In choosing Neusner as his muse, Benedict selected a man as formidable and controversial in the field of Jewish studies as the Pope is in Catholicism. An expert on the sprawling literature of the 1st through 6th century rabbis who shaped modern Judaism, Neusner is an empire builder, a central figure in wrestling an examination of Judaism into America’s universities. He accomplished this through brilliance (he developed his own secularly comprehensible synthesis of rabbinics), superhuman productivity (he has written more than 950 books, although he will admit to a certain reprocessing of material) and a knack for grooming gifted protégés who now run Jewish studies at top schools. He is equally famous for alienating many of his disciples with what came to be known as "Neusner’s drop-dead letters." (Neusner calls the complaint "overstated.") He can keep friends–Harvard classmate John Updike wrote a fond 1986 short story featuring a "Josh Neusner"–but as Neusner admits, he remains one of the most contentious people he knows.
Neusner is a horrible person. He’s tried to destroy the academic careers of students who chose not to go to his graduate school.