Stop! Where are you going? How do you know, that your living is not behind you, trying to catch up?

Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev

Larry Yudelson - Biography

Larry Yudelson (born June 23, 1964), also known by his pen name Reb Yudel, is editorial director and owner of Ben Yehuda Press, a specialty publisher of Jewish religious texts. He is also an independent journalist, a writer of political and social commentary, both in his own blogs and in Jewish newspapers and periodicals.

Yudelson’s pen name is derived from a Hebrew novel published in 1932, Haknasat Kala (The Bridal Canopy), by Shmuel Yosef Agnon. Agnon's novel describes the fictional wanderings of Reb Yudel through the Jewish villages of Galicia at the beginning of the 19th century, in search of a bridegroom and a dowry for his daughter. A modern critic described the fictional Reb Yudel as "naively pious." Others have characterized Agnon's protagonist as a Jewish archetype of Don Quixote.

Yudelson is a graduate of Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim and Yeshiva University. Within the Orthodox educational world, Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva is noteworthy for its emphasis on analytical thinking and musar (moral discipline). Its namesake, a rabbi known as the Chofetz Chaim, was famed for his commentary on avoiding lashon hara (Hebrew, hurtful, libelous, or slanderous speech). Graduates of Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva are encouraged to found their own Jewish schools.

Career as a publisher and journalist

In his career as a publisher, Larry Yudelson's efforts have focused on independent journalism, both on-line and in print. Although educated within the Orthodox Jewish tradition, his publications include a range of alternative and non-Orthodox Jewish materials. Yudelson worked for ten years as a journalist for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, which functions as a syndicate and wire service for Jewish weekly newspapers. He has published in many other Jewish periodicals as well.

In 1995 he was a founding editor of the Jewish Communication Network (known as JCN, no longer in operation), an on-line directory of Jewish news and opinion. JCN functioned as a clearinghouse for independent Jewish commentary at a time in the mid-1990s before there were organized blogging sites. He also operated his own Internet consultancy, YudelCom Communications.

Yudelson was an early member of the WELL, a pioneering on-line community. He has been active in creating a variety of Jewish online communities. Since the early 1990s, he has also maintained a webpage dedicated to Jewish aspects of the persona and identity of Bob Dylan. Yudelson's Dylan page began as a page within The Well's community website, but it later moved.

In American politics, Yudelson has been a staunch critic of the Bush Administration, especially of its conduct of the Iraq War. Within the Jewish community, his editorial activities have often focused attention on elements of the "right wing" of Orthodox Judaism:

  • The real significance of Yudelson's most famous story as a reporter was not recognized when it first appeared, but it became noteworthy in retrospect. He reported in June 1995 that Rabbi Abraham Hecht had claimed that Israel's offer at Oslo to return occupied lands in a peace agreement justified the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and other Israeli leaders. When Rabin was assassinated a few months later, by a young, ultra-nationalist Jew, Yigal Amir, the prescience of the story was recognized. After the assassination, Hecht was placed on a leave of absence by his synagogue, and was one of several religious leaders barred from entering Israel for security reasons.
  • Yudelson has responded to commentators such as David Klinghoffer and Avi Shafran on a variety of theological and social issues, including intelligent design.

He has published a work together with Yori Yannver refuting Klinghoffer. Specifically, Yudelson defends the Jewish tradition of seeking health care against Klinghoffer’s rejection. He defends Cardozo law school’s defense of innocent people who get falsely accused of the death penalty against Klinghoffer’s assertion that defense of innocents is against the Bible. He also defends evolution, social justice, and Jewish values. Yudelson considers Klinghoffer’s approach to divorce and family as more dependent on the ethics of the Pauline Letters than on Judaism.

Yudelson has been a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey.


Works

Larry Yudelson and Yori Yanover, How Would God REALLY Vote: A Jewish Rebuttal to David Klinghoffer's Conservative Polemic (Paperback) Ben Yehuda Press (September 2008)

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