Biblical passages indicate that as early as the return to Palestine from Babylon, Hebrew was no longer understood by the masses, which necessitated the use of vernacular translations to explain the Torah. Thus, the preaching tradition was well established in Judaism during the biblical period, predating Christianity, and long before the New World was explored and colonized. However, for reasons that have never been fully explained, sermons largely disappeared from European Jewish services in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
“Hear O Israel” is the only examination of the history of American Jewish preaching, from the settlement of the first Jews in the United States until 1970. Drawing on three centuries of American Jewish sermons, this study addresses two principal questions. First, how did the American Jewish preaching tradition evolve? Second, how have national and international events been treated in Jewish sermons, and in turn, how have these events affected Jewish preaching?