I grew up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, and attended the High School of Music and Art, where I majored in orchestral music. I spent my college years at Brandeis University, as a major in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. After a year and a half at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, I returned to Brandeis for graduate school. My mentor therewas Nahum Glatzer, and I had the opportunity to study with other major scholars of the period such as Nahum Sarna and Alexander Altmann. After receiving my Ph.D., I taught in the Department of Religion (College of Liberal Arts) at Boston University until 1984, and have been full time at Clark since 1987.
While at Brandeis, I encountered the German Bible translation of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, which was started in the mid-twenties and finished by Buber in 1961. This unique translation, which tries to hew close to the rhythm and forms of the Hebrew text, sent me back first to biblical grammar and oral performances of the text, and then led me to attempt an English translation of Genesis in a similar vein. Over the years, it grew—from a text-only publication in Response magazine to a volume of introduction, text, notes, and commentary, and finally, in 1995, to the publication of The Five Books of Moses by Schocken Books.
I have kept up a busy schedule of teaching at Clark, speaking at academic and education conferences and congregations, engagement with various artists on related themes (including a stint as an advisor for the animated film The Prince of Egypt), involvement in adult Jewish education, and finishing The Early Prophets, which includes the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, and which will be published in February 2014.
[illustration by Ephraim Moses Lilien for a 1908 German edition of the Five Books of Moses]