Liberal rabbi-philosopher David Hartman dies

Liberal rabbi-philosopher David Hartman dies

Founder of Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, 81, succumbs to long illness

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Rabbi David Hartman (photo credit: image capture/YouTube)
Rabbi David Hartman (photo credit: image capture/YouTube)

Rabbi David Hartman, founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, died on Sunday aged 81 after succumbing to a long illness. Funeral services will be held at 11.00 a.m. on Monday morning at the institute in Jerusalem, followed by his burial in the Har Menuchot cemetery.

Hartman was a leading thinker among philosophers of contemporary Judaism and an internationally renowned Jewish author.

Born in 1931 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, Hartman attended Yeshiva Chaim Berlin and the Lubavitch Yeshiva.

In 1953, having studied with Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, he received his rabbinical ordination from Yeshiva University in New York. He continued to study with Soloveitchik until 1960, while pursuing a graduate degree in philosophy with Robert C. Pollock at Fordham University.

After serving as a congregational rabbi in the Bronx, New York, from 1955 to 1960, Hartman became Rabbi of Congregation Tiferet Beit David Jerusalem in Montreal. While serving as rabbi, he also taught and studied at McGill University and received his PhD in philosophy.

In 1971 Hartman immigrated to Israel with his family, a move which he viewed as an essential part of his mission to encourage a greater understanding between Jews of diverse affiliations – both in Israel and the Diaspora. In 1976 he founded the Shalom Hartman Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, dedicating it to his father.

The institute serves as a center for scholars in the study and education of classical Jewish sources and contemporary issues of Israeli society and Jewish life. It administers two high schools, the Charles E. Smith High School for boys in the institute campus and, more recently, a girls’ high school, also in Jerusalem, and other learning programs.

Hartman served as a professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he taught for over two decades. He was also visiting professor of Jewish Thought at the University of California at Berkeley during 1986-7 and at the University of California at Los Angeles during 1997-8. As an author he won two National Jewish Book Awards, for studies of Maimonides and of innovation in traditional Judaism.

He was awarded the Avi Chai Award (2000), the Yakir Yerushalayim Award (2001), the Hebrew University Rothberg Award for Jewish Education (2004), and honorary doctorates from Yale University, Hebrew Union College and the Weizmann Institute, the latter of which recognized “his life’s work to revitalize Judaism and strengthen Jewish identity among Jews the world over; above all, of his gift of vision and action, faith and scholarship, toward building a more pluralistic, tolerant, and enlightened Israeli society.”

From 1977 to 1984, Hartman served as an adviser to education minister Zevulun Hammer, and he has been adviser to a number of prime ministers on the subject of religious pluralism in Israel and the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora.

He is survived by Barbara Hartman and their five children.

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