Meyer Waxman

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


Born in Slutzk, Belarus, 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 (1960).

This work contains a history of Jewish literature from the close of the Bible to the 1950s. The purposes of this history were to make accessible to the broader, literate public the results of Jewish scholarship and research over the past century into the various branches of Jewish literature, and to coordinate and correlate the scattered facts and voluminous data into one comprehensive whole in order to create a complete picture of the productivity of the Jewish genius over the ages.

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

"A History of Jewish Literature" covers the whole spectrum of Jewish Literature, including Rabbinics, Poetry, Belles-lettres, Philosophy, History, Biblical Exegesis, etc.

The only comparable work is Israel Zinberg's "Die Geschichte fun der Literatur bei Yidn" written in Yiddish (1972, 12 vols) but with an English title identical to that of Waxman's opus ("History of Jewish Literature").

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 on the history of Jewish philosophy, including "The Philosophy of Don Hasdai Crescas" (c.1920) and a translation, with introduction, of Moses Hess' Rome and Jerusalem (1945).


  • Encyclopedia Judaica(2007)—entry Meyer Waxman
  • Encyclopædia Britannica(2007)—entry Meyer Waxman