Meyer Waxman (1887–1969), Rabbi and scholar, best known for his magnum opus, A History of Jewish Literature


Born in Slutzk, Russia, Waxman received a traditional yeshivah education. He emigrated to the United States in 1905 and studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he was ordained as a rabbi in 1913. He then served for some years in rabbinical posts, after which he became principal of the Mizrachi Teachers Seminary (1917–21) and director of the Mizrachi Zionist organization (1921–24).

In 1924 he joined the faculty of the Hebrew Theological College in Chicago, where he served as professor of Hebrew literature and philosophy until his retirement in 1955, also teaching at the College of Jewish Studies in Chicago. He moved to New York where he continued his literary and scholarly activities until his death.


Waxman is best known for his six volume tour-de-force A history of Jewish Literature.

This work contains a history of Jewish literature from the close of the Bible to the 1950s. The purpose of this history was to make accessible to the large intelligent public the results of Jewish scholarship and research in the various branches of Jewish literature, carried on during the last century, to coordinate and correlate the scattered facts and numerous data into one whole to create a complete picture of the productivity of the Jewish genius during the ages.

Waxman's method is to first describes the probable date of composition and country of origin. Following this he gives a brief review of the books major themes, writing style, as well as several examples from the book itself.

The work covers the whole gamut of Jewish Literature, including Rabbinics, Poetry, Belles-lettres, Philosophy, History, Bible Exegesis, etc.

The only comparable work is Israel Zinberg's Die Geschichte fun der Literatur bei Yidn in Yiddish ('History of Jewish Literature' in English translation).

Waxman also published hundreds of articles in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English. Many of his articles were collected in volumes of essays, Ketavim Nivharim (2 vols., 1943–44), Galut u-Ge'ullah (1952), and Moreh ha-Dorot (1963). He wrote studies in the history of Jewish philosophy, including the Philosophy of Don Hasdai Crescas (1920) and a translation, with introduction, of Moses Hess's Rome and Jerusalem (1945).


  • Encyclopedia Juadica(2007) - entry Meyer Waxman
  • Encycclopedia Britannica(2007) - entry Meyer Waxman

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