Orthodox by Design: Judaism, Print Politics, and the ArtScroll Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010). Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in the scholarship category, Jewish Book Council.
This groundbreaking exploration of religion and media examines ArtScroll, the world’s largest Orthodox Jewish publishing house, purveyor of handsomely designed editions of sacred texts and a major cultural force in contemporary Jewish public life.
In the first in-depth study of the ArtScroll revolution, Jeremy Stolow traces the ubiquity of ArtScroll books in local retail markets, synagogues, libraries, and the lives of ordinary users.
Synthesizing field research conducted in three local Jewish scenes where ArtScroll books have had an impact—Toronto, London, and New York—along with close readings of key ArtScroll texts, promotional materials, and the Jewish blogosphere, he shows how the use of these books reflects a broader cultural shift in the authority and public influence of Orthodox Judaism.
Playing with the concept of design, Stolow’s study also outlines a fresh theoretical approach to print culture and illuminates how evolving technologies, material forms, and styles of mediated communication contribute to new patterns of religious identification, practice, and power.
The best that one can say about any academic book is that it covers new ground, poses important, generative questions, and sets the terms of future conversation in its field. All of these are undoubtedly true of Orthodox by Design.
—Association for Jewish Studies Review
[A] fascinating, eloquent and insightful book.”
Stolow has opened the doors to the three-and-a-half-decade enterprise of this spiritual printing phenomenon. Now we can sit back and see what future steps Artscroll takes.
—The Jerusalem Post
All those interested in and wanting to understand contemporary Orthodox Judaism will need to read this book.
Jewish Journal of Sociology
Stolow managed to penetrate the cherry leather facade of ArtScroll and produce a book that … is thoughtful, informative and keenly attentive to cultural nuance.
—Jewish Daily Forward
This is the first thorough study of the ArtScroll publishing ‘phenomenon,’ which is a major force in contemporary English-speaking Jewish life. It is deeply and richly informed by interdisciplinary work on semiotics, textuality and mediation. It will be quite useful to those working in areas such as religion and media, contemporary Jewish studies, history of print, sociology of religion, and American religion. And it should fascinate those who are regular if not always uncritical users of ArtScroll publications.
—Jonathan Boyarin, UNC Chapel Hill
With stunning clarity, wit and originality, Jeremy Stolow takes us into the deeply influential but largely unexplored world of ArtScroll, a company that has cornered the market on the publishing of Orthodox religious prayer books, as well as a host of related works from cookbooks to self-help texts. With ethnographic and scholarly skill, and his characteristic attention to both detail and the big picture, Stolow reveals a social universe that is astonishingly complex, political and profitable. This inviting and groundbreaking book is a remarkable contribution to the fields of religion, media studies, and Judaic studies.
—Faye Ginsburg, New York University
Destined to become the classical study of print, piety and politics in the digital age, Orthodox by Design will force us to rethink many taken-for-granted assumptions about globalization, secularization and orthodoxy. A comprehensive investigation of global publishing, it offers fresh insight into the politics of translation, the emergence of a Jewish public sphere and the expanding influence of Haredi intellectuals.
—Bryan S. Turner
Orthodox by Design is a singular contribution to Jewish studies and the emergent field of religion and media. Stolow’s masterful account of the Artscroll enterprise and its reception shows how materiality and media matter in the formation of religious sensibilities, practices, and everyday life in the contemporary world.
—Elizabeth A. Castelli, Barnard/Columbia University
This carefully crafted, imaginative study of Artscroll offers a theoretically powerful perspective on the limitations of textual approaches of ‘book religions.’ Its relevance far exceeds the field of Jewish studies. I am thrilled by Stolow’s deployment of ‘design’ as a key theoretical concept that leads beyond usual oppositions of spirit/matter, content/form or message/medium. Located at the intersection of religious studies, media studies and social sciences, Orthodox by Design is an outstanding, path-breaking intervention in broader debates about religion, media and materiality.
—Birgit Meyer, University of Utrecht