Dennis B. Klein

Spiritual: A new book sheds light on the life of Joachim Prinz, the German rabbi who brought his activist outlook to American Jewish life. Prinz (right, with sunglasses) is seen here marching with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Extraordinary Nostalgia

When it comes to portraying rabbinical figures, Philip Roth has not been the kindest writer around. Yet in his 2004 novel, “The Plot Against America,” a rabbi — a real-life rabbi, in fact — receives substantial notice: “The new B’nai Abraham was the most splendid of the city’s [Newark’s] temples, a circular building austerely designed in what was called ‘the Greek style’ and vast enough to hold a thousand worshipers on the High Holidays,” he writes. “Joachim Prinz, an émigré expelled from Berlin by Hitler’s Gestapo, had replaced the retiring Julius Silberfeld as the temple’s rabbi the year before [in 1939] and was already emerging as a forceful man with a broad social outlook who offered his prosperous congregants a perspective on Jewish history marked strongly by his own recent experience at the bloody scene of the Nazi crime.”