ArtScroll is an imprint of translations, books and commentaries from an Orthodox Jewish perspective published by Mesorah Publications, Ltd., a publishing company based in Brooklyn, New York. Its general editors are Rabbis Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz.
ArtScroll publishes books on a variety of Jewish subjects. The best known is probably an annotated Hebrew-English siddur (the best-selling The Artscroll Siddur), its Torah translation and commentary, a series of translations and commentaries on books of the of Bible, and an English translation and elucidation of the Babylonian Talmud. Other publications include works on Jewish Law, and novels and factual works based on Jewish life or history.
Mesorah Publications had received widespread acclaim in response to their Artscroll line of prayerbooks, starting with The Complete Artscroll Siddur, Ed. Nosson Scherman, 1984. This work immediately gained wide acceptance in the Orthodox Jewish community, and within a few years became the best-selling Hebrew-English siddur (prayerbook) in the United States. It featured beautiful layout and editing, and offered the reader detailed notes and instructions on most of the prayers. Versions of this prayerbook were then produced for the High Holidays, and the three pilgrimage festivals Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot. These siddurim have also gained wide acceptance in the Conservative Jewish community; although they are not used as the official siddurim by any Conservative synagogues, many Conservative Jews have purchased copies. The format and concept behind Artscroll siddurim greatly influenced the editing of the newer Conservative siddurim.
In 1993 Mesorah Publications published The Chumash: The Stone Edition, a Torah translation and commentary arranged for liturgical use. It became popularly known as The Artscroll Chumash, and has since became the best-selling English-Hebrew Torah translation and commentary in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries. To a lesser degree, it has some usage in the non-Orthodox Jewish community. Although they are not used as the official Torah commentaries by any non-Orthodox synagogues, many Reform and Conservative Jews have purchased copies.
Mesorah has a line of Mishnah translations and commentaries, and followed up with a line of Babylonian Talmud translations and commentaries, The Schottenstein Edition of The Talmud. These have received widespread acclaim throughout the Orthodox community, and are also used by many non-Orthodox Jews. In late 2004, the final volume was published, giving a 73 volume English edition of the entire Talmud, only the second complete translation of the Talmud into English. The total cost of the project was $21 million, and some volumes have up to 2 million copies in distribution, while more recent volumes have only 90,000 copies currently printed. A completed set was dedicated on February 9, 2005, to the Library of Congress.
Works published by Mesorah under this imprint adhere to a perspective appealing to most Orthodox Jews, but especially to Orthodox Jews who have come from less religious backgrounds, but are returning to the faith.
In translations and commentaries, ArtScroll works traditionally accept midrashic accounts as factual, generally ignoring (and occasionally disagreeing with) modern textual criticism.
This line of books has come under extensive criticism from many scholars (both Orthodox and non-Orthodox) on a number of points:
- Midrash sources are often represented as factual, while many of these have traditionally been interpreted as being allegorical or metaphorical.
- Non-Orthodox scholars and a few Orthodox scholars note that Artscroll deliberately ignores all facets of modern critical historical scholarship from the last 200 years.
- Some biographies of important Jewish figures including photos have been modified to conform to stereotypical images of Haredi Jews.
- The translation of many texts, especially the Hebrew and Aramaic in both the liturgies and the non-liturgical works (e.g. the Tanakh and the Talmud), are occasionally so literal they lose much of the flavor of the original text.
In much of the Haredi and Modern Orthodox community, however, Mesorah Publications is credited with "spurring a movement that is arguably saving American Jewry".
- Rabbi B. Barry Levy. "Our Torah, Your Torah and Their Torah: An Evaluation of the Artscroll phenomenon.". In: "Truth and Compassion: Essays on Religion in Judaism", Ed. H. Joseph et al. Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1983.
- B. Barry Levy. "Judge Not a Book By Its Cover". Tradition Spring 1981;19(1):89-95 and an exchange of letters in Tradition 1982;20:370-375.
- Jacob J. Schacter Facing the Truths of History Torah u-Madda Journal 8 (1998-1999): 200-276 (PDF file).
- Jacob J. Schacter Haskalah, Secular Studies, and the close of the Yeshiva in Volozhin in 1892 Torah u-Madda Journal