Free for TJC members.
$10 for non-members.
RSVP at thejewishcenter.org/adulted or at the following link https://thejewishcenterofprinceton.shulcloud.com/event/a-native-of-poland-professing-the-arts-in-london-the-unconventional-jewish-life-and-thought-of-solomon-yom-tov-bennett.html
David Ruderman’s forthcoming book is the study of an epoch through the lens of an individual life. Solomon
Yom Tov Bennett was a maskil, a Jew committed to the Enlightenment, who lived from 1767 - 1838. The book
follows Bennett’s life from Belarus to Copenhagen to Berlin and London. Hear about his training in the arts and
his career as an engraver, his transformation into a scholar and translator in London and then into an English
Bennett was a special kind of maskil, a rebel from Jewish rabbinic norms and institutions. His beliefs were
shaped in an English environment where interaction with the non-Jewish world was made easier and more
accessible in a relatively liberal and open cultural environment with a keen interest among certain English
elites in biblical and Hebraic studies. Bennett could not tolerate the arrogance and ignorance of the rabbinic
establishment and acted defiantly against it, attempting to usurp its prerogatives and authority.
Bennett was a proud Jew who had little interest in Jewish rituals but held strong feelings about the literary
integrity of Judaism, its spiritual mission, and its contribution to western civilization. His biblicism, his antimonarchal views, and his emphasis on the spiritual essence of Judaism mark the very core of his proud Jewish
We will explore Bennett’s abiding sense of the moral mission of Jews to the world along with his appreciation of
diasporic Jewish life-a preference to be a stranger in a foreign land rather than a ruler of one’s own.
David B. Ruderman is presently the Joseph Meyerhoff Professor of Modern Jewish History emeritus and the
former Ella Darivoff Director of the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University
of Pennsylvania. He is the author of many books and three of them, including the last, won national book
awards in Jewish history. He has also edited or co-edited five other books and co-edited two popular textbooks.
Missionaries, Converts and Rabbis (2020) is his most recent book. He is a past president of the American
Academy for Jewish Research and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture honored him with its lifetime
achievement award for his work in Jewish history.