Alan Mintz (z”l)

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I want to remember here Alan Mintz as a leading contributor to the development of radical American Jewish youth culture in the 1970s and to lower case liberal American Judaism. A major figure in the study of Hebrew literature and a scholar of the novelist and short story writer Shai Agnon. Before he co-founded Proofexts, a premier venue for Jewish literature scholarship, Alan was deeply involved in the creation of  the Havurah Movement and the student journal Response.  While Alan came to position himself politically on the right, these were important institutional organs of radical American Jewish youth culture. On a personal note, Hurban: Responses to Catastrophe in Hebrew Literature was for me something along the order of an event when I first encountered it in the late 1980s. Along with David Roskies’ Against the Apocalypse, it was in this study of modernist, secular Hebrew literature that I first found the religious language of revolt with which to grapple freely and in good faith with trauma and post-Holocaust philosophical and theological questions. In this, Alan was for me something of a hero before I ever met him, most probably in the early 1990s. Another relatively early work, “Banished From Their Father’s Table”: Loss of Faith and Hebrew Autobiography had something of the same pathos of memory, loss, and perseverance. Looked at together, his life and work show contemporary Jewish life in America at its best as a poetic-political-spiritual project with stubborn roots in the Hebrew literary tradition. I’m posting his “My Life with Hebrew” that appeared here at Mosaic.  Alan and I were not particularly close, but I remember him with profound appreciation. Our conversations were open, friendly, and always illuminating whenever we would meet. I knew him either downstairs at kiddush at Ansche Chesed or on Broadway.  A sage creature of the Upper West Side, Alan was both wry and warm.  Alan died suddenly yesterday.  May his memory be for a blessing.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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1 Response to Alan Mintz (z”l)

  1. rabbiadar says:

    Baruch Dayan emet – what a loss! Thank you for the link to Dr Mintz’s article. His memory, through that article, inspires me to continue my struggles with Hebrew.

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