Yale University Press has launched a new series of biographies called Jewish Lives, in collaboration with the Leon D. Black Foundation. The publisher is calling the books “interpretive biographies,” in that they pair subjects and authors to elicit “lively, deeply informed” books that explore the Jewish experience.
Anita Shapira of Tel Aviv University and Steven J. Zipperstein of Stanford University are the series editors, and Yale UP's Ileene Smith, who acquired the series, will serve as editorial director. Yale plans to publish at least 50 titles in the series over the next 10 years.
The inaugural title, Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt by Robert Gottlieb, will be published in October. Next up will be Shmuel Feiner's Moses Mendelssohn: Sage of Modernity, in November, followed by Steven Weitzman's Solomon in February 2011. Subsequent titles include Rashi by Jack Miles, Kafka by Saul Friedlander, Leonard Bernstein by Allen Shawn, Sigmund Freud by Adam Phillips, Bob Dylan by Ron Rosenbaum, Maimonides by Moshe Halbertal, Emma Goldman by Vivian Gornick, and Hank Greenberg by Mark Kurlansky.
Yale UP director John Donatich said, "The degree of thought that has gone into each pairing of subject and author will produce a corpus of biography of unusual distinction.” Black, who conceived Jewish Lives, said, "I think there is a hunger for books that zero in on the fascinating questions at the core of the Jewish experience, whether secular or religious. And the spectrum of lives that will be included in this project is astonishing -- defining figures in literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, as well as the arts and sciences."
The 92nd Street Y in New York City plans to produce bi-annual Jewish Lives events in conjunction with the series. The first of these will take place on December 1, 2010, and will feature Robert Gottlieb in conversation with Judith Thurman on the life of Sarah Bernhardt.