Elliott Horowitz, z"l

Elliott Horowitz (1953–2017)

The editors and staff of the Jewish Quarterly Review express our profound sadness at the untimely death of our friend and colleague, Professor Elliott Horowitz, z”l. For nearly fifteen years, Elliott lent his distinct intellect, skills, and humor to JQR as its coeditor, helping shape it into one of the leading scholarly forums in the field of Jewish studies. As a dedicated Anglophile, Elliott took seriously the English roots of JQR—which was founded in London in 1889—and delighted in recovering treasures from the journal in its early years. Elliott’s work on the journal or his crafting of an essay was never a race to the finish, but rather a leisurely country outing replete with ample stops to reflect on the beauty and intricacy of the surroundings. His own essays in our pages, famous for their humor and bibliographic bounty, borrowed from the impressionistic and associative style of Israel Abraham, one of the founding English editors of JQR.

Apart from his work for JQR, Elliott was a uniquely creative cultural historian. After receiving his undergraduate degree at Princeton, he moved on to Yale where he completed a dissertation in 1982 on seventeenth-century Jewish confraternities in Verona, Italy. In that same year he moved to Israel, and spent much of his teaching career in Jewish history at Bar-Ilan University. Although his initial field of scholarship was early modern Italian Jewish history, in which he remained interested throughout his life, Elliott constantly read and experimented with new forms of cultural history in and beyond Italy. He relished and perfected the article form, producing some of the most innovative pieces on early modern Jewish history in the last half-century including his path-breaking “Coffee, Coffee Houses, and the Nocturnal Rituals of Early Modern Jewry” (1989). Few scholars of the Jewish past can think of coffee and the Safedian practice of midnight study (tikune ḥatsot) without immediately summoning up this essay.

Elliott’s monograph, Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence (2006), was a runner-up for the National Jewish Book Award. The book brought together his enduring scholarly curiosity about violence and the carnivalesque with an ethical concern for the way in which religion can be used and abused. Like so much of his work, Reckless Rites bore traces of his deep humanity, which the worlds of JQR and the Katz Center—along with Elliott’s personal network of scholars and fellow travelers—will sorely miss. Since his death, we have been flooded with accounts of ways Elliott has made an impact on lives and scholarship through bold insights, keen edits, and gestures of kindness and generosity, especially toward junior scholars. He was a polymath, an iconoclast, and caring person whose wit had few peers. A person of his inimitable talents cannot be replaced. In coming numbers the journal will honor his impact upon us and the field by printing some of his own last writing and by dedicating an upcoming forum to his seminal work.

The Editors 

Katz CAJS Blog 

posted March 21, 2017