibiting carefully calculated anticipation of the reader’s potential misunderstandings or misgivings about the actions to be performed. Playing on the definition of...

  11. FIVE Gravity and Gravitas: A Concluding Reflection on Print Scripturalism in the Digital Age
    (pp. 176-182)

    Toward the end of a wide-ranging discussion about ArtScroll’s contributions to Orthodox Jewish publishing, editor-in-chief Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz put it to me that one of the press’s best measures of success lay in the fact that ArtScroll books were increasingly being purchased all over the world through the Internet. As he stressed, “There is even this guy on the North Pole who orders all our books.”¹ This striking image of a distant, solitary, and anonymous reader who furthers his Jewish education and secures an Orthodox way of life by building up his own ArtScroll library captures in condensed form two...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 183-240)
    (pp. 241-258)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 259-265)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 266-266)