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July 14: Henry Hurwitz and the Menorah Journal

Lawrence Bush
July 13, 2016

md132745746Henry Hurwitz, who founded and edited The Menorah Journal, one of America’s foremost Jewish publications, was born in Lithuania on this date in 1886. Hurwitz came to the U.S. with his family at 5. He organized the Harvard Menorah Society in 1906, which by 1913 grew into a multi-campus organization, the Intercollegiate Menorah Association. Louis Brandeis, about to be appointed as the first Jewish Supreme Court justice, wrote the lead article in the premiere issue of The Menorah Journal, in which Brandeis famously claimed that “the 20th century ideals of America have been the ideals of the Jew for 20 centuries.” The journal published from 1915 to 1962 (bimonthly 1915-27, monthly 1928-30, then irregularly) for a total of 157 issues. Hurwitz’s participation in the American Council for Judaism in the 1950s indicated a shift in him towards anti-Zionism, although various articles over the years also led to charges that The Menorah Journal was too Zionist, was anti-reformist, was anti-rabbinical, and so on. In fact, Hurwitz’s publication was wide-ranging over the decades and featured pieces of historical importance by a broad range of intellectuals, academics, communal leaders, rabbis, politicians, artists, and more.

“We have had more than one coy proposal from this and that wealthy organization to take us over. Our financial problems would then be solved. And our freedom--that is, our true life--dissolved.” --Henry Hurwitz

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.