JBuzz News June 13, 2013: Evelyn Kozak: World’s Oldest Jew Dies At 113




Evelyn Kozak Dead: World’s Oldest Jewish Person Dies At 113

Source: AP, 6-13-13
Evelyn Kozak

The world’s oldest Jewish person, Evelyn Kozak, whose family fled Russia to escape anti-Semitism in the 1880s, has died at age 113….

Kozak, who was one of nine children, was born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side on Aug. 14, 1899. Her family had moved from Russia to escape organized anti-Semitic attacks….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 20, 2013: Boruch Spiegel, Fighter in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Dies at 93




Boruch Spiegel, Fighter in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Dies at 93

Source: New York Times, 5-20-13

Boruch Spiegel, one of the last surviving fighters of the Warsaw ghetto uprising of 1943, in which a vastly outgunned band of 750 young Jews held off German soldiers for more than a month with crude arms and Molotov cocktails, died on May 9 in Montreal. He was 93….

Mr. Spiegel was on guard duty and, according to his son-in-law, Eugene Orenstein, a retired professor of Jewish history at McGill University, gave the signal to launch the uprising….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 10, 2013: Geza Vermes: Dead Sea Scrolls professor dies




Dead Sea Scrolls professor dies

Source: Jewish Chronicle, 5-10-13

Dead Sea Scrolls professor Geza Vermes has died aged 88 of cancer.

Prof Vermes was the Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies at Oxford, best known for his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewishness of Jesus….READ MORE

JBuzz News March 27, 2013: Rabbi Herschel Schacter Dead at 95; Cried to the Jews of Buchenwald: ‘You Are Free’




Rabbi Herschel Schacter Is Dead at 95; Cried to the Jews of Buchenwald: ‘You Are Free’

Source: NYT, 3-26-13

via Yad Vashem

Rabbi Herschel Schacter leading the Shavuot prayer service for survivors in the Buchenwald camp in Germany in 1945.More Photos »

The smoke was still rising as Rabbi Herschel Schacter rode through the gates of Buchenwald.



Buchenwald’s Liberation, as Seen by Louis Nemeth

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Librado Romero/The New York Times

Rabbi Herschel Schacter in 1999.

More Photos »

It was April 11, 1945, and Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army had liberated the concentration camp scarcely an hour before. Rabbi Schacter, who was attached to the Third Army’s VIII Corps, was the first Jewish chaplain to enter in its wake.

That morning, after learning that Patton’s forward tanks had arrived at the camp, Rabbi Schacter, who died in the Riverdale section of the Bronx on Thursday at 95 after a career as one of the most prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States, commandeered a jeep and driver. He left headquarters and sped toward Buchenwald….READ MORE

JBuzz News February 10, 2013: Jewish scholar Rabbi David Hartman, founder of the Hartman Institute, dies at 81




Jewish scholar Rabbi David Hartman dies

Source: JTA, 2-10-13

Rabbi David Hartman, a Jewish scholar who founded the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, has died….READ MORE

David Hartman, rabbi known for promoting pluralism in Jewish world, dies at 81

Source: WaPo, 2-10-13

Hartman Institute/Associated Press – This undated photograph provided by the Shalom Hartman Institute shows rabbi David Hartman, one of the world’s leading Jewish philosophers who promoted both Jewish pluralism and interfaith dialogue. The Shalom Hartman Institute, founded by the rabbi more than 30 years ago, said Hartman died Sunday Feb. 10, 2013, after a long illness.

Rabbi David Hartman, one of the world’s leading Jewish philosophers who promoted both Jewish pluralism and interfaith dialogue, has died. He was 81.

The Shalom Hartman Institute, founded by the rabbi more than 30 years ago, said Hartman died Sunday after a long illness.Hartman is survived by his wife and five children. His funeral was scheduled for Monday….READ MORE

JBuzz News September 13, 2012: Cesare Colafemmina Expert on Jewish history and culture in southern Italy, dies




Cesare Colafemmina, expert on Jewish history and culture in southern Italy, dies

Source: JTA, 9-13-12
Italian scholar Cesare Colafemmina, an internationally known pioneer in the study of Jewish history and culture in southern Italy, has died….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 30, 2012: Benzion Netanyahu: Noted historian father of Israel’s prime minister, dies at 102




Noted historian Benzion Netanyahu, father of Israel’s prime minister, dies at 102

Source: JTA, 4-30-12

Benzion Netanyahu, a noted Jewish historian and Zionist thinker, and the father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has died.

Netanyahu died early Monday morning at his home in Jerusalem. He was 102.

Benjamin Netanyahu visited his father for the last time on Sunday evening, according to a statement issued Monday from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Netanyahu was born Benzion Mileikowsky in Warsaw in 1910, and immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1920.

Netanyahu studied at the David Yellin Teachers’ College and later at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His research focused on the history of the medieval Spanish Jewish community and the history of Zionism. Among his books are a biography of Don Isaac Abravanel; a history of the Spanish Marranos; and his major work, “The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain.” He also authored “The Founding Fathers of Zionism,” about the lives of the founders of political Zionism — Leon Pinsker, Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, Israel Zangwill and Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

Netanyahu was the editor in chief of the Hebrew Encyclopedia for more than a decade beginning in the 1950s. He served as a professor of Jewish studies at various universities in the United States, concluding his academic career as professor emeritus at Cornell University.

From his time as a student in Jerusalem, he was involved in public Zionist activities. Netanyahu was a supporter of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and edited a newspaper that also featured Joseph Klausner and poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg on its staff…READ MORE

JBuzz News April 9, 2012: Kenneth Libo: Historian of Jewish immigration, dies at 74




Kenneth Libo, historian of Jewish immigration, dies at 74

Source: NYT, 4-9-12

Kenneth Libo, a historian of Jewish immigration who, as a graduate student working for Irving Howe in the 1960s and ’70s, unearthed historical documentation that informed and shaped “World of Our Fathers,” Howe’s landmark 1976 history of the East European Jewish immigration to the United States, died on March 29 in New York. He was 74.

The cause was complications from an infection, said Michael Skakun, a friend and fellow historian.

Libo’s contribution was acknowledged by Howe and the publishers of “World of Our Fathers,” who listed his name beneath the author’s on the cover of the book: “With the Assistance of Kenneth Libo.”

Scholars familiar with his archival work credit Libo with adding a level of emotional detail, and a view of everyday life in the teeming tenements of the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York, that the book might have lacked without his six years of work. “I don’t think ‘World of Our Fathers’ could have been written without the spade work done by Ken Libo,” said Jeffrey S. Gurock, a professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University. “He had a certain researching genius, a feel for visceral detail.”

Libo worked with Howe on two more books and shared billing on both as co-author — “How We Lived,” a 1979 anthology of pictures and documentary accounts of Jewish life in New York between 1880 and 1930; and “We Lived There, Too,” an illustrated collection of first-person accounts by Jewish immigrant pioneers who moved on from New York to settle in far-flung outpostsaround the country, like New Orleans; Abilene, Kan.; and Keokuk, Iowa, between 1630 and 1930.

He became the first English-language editor of The Jewish Daily Forward in 1980, lectured widely, taught literature and history at Hunter College, and later in life helped several wealthy Jewish New York families research and write their self-published family histories.

But throughout his life, Libo was known best for his involvement in “World of Our Fathers,” a best-seller that Howe, a socialist and public intellectual, once described in part as an effort to reclaim the fading memory of Jewish immigration from the clutches of sentimental myth, Alexander Portnoy and generations of Jewish mother jokes.

The book was a large canvas — depicting a lost world of tenements, sweatshops and political utopianism — written with elegiac lyricism.

By most accounts Howe gave the book its vision, its voice and its intellectual legs. Libo gave it people and their stories.

He mined archives of Yiddish newspapers like The Forward, Der Tog and Freheit; the case records of social service organizations like the Henry Street Settlement House; the letters of activists like Lillian Wald and Rose Schneiderman; memoirs by forgotten people whose books he found in the 5-cent bins of used bookstores. He interviewed old vaudevillians like Joe Smith of Smith and Dale (the models for Neil Simon’s “Sunshine Boys”) for the story of Yiddish theater.

In an essay about the book, published in 2000 in the journal of the American Jewish Historical Society, Libo wrote that in the summer months “Irving did the bulk of the writing while I remained in New York with an assistant to run down facts.”

Kenneth Harold Libo was born Dec. 4, 1937, in Norwich, Conn., one of two sons of Asher and Annette Libo. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Russia, his mother American-born. His parents operated a chicken farm, friends said.

He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1959, served in the Navy and taught English at Hunter College of the City University until he began work on “World of Our Fathers” in 1968 with Howe, who died in 1993.

He received his Ph.D. in English literature from the City University of New York in 1974. He never married and no immediate family members remain.

JBuzz News February 11, 2012: W. Gunther Plaut: Rabbi that Defined Reform Judaism, Dies at 99




W. Gunther Plaut, Defined Reform Judaism, Dies at 99

Source: NYT, 2-11-12

W. Gunther Plaut, a rabbi whose vast, scholarly and ardently contemporary edition of the Torah has helped define Reform Judaism in late-20th-century North America, died on Wednesday in Toronto. He was 99.


W. Gunther Plaut was the author of more than 20 books.

His son, Rabbi Jonathan V. Plaut, confirmed the death, saying that his father had been ill with Alzheimer’s disease for nearly a decade. At his death, the elder Rabbi Plaut was the senior scholar at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, where he had served as senior rabbi from 1961 to 1977.

One of the most prominent rabbis in the world, Rabbi Plaut (the name rhymes with shout) wrote more than 20 books on Jewish theology, history and culture. He was best known for “The Torah: A Modern Commentary,” his magnum opus, published by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the umbrella organization for Reform Jewish congregations in North America.

First published as a single volume in 1981 and issued in a revised edition in 2005, Rabbi Plaut’s Torah has become a touchstone for Judaism’s liberal branches. While Jews have long studied the Torah — the first section of the Hebrew Bible — with the aid of rabbinic commentaries, none like his had ever before appeared.

“God is not the author of the text,” Rabbi Plaut wrote in the volume’s introduction, “the people are; but God’s voice may be heard through theirs if we listen with open minds.”

The Plaut Torah has sold nearly 120,000 copies, according to its publisher. It is used today in many Reform synagogues, as well as in some Conservative and Reconstructionist ones, throughout the United States and Canada.

“This is the first non-Orthodox full commentary on the Torah published in English for congregational use,” Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, a senior vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism, as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations is now known, said in an interview on Friday.

Before the Plaut Torah, the commentary most widely used in North American synagogues across the Jewish spectrum was by Joseph H. Hertz, the chief rabbi of Britain. Published in the 1920s and ’30s, Rabbi Hertz’s commentary was written from the Orthodox perspective, and as such it considered the Torah the word of God, given to Moses at Mount Sinai.

The Hertz Torah “represents a point of view that is now unacceptable to many,” Rabbi Plaut told The Globe and Mail of Canada in 1981. “Furthermore, it was written at a time of growing anti-Semitism when Hitler was coming to power, and so it is highly apologetic. Its language is magnificent, but Jews today are entitled to be given insights that go beyond the traditional.”

Rabbi Plaut’s Torah, the first edition to be produced in the New World, spans nearly 1,800 pages and took more than a decade to prepare. Even its cover gives quiet but unmistakable evidence of its unorthodox intent: the 1981 edition opens from left to right, like a conventional English book, instead from right to left, as traditional volumes of Hebrew Scripture do.

Inside, the Five Books of Moses — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy — appear in Hebrew and English, accompanied by Rabbi Plaut’s commentary. (The commentary on Leviticus was written by Rabbi Bernard Bamberger.)

Drawing on scholarship in science, biblical archaeology, Near East studies, folklore, linguistics and feminism, and on non-Jewish texts including Shakespeare, the Koran and the New Testament, the commentaries in the Plaut Torah ascribe layers of possible meanings to the text. This makes probing analytical discussion — even argument — among worshipers not only possible but often satisfyingly inevitable.

“He used critical scholarship, and was open to it, in a book that was going to sit in the pews in synagogues,” Richard Elliott Friedman, the Ann and Jay Davis professor of Jewish studies at the University of Georgia, said Friday. “Which the Conservatives — forget the Orthodox — weren’t even doing then.”…READ MORE

Paula Hyman: Yale Jewish Studies Professor, Prominent feminist, historian passes away




Paula Hyman, Jewish feminist and scholar, dies

Source: JTA, 12-15-11

Noted Jewish feminist Paula Hyman, who served as the first female dean of the Seminary College of Jewish Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, has died.

Hyman died Thursday at the age of 65.

She was the Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History at Yale University, a position she held for 25 years, including more than a decade as chair of the Jewish studies program.

Hyman served as dean of the Seminary College of Jewish Studies from 1981 to 1986, as well as an associate professor of history at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Prior to that she was an assistant professor of history at Columbia University for seven years; she received a doctorate from the school in 1975.

She published extensively on topics including Jewish gender issues, modern European and American Jewish history, and Jewish women’s history as well as feminism. She wrote several books on French Jewry.

Hyman was a founder in 1971 of Ezrat Nashim, a group of Conservative and some Orthodox Jewish women who lobbied extensively for changes in the Conservative movement’s attitude toward women, including ordaining them as rabbis and inclusion in a minyan.

She was awarded a National Jewish Book Award in 1999 and received honorary degrees from The Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Hyman regularly spent time in Israel, lecturing in Hebrew and English at the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University.

Paula Hyman: Yale Jewish Studies Professor, Prominent feminist, historian passes away

Source: Yale Daily News, 12-16-11

Paula Hyman, a noted feminist and historian and former chair of the of the program in Judaic Studies, passed away Thursday morning after a battle with breast cancer. She was 65



Paula Hyman.

A founder of Ezrat Nashim, a group of Conservative Jewish women who advocate for changes in the religion’s treatment of women, Hyman was a prominent scholar of Judaism and a symbol of Jewish feminism. At Yale and in New Haven, she served as a mentor and friend to many, Rabbi James Ponet ’68 wrote in a Thursday email to affiliates of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale.

“[Her] capacity for loyal friendship, her love of the Jewish people writ large and her passionate engagement in numerous Jewish communities provide us all with an enduring model of what makes a life worth living, and what it means to live a committed Jewish life,” Ponet said.

Throughout her illness, Hyman remained a prominent figure both on and off campus. She stayed involved with the Westville Jewish community and often spoke at community events, said Lauren Gottlieb GRD ’16, who studied with Hyman.

Born in Boston in September 1946 to Sydney and Ida Tatelman, Hyman was the oldest of three sisters. After attending both Radcliffe College and the Hebrew Teachers College of Boston, Hyman went on to receive a doctorate from Columbia University.

During her time in New York, she emerged as a leader in the Jewish-American feminist movement, breaking glass ceilings in the field of Judaic Studies and advocating for women’s rights within Conservative Judaism. In 1971, she helped found Ezrat Nashim, which successfully pressured the Conservative movement to include women in the minyan (the quorum of adults required for some Jewish rituals), allow women to participate equally in prayer leadership and begin ordaining women as rabbis.

Hyman came to Yale in 1986 as the Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History. She served as the chair of the Judaic Studies program for 13 years, and remained active despite her illness, advising six of 15 current graduate students. Hyman published extensively on topics including the history of Jewish women, Jewish feminism and the French Jewry and served as president of the American Academy for Jewish Research. She was an inspiration both as a scholar and as an embodiment of the ideas she studied, Judaic Studies professor Eliyahu Stern said.

“I learned so much from her, not only about Jewish history, but also about how to move in the world as a woman scholar,” Gottlieb said. “She taught by example and allowed us to see her not only a professor, but as a proud mother and grandmother, community activist and Jewish leader.”

Stanley Rosenbaum: University of Kentucky Jewish Studies professor dies after his vehicle hit another on road with high water, then became submerged




Stanley Rosenbaum: University of Kentucky professor dies after his vehicle hit another on road with high water, then became submerged

Source: AP, 12-1-11

A University of Kentucky professor has died after his vehicle became submerged in water in central Kentucky.

Police told WKYT-TV that 71-year-old Stanley Rosenbaum’s truck became submerged when it traveled down an embankment after he crashed into another vehicle that had stalled in high water (http://bit.ly/uhO5GE). Police said the accident happened Tuesday night in Nelson County.

Jeremy Popkin, who is director of UK’s Jewish Studies program, said Rosenbaum worked in the program as a part-time professor.

Nelson County Sheriff Steven Campbell called it a “sad situation” and said no one saw the accident happen.

Oscar Handlin: American historian — Doyen of immigration history dies




Oscar Handlin: American historian dies

Source: JTA, 9-22-11

Oscar Handlin, one of the foremost American historians of the 20th century, has died.

Handlin, who taught at Harvard University for more than half a century, died Tuesday of a heart attack at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 95.

He was one of the first generation of American Jews to enter the discipline of American history, and the first Harvard historian to take an interest in the history of American Jews.

Handlin served as the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and then Carl M. Loeb University Professor emeritus at Harvard. He was university librarian from 1979 to 1984 and acting director of the Harvard University Press in 1972. He wrote more than 30 books on an array of topics such as family, education, race, freedom and historiography.

The Brooklyn native was the son of Russian immigrants. He entered Brooklyn College at the age of 15 and four years later began graduate school at Harvard, according to the Boston Globe.

Handlin joined the Harvard faculty in 1939 as an instructor and remained there until his retirement.

Ruta Sakowska: Historian & Warsaw Ghetto expert dies at 89




Source: JTA, 8-23-11

Historian Ruta Sakowska, one of the world’s leading experts on the World War II Warsaw Ghetto, has died. Sakowska died Monday in Warsaw at the age of 89.

Sakowska, who was born in Vilnius in 1922, served as director of the Ringelblum Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

The archives, established clandestinely in the Warsaw Ghetto by the historian Emmanuel Ringelblum and his secret Oneg Shabbat resistance team, document every facet of life and death in the ghetto and also document the fate of many other Polish Jewish communities. The documentation was hidden in milk cans and metal boxes on the eve of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. Some 25,000 pages of material were recovered from the ruins of the ghetto after the war. Ringelblum himself was killed by the Gestapo in 1944.

In 1997, Sakowska received the Jan Karski and Pola Nirenska Award for her work on the archives.

Professor Raphael Loewe: Scholar of Jewish Studies Dies at 92



Professor Raphael Loewe, who died on May 27 aged 92, was an influential scholar of Jewish studies and a poet, as well as a translator of medieval Hebrew verse.

Source: Telegraph UK, 6-26-11

Professor Raphael Loewe

Professor Raphael Loewe Photo: DONALD VERRY

As such he was the fourth generation of his family to devote his life to Jewish scholarship and teaching. His great-grandfather, Louis Loewe (1809-80), was amanuensis and confidant to Sir Moses Montefiore during missions to support Jews in Damascus, Jassy (Romania) and Jerusalem, and translated Hebrew texts into English.

James Loewe, his grandfather, also translated Rabbinic texts and, as banker to the nascent Zionist movement, provided a London home for Theodor Herzl (who described him as “a better judge of a cigar than a Zionist”). Raphael’s father, Herbert Loewe (1882-1940), Reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge, edited A Rabbinic Anthology with Claude Montefiore and published on the history of Jews in medieval England….READ MORE

E.M. Broner: Feminist Pioneer and Professor, Dies At 83



Source: NY Jewish Week, 6-24-11

Esther Broner, an author, college professor and pioneer Jewish feminist, died June 21 in Manhattan of multiple organ failure caused by an infection. She was 83.

Ms. Broner was best known for her role in establishing a women’s perspective on Passover rituals, writing “The Women’s Haggadah” with Naomi Nimrod in 1977 (the text was first published in Ms. Magazine) and running the first women’s seder in 1976 in her Manhattan apartment (similar feminist seders have subsequently grown to be held by a wide variety of sponsoring organizations around the country).

The author of ten books, including “A Weave of Women,” a novel about 15 women in male-dominated Jerusalem four decades ago, and “The Telling,” the story of the development of the women’ seder, she also taught English at Sarah Lawrence College and several other universities.

Several Jewish feminists said she brought a strong Jewish sensibility to a largely secular Jewish feminist movement….READ MORE

Gus Tyler: Forward Editor, Writer & Firebrand of Labor Movement, Dies at 99


Source: NYT, 6-11-11

Gus Tyler could recite word for word the first firebrand speech he gave more than 80 years ago on a soapbox on the Lower East Side. That long-ago youth tingled with the revolutionary promise he saw on the teeming streets of New York, in the new Soviet Union, in the great books he devoured, in the endless nocturnal debates.

Gus Tyler in 1964.

He tumbled through life like a Saul Bellow character, full of analytic thought and urban vitality. He wore multifarious hats: pamphleteer, professor and poet, but insisted on defining himself with a single word: agitator.

He became one as a teenager, throwing burrs at police horses during socialist demonstrations. And as a leader of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union for decades, he helped shape labor’s contribution to the postwar welfare state. His most powerful weapons were words, in books, newspaper columns, radio commentaries and speeches he wrote for labor chieftains.

His intellectual output was diverse, but Mr. Tyler tended to come back to one theme: the importance of democracy in unions, and the importance of unions to democracies. He pushed for government-sponsored health care and was a leader in the fight to reapportion voting districts so that cities were better represented.

A. H. Raskin, the labor expert who was a reporter for The New York Times, called Mr. Tyler one of the true intellectuals of the trade union movement. The historian Bernard Bellush wrote, “There are those who say that the history of the democratic left in America since World War I is the history of Gus Tyler.”

Mr. Tyler died on June 3 in Sarasota, Fla., at the age of 99, his nephew Jonathan Tilove said — 21 years shy of his goal of outliving Moses.

But he did see a promised land of sorts: his first job was at The Jewish Daily Forward when it was a big-circulation, left-leaning Yiddish daily. He threw himself into the 1930s brawls of Stalinists, Trotskyists and all manner of leftists before fighting some of the same people in the 1940s to kick Communists out of liberal veterans’ groups….READ MORE


Jacob Milgrom: Rabbi, biblical scholar dies at 87

Source: JWeekly, 6-10-10

Historian Fred Rosenbaum will remember Jacob Milgrom — a rabbi, biblical scholar and professor emeritus of Near Eastern studies at U.C. Berkeley — not poring over biblical tomes, but opening the home he shared with his wife, Jo, and their children to students for Shabbat.

“Just to be invited to Shabbat dinner at the Milgrom home was a wonderful invitation,” said Rosenbaum, who was a graduate student in Jewish history at U.C. Berkeley when he first met Milgrom in the early 1970s. “People really treasured it, including me. I was personally touched by Jack, both by his intellect and his human sensitivity and caring about others.”

Milgrom died June 6 at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem of a brain hemorrhage related to a fall. He was 87.

Best known for his comprehensive commentaries on Torah and his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Conservative rabbi wrote a three-volume series on Leviticus, interpreting Jewish dietary and purification rituals as well as the Bible’s position on homosexuality. He concluded the ban on homosexuality applies only to Jewish men…. READ MORE

Moshe Greenberg, Biblical Scholar, Is Dead at 81

Source: NYT, 5-19-10

Moshe Greenberg in 1995.

Moshe Greenberg, one of the most influential Jewish biblical scholars of the 20th century, died Saturday at his home in Jerusalem. He was 81.

The death was confirmed by his son Joel.

Professor Greenberg, who in 1994 won the Israel Prize, that nation’s highest civilian honor, taught Bible and Jewish studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1970 to 1996. But his teaching career began at the University of Pennsylvania in 1954 and constituted something of a breakthrough in American academia.

Before then, most American universities held that biblical study was primarily the domain of Christian scholars, said Jonathan D. Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University.

“The concept was that Jews could not be objective about teaching the Bible and that they had shifted to the study of the Talmud,” Professor Sarna said, referring to the post-biblical collection of rabbinic discussions of Jewish law, ethics and customs. “So the appointment of Greenberg to teach Bible at a secular university was a milestone.”… READ FULL ARTICLE

Gary Tobin: Jewish researcher, dies at 59

Source: JTA, 7-7-09

Gary Tobin, a prominent Jewish researcher who challenged conventional Jewish wisdom, has died. Tobin, the president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco, died late Monday following a long illness. He was 59. Tobin, who was known for his provocative research, urged the community to be more open to converts, arguing that it was a viable way to grow Jewish numbers. He also was a fierce critic of the National Jewish Population Survey, claiming that its methodology was flawed and that it had undercounted American Jews by more than 1 million. His work also addressed Jewish philanthropy and community diversity. “Gary was a visionary about the Jewish community,” said Leonard Saxe, a professor at Brandeis University who succeded Tobin as director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies there. “He identified problems and issues in the community and often developed these really creative analyses, whether it was about the role of synagogues or the makeup of communities and more recently about philanthropy.” The funeral was scheduled for Thursday.

Isaac Meyers: Lecture Memorializes Short, Inspiring Life of Jewish Graduate Student

Source: Chabad, 6-10-09

Professor Geza Vermes, left, who in 2007 participated in a Dead Sea Scrolls conference at the University of Birmingham in England, gave the inaugural Isaac Meyers Memorial Lecture in Jewish Classics at Oxford University’s Chabad Society.

Professor Geza Vermes, left, who in 2007 participated in a Dead Sea Scrolls conference at the University of Birmingham in England, gave the inaugural Isaac Meyers Memorial Lecture in Jewish Classics at Oxford University’s Chabad Society.

One year after the untimely passing of a noted 28-year-old graduate student, Oxford University’s Chabad Society inaugurated its Isaac Meyers Memorial Lecture in Jewish Classics with an address on the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Professor Geza Vermes’ lecture for about 70 students, academics and community members at the David Slager Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Student Centre touched on the scrolls’ controversial history, with the professor – a scholar of religious history who was one of the first experts to examine the scrolls following their discovery in 1947, and authored the standard English translation of the find – advancing his view that they belonged to the Essenes, a Jewish sect that ancient historical sources say lived in the area around the Dead Sea.

After Vermes’ hour-long discussion and a short question-and-answer session, Rabbi Eli Brackman, director of Chabad at Oxford, spoke about Meyers’ short life and unveiled the new Isaac Meyers Library of Jewish Classics that forms part of the 3,000-volume Chabad Society Samson Judaica Library.

Following the event, Denise Leigh, a student at Oxford’s Wolfson College, remarked that it was “a great lecture.”

Meyers, who studied at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in 2003 and was an active member of the Chabad Society, graduated from Yale University. A native of New York, he was a pursuing a Ph.D. from Harvard University’s Classics Department with a concentration in Hebrew when he was hit by a truck on a Cambridge, Mass., street corner in March 2008. At the time, he was a popular Latin instructor and had been translating Hebrew texts into Greek. His poetry also appeared in The Forward.

Isaac Meyers, an accomplished classics graduate student, passed away last year at the age of 28.

Brackman, who described Meyers as a close friend of his family, said that he wanted to do something to memorialize the student’s academic dedication and strong sense of Jewish identity. An annual lecture seemed to be the perfect fit.

“He was an inspiration to everyone he met,” explained the rabbi. “We couldn’t possibly not do something. Our hope is that his life remains an inspiration for generations of Jewish students.”

At last week’s memorial lecture, Daniel Hemel, a Harvard graduate student currently taking courses at New College at Oxford, read one of Meyer’s poems.