Jonathan Sarna Collapses in New Haven on Visit to Daughter's Yale Graduation

Jewish Historian Remains Hospitalized in Critical Condition

brandeis u.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published May 21, 2014.
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Jonathan Sarna, a leading scholar of American Jewish history and a professor at Brandeis University, remained in critical condition Wednesday at Yale New Haven hospital, the hospital confirmed.

The scholar was visiting New Haven for his daughter’s graduation ceremony at Yale University when he became ill, according to Jon Levisohn, a professor at Brandeis.

“It’s a serious situation, but we are all hoping for the best,” said Sylvia Barack Fishman, also a professor at Brandeis.

Bill Schaller, a Brandeis spokesman, told the Boston Globe that Sarna had been “at his daughter’s commencement ceremony at Yale when he was stricken.”

Schaller told the paper in an email that he had no information on the precise nature of Sarna’s illness.

“Out of respect for his family during this difficult time, his colleagues and friends are waiting until his family reaches out to inform us about his condition,” Schaller wrote. “Everyone is very concerned about Professor Sarna and our thoughts and prayers are with him.”

Sarna, 59, a contributing editor and columnist at the Forward, is the author, most recently, of “When General Grant Expelled the Jews” (Schocken, 2012), a National Jewish Book Award finalist. He has written and edited over two dozen volumes on American Jews and the American Jewish community.

Details of Sarna’s illness were unavailable. Family members could not be immediately reached.

Fishman said that the family has requested that good wishes be mailed to their home in lieu of calls or emails.

Sarna has taught at Brandeis University since 1990. He has also been a professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, among other schools. He is the chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History, a past winner of the National Jewish Book Award, has been listed on the Forward’s annual list of the 50 most influential American Jews, and is regularly quoted in the Jewish press.

Sarna’s father, Nahum Sarna, was a prominent biblical scholar, writer and teacher.


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