Friday, April 16, 2021

Heroes of Learning part two Nov. 2000

Librarian's Lobby
November 2000

 Heroes of Learning part two

Last month after I finished writing my column, I learned that a Chicago Rabbinical Council member, Shmuel Jablon, just had his first book published. My criteria for heroes of learning state that the person should have an influence far beyond their original time and place. Rabbi Shmuel Jablon is a future hero. Through his writings and teaching his influence is reaching a large audience. Professor George Foot Moore made significant contributions to Jewish scholarship and helped non-Jews better understand the Tannaic age of Judaism. The last example, Aaron Copland, was not an academic hero, but a musician, composer, teacher of music and conductor. Aaron Copland, who was one of the definers of American symphonic music, donated his papers to the Library of Congress. Now we can learn more about this musical genius through a digital on-line collection.

Rabbi Shmuel Jablon[1]

I first met Shmuel when he was a simicha (rabbinical) student at Hebrew Theological College and taught American history in their high school. He impressed me as a teacher who cared not only for academics, but also for the relationships between students and history. When he said, "Remember you are B'nai Torah,"[2] he was talking about their behavior and how the outside world perceived them. Several of his former students remembered that his method of teaching demanded original thinking. He prepared them for learning at a college level. One assignment was a constitutional convention with students taking the roles of each of the thirteen states. The assignment taught the students about history and the human interaction required to make agreements. Another assignment was a term paper on an aspect of American history. Usually students of this age have a hard time figuring out the scope of a research paper. Shmuel was able to guide the student to do some original historical research. Several of the students wrote about family members and their contributions to the Jewish community. These papers shed light on the institutions' history that was not in any history books. These students later donated copies of their papers to the library.

After receiving his simicha (rabbinical ordination) he became the director of the Sephardic Hebrew Day School (Skokie, IL). Later he was recruited to be the associate headmaster of South Peninsula Hebrew Day School (Sunnyvale, CA) and in September 2000 he became is the head of the lower school (grades k-6) of the Fuchs Mizrachi School (Cleveland, OH).

From 2008 until 2014 he was the principal of Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia.  In 2008 he published The Student's Pesach Haggadah[3] aimed at students grade 3-12.  In Cleveland and Philadelphia, he contributed comments on the Torah portion for the local Jewish newspapers. 

In all of his positions he guided school curricula that were strong in Hebrew language and a connection to Israel.  He and his family made Aliyah in 2014 because of his love of the land, desire to be at the center of Jewish history and to give his children the opportunity to be in the place they'd always dreamed of living.  He hopes that his aliyah served as an example for his students and their families in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Currently Shmuel lives in Efrat, Israel with his wife and unmarried children. He celebrated the birth of his first Israel grandchild 10 months ago. Since 2015 has been serving as the executive director of Shapell’s/Darche Noam in Jerusalem. 

As the executive director he brings his expertise in organization and education to make sure the institution runs well and remains financially sound. Shapell’s and its women's seminary Midreshet Rachel V'Chaya have English-speaking men and women students [4] coming from North America and the rest of the world who study from a month to three years, emerging with a greater understanding of Torah, Israel and Jewish texts.  They then go on to make an impact in their communities- whether those they came from or in Israel (where 25%+ of the alumni live).  Though his classroom teaching has been placed in the background (though he teaches the Megillot and Israeli history at Midreshet Rachel), he is quite proud of his role in making sure that the organization remains strong and able to continue to succeed in its mission.

His classroom teaching has been placed I the background so that he can help the faculty do their job working with students to master text and inspire spiritual and religious growth. Shapell’s has English-speaking men and women students[4] coming from North America and the rest of the world who study for a year and then return to home with a greater understanding of Torah, Israel and Jewish texts. Shmuel’s influence on faculty and the organization help students return home and make contributions to their home communities.

His book, Jewish Answers, was published in 2000 by iUniverse and Writers' Club Press (ISBN: 0-595-12231-0). The book is a compilation of answers he has given as one of the rabbis on "Ask a Rabbi" panel on The questions range from everyday issues to holidays and religious Zionism. Some questions require a halakhic (according to Jewish law) response while others require the compassion and understanding of a teacher or social worker. (Shmuel refers difficult legal questions to others who are more qualified to answer.) His answers demonstrate an unusual ability to understand the motivation of the questioner and give a sensitive, compassionate, modern Orthodox answer. You may read sample pages on the Internet before deciding to purchase. The book is aimed at two audiences, the person seeking to learn more about Judaism and experts such as rabbis, who may want help when they receive similar questions.

George Foot Moore (1851-1931)

From 1902 until his retirement in 1928 George Foot Moore was a professor of religion at Harvard University. Moore, the son a Presbyterian minister in West Chester, PA, was so bright that he entered Yale University as a junior and graduated second in his class. After studying privately, he entered Union Theological Seminary in New York and graduated in 1878. He was a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Andover Theological Seminary [5] for twenty years before Harvard. He contributed to scholarly journals and wrote several important books including, Commentary on Judges (1895), The Literature of the Old Testament (1913), and The Birth and Growth of Religion (1923). He did much to shape the idea that religion is a universal human activity. He shaped the study of religion with German logic, methods, and standards and mixed in his own enormous base of knowledge. He had the traits of a great soul and a great scholar.

His influence on Jewish studies was his three volume work, Judaism in the First Centuries: the age of Tannaim. (1927-1930). His understanding of the Talmud, rabbinic literature, and rabbinic Judaism was combined with his understanding of religion and the history of religion. This work was his contribution Jewish studies. In an era when few universities had experts in Jewish studies, Moore stands out as a leader and example for younger scholars. [6] Moore thanks his colleagues, Harry A. Wolfson for checking all the references and Louis Ginzberg for his words of advice and encouragement.

There is a generational gap in the appreciation of Moore's scholarship. I asked several CRC members about George Foot Moore. The ones who are my age or older, readily recognized his name and his Judaism. Younger members had never seen this book. Moore's books were written in an era that saw few English scholarly works in Judaism written in English. Before World War II, scholarly Jewish books were written in Hebrew or German. Moore's work cannot be recommended without caution. Moore looks at Judaism as a critical historian and Christian theologian. His work did much to bridge the gap between Christian theologians and Jewish scholarship. He does not hesitate to quote from the Christian Bible and Christian teachers. No doubt modern scholars using sources revealed after 1930 could disagree with some of his conclusions, but his contributions influenced students and scholars for more than 50 years.

The idea that religion is a natural human activity should help understand not just organized religions, but also corporate and personal behaviors that border on religion. Consequently, George Foot Moore's influence has transcended his time and place and as a hero of learning. For a portrait of Moore and more information see:

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

Copeland in Israel 1968
When I performed Copland's works in high school band, I had no idea that he was Jewish. Copland devoted his life to composing "American" music. Copland was born in Brooklyn to Russian-Jewish immigrants. From the time he was 10 he wanted to be a composer. This was difficult as an American during a time when composing symphonic music was a European activity.

November 14, 2000, marked the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Aaron Copland. The new online Aaron Copland Collection ( was created by the National Digital Library Program in conjunction with the Library on Congress's Music Division. It forms part of the Library of Congress's homage to this distinguished American. This digital collection has digital copies of Copland's manuscript scores with the composers handwritten notes.

Copland wrote several books [7] to help us understand and enjoy music. He stopped composing in the 1970's, but continued to conduct and teach until the mid 1980's. Because his ballet, music, Billy the Kid (1938), Rodeo (1942), and his simple Fanfare for the Common Man (1942) still ring in my ears, he is one of the heroes of learning.

©2000, 2021 CRC36. Last revised April 15, 2021

[1]  This section was edited and updated in April 2000 and is substantially different than the original Nov. 2000 article. Rabbi Jablon is a hero of Jewish learning today and not just a “future” hero whom I met in 1995.

 The other sections had only minor changes.

 [2]  Loosely translated, B'nai Torah means properly behaved gentlemen.

 [3]  The Student's Pesach Haggadah by Rabbi Shmuel Jablon. Mazo Publishers, 2008

ISBN: 978-9657344453.

 [4]  Men and women are in separate programs and don’t learn in the same classes.

[5]  For the first centuries of their existence Andover and Harvard Divinity School (HDS) had a rivalry. In 1910 after a decline in enrollment Andover and Harvard signed a joint operating agreement. Andover spent $300,000 to build Andover Hall, which became the joint library of HDS and Andover. The library's name is Andover-Harvard. HDS is a non-denominational divinity school that offers academic graduate degrees in religion.

 [6]  Moore did graduate studies in Germany in 1895 and was an exchange professor in 1909-10 and evidently learned German. He did publish a few articles in German. However, it is interesting to note that his magnum opus, Judaism has not been translated into German or Hebrew. During the 1920's even American scholars in religion and social sciences published in German.

[7] Books include: What to listen for in music (1939), Our new music (1941), and Copland on music (1960). What to listen ... was frequently used as a text in music appreciation classes.  

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