Thursday, February 24, 2005

'Artscroll readers of all stripes find meaning in translation'

The Forward has a section on the Talmud this week -- my contribution, on the completion of the Schottenstein edition, here.

Experts agree that it is unlikely the project would have taken off in quite the same way just a few decades earlier. Beyond brilliant marketing, the Artscroll Talmud's success can be attributed to a confluence of historical factors.
According to Samuel Heilman, a sociologist at the City University of New York, members of an Orthodox community that had shifted to the right seized upon it. The community was looking for ways to demonstrate their increased engagement.
"Orthodoxy is raising the ante," Heilman said. "To call oneself Orthodox today, you have to do more than in the past. Along comes Artscroll and makes Talmud study easier, giving it to you virtually color coded, line by line. That's one answer for people who are looking to become more involved in the community.".....
Two other central factors in Artscroll's success were a serious drop in the ability to read and understand classical Hebrew and Aramaic fluently, which made an English edition particularly welcome, and the financial well-being of the community.
"For these kinds of projects, you need both people of means who can support them, and wealthy enough clientele to buy what they print," said Rabbi Professor Barry Levy, dean of the faculty of religious studies at McGill University. "This could never have happened in a less affluent time in Jewish history."
UPDATE: Out of Step Jew approves.

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