- STEINBERG, MILTON
- STEINBERG, MILTON (1903–1950), U.S. Conservative rabbi. Steinberg was born in Rochester, New York, and ordained a rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary (1928). His first congregation was in Indianapolis, Indiana, and in 1933 he moved to the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York, an institution that was still part of the Reform movement and lived in the shadow of the larger and more prestigious institutions that were nearby, Kehillath Jeshurun with Rabbi joseph lookstein as its leader and Temple Emmau-El and Central Synagogue. Steinberg brought the synagogue into the Conservative movement. He attracted new members and built up the congregation. He was a fine preacher. An ardent Zionist, he worked with the Zionist Organization of America and also with Hadassah. Park Avenue Synagogue is now among the most prestigious in the Conservative Movement. A student of morris raphael cohen , Steinberg was concerned with a philosophical approach to Judaism. He dealt with issues such as the nature of God, His relation to humanity and history, the problem of evil, the confrontation of faith and reason, and so forth. While at the seminary, the most profound influence on Steinberg was mordecai m. kaplan . Steinberg was early identified with Kaplan's Reconstructionist movement and was one of the founders of its publication. For a year he was managing editor of The Reconstructionist (1937), and in the 1940s helped edit the Reconstructionist Sabbath Prayer Book (1945) that was widely criticized in traditional circles for its abandonment of the chosen people concept and the sacrificial order. Steinberg later expressed criticism of the movement. His main points were that while Reconstructionism was a sound ideology, it lacked a philosophic concern and was deficient in poetry. Steinberg's novel, As a Driven Leaf (1939), was considered one of the best novels written with the talmudic period as a background. The work deals with the heretic elisha ben avuyah and the conflict of religion and philosophy which his life represents. Elisha eventually realizes that one is not superior to the other but both are based upon the acceptance on faith of undemonstrated basic premises. This realization prevents Elisha from denouncing religion as inferior. The work is still read more than 65 years after its writing and is still a fine orientation to the time of Rabbinic Judaism. The Making of the Modern Jew (1934) was Steinberg's attempt to sort out the history of the Jew and the meaning of that history for a Jew in the 20th century. The book did not actually deal with the 20th century, and Steinberg published A Partisan Guide to the Jewish Problem (1945) which, although not a sequel, gave indication of the type of modern Jew that he believed would emerge from this interplay of past and present. His work Basic Judaism (1947) enjoyed wide popularity as an attempt to set down the basics of the Jewish religion. It, too, is still widely read, especially by those who are becoming Jews by choice. In addition, Steinberg was active in Zionist circles and devoted much time to furthering the Zionist cause in the U.S. A number of volumes of essays were published posthumously: A Believing Jew (1951); From the Sermons of Milton Steinberg (1954); and Anatomy of Faith (1960). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Cohen, in: M. Steinberg, Anatomy of Faith (1960), 11–60; J. Goldin, in: Jewish Frontier, 27 (May 1950), 5–8; P.S. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1988). (Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.