Turning the Pages

Conversations through Time with Rabbi Isador Signer

by Aliza Arzt


About this book

Isador Signer (1900-1953) was born in Romania, raised in Montreal, and ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, after which he served pulpits in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; Somerville, Massachusetts; and Manhattan Beach, New York.

In this volume, his granddaughter Aliza Arzt has selected and annotated two dozen of Rabbi Signer’s sermons, delivered between the years 1923 and 1949, for rereading a century later. She has also a contemporary response to each sermon, by a collection of rabbis, professors, writers, and other deeply engaged Jews, who reflect on Rabbi Signer’s words from the perspective of a century’s hindsight.

Taken together, this volume provides an illuminating window on American Judaism in the early 20th, and early 21st, centuries.

Advance Praise

Most collections of sermons simply present the sermons to be read as they were written and delivered. The concept behind “Turning the Pages: Conversations through Time with Rabbi Isador Signer,” is both original and classic. Original, in that each of Rabbi Signer’s sermons has a modern respondent who not only reviews the sermon, but also sometimes argues with it. Classic, in that it feels somewhat like a page of Talmud, wherein scholars of different centuries and locales converse with their colleagues as if they were in the same room in the academy. I found some of the sermons inspired and inspiring, while others did not pass the test of time for me. Rabbi Signer was a product of his time, preaching to congregants in the 1920’s and 30’s. His attempts to bring current events and ideas to bear on Jewish topics show his determination to make Judaism relevant to his flock. A century later, we might find different illustrations and lessons to speak to our version of modernity as applied to Torah values, but we have great respect for Rabbi Signer’s authenticity and integrity as he labored in the vineyards of the Almighty.

Rabbi Ellen W. Dreyfus, Rabbi Emerita of Shir Tikva in Homewood IL, founder of the Women’s Rabbinic Network