Models and Meanings in the History of Jewish Leadership

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This work offers a critical and incisive look into Jewish communal leadership from the biblical period to the present. It provides the reader – both scholar and practitioner – with a probing analysis of a previously unexplored area of study. Lewis provides a thoughtful assessment of Jewish leadership paradigms as they have emerged across a variety of historically and geographically diverse settings. He identifies and analyzes the dominant themes and trends associated with models of Jewish communal leadership, highlighting continuities and discontinuities in their development and evolution.

The work provides a unique context in which to understand and evaluate the current realities of leadership in today’s Jewish communities. Lewis offers a penetrating perspective on the impact which modernity’s radical changes have had upon communal leaders, from rabbis to philanthropists. Further, he proposes a model for twenty-first century communal leaders which seeks to provide a prescription for communal vitality by recapturing the authenticity of the past.

A seasoned communal leader himself, Lewis combines impeccable scholarship with an insider’s understanding. The result is an unusually insightful look into the intricacies of leadership in the Jewish community.

This impressive work has been identified and recognized as a resource material pertinent to the field of Jewish communal service by Shared Learning, a quarterly publication of the School of Jewish Communal Service, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles campus. In fact, Dr. Lewis' book is the very first one to be selected by Shared Learning for their recommended list of resource materials on Jewish leadership.


"With skill, wisdom, and wonderful insight, Lewis explains to us how Jewish communities have achieved a thriving adaptability. By maintaining the dynamic tension of shared power among priests, prophets, and politicians, the Jews have governed themselves with a distributed intelligence, avoiding many of the pitfalls of other cultures that grow overly dependent on like-minded elites." - Ronald A. Heifetz, Harvard University

“A critical and incisive treatment of historical and contemporary models of Jewish leadership. Adds considerably to our understanding of elites and should prove of relevance to programmatic efforts to strengthen the quality of Jewish leaders.” – Dr. Steven Bayme, National Director, Contemporary Jewish Life Dept., American Jewish Committee

“This book will serve as a must read for both current and future Jewish communal leadership. No doubt, its conclusions will evoke a serious yet essential debate over issues of institutional accountability, decision-making principles and practices, and leadership behavior. For readers beyond the Jewish world, [this book] should provide a useful window for those who wish to understand the unique characteristics of the Jewish experience in a historical context or who want to examine comparative systems of community governance and alternative models of leadership development.” – Dr. Steven Windmueller, Director, School of Jewish Communal Service, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
1. Biblical Models of Leadership
2. Leadership in the Rabbinic Period
3. Themes in Medieval Jewish Leadership
4. Jewish Leadership in the Modern Period
5. Summary and Conclusions

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