David Hartman (rabbi)

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David Hartman

David Hartman (September 11, 1931 – February 10, 2013) was an American-Israeli leader and philosopher of contemporary Judaism, founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, Israel, and a Jewish author.

Americans citizens, or natives, of the United States of America

Americans are nationals and citizens of the United States of America. Although nationals and citizens make up the majority of Americans, some dual citizens, expatriates, and permanent residents, may also claim American nationality. The United States is home to people of many different ethnic origins. As a result, American culture and law does not equate nationality with race or ethnicity, but with citizenship and permanent allegiance.

Israelis are the citizens or permanent residents of the State of Israel, a multiethnic state populated by people of different ethnic backgrounds. The largest ethnic groups in Israel are Jews (75%), followed by Arabs (20%) and other minorities (5%). Among the Israeli Jewish population, hundreds of thousands of Jews born in Israel are descended from Ashkenazi Jew, Mizrahi Jews, Sephardi Jews and an array of groups from all the Jewish ethnic divisions, though over 50% of Israel’s Jewish population is of at least partial Mizrahi descent.

Philosopher person with an extensive knowledge of philosophy

A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy, which involves rational inquiry into areas that are outside either theology or science. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.



David Hartman was born in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York. He attended Yeshiva Chaim Berlin and the Lubavitch Yeshiva, after which he spent time learning in Lakewood Yeshiva. In 1953, having studied under Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, he received his rabbinical ordination from Yeshiva University in New York. He continued his studies with Rabbi Soloveitchik until 1960, while pursuing a graduate degree in philosophy with Robert C. Pollock at Fordham University. In 1971, Hartman immigrated to Israel with his wife Barbara and their five children.

Brownsville, Brooklyn Neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City, New York

Brownsville is a residential neighborhood located in eastern Brooklyn in New York City. The 1.163-square-mile (3.01 km2) area that comprises Brownsville has 58,300 residents as of the 2010 United States Census. The neighborhood's boundaries are unclear, but it is generally bordered by Crown Heights to the northwest; Bushwick and Cypress Hills to the north; New Lots to the east; Canarsie to the south; and East Flatbush to the west.

Joseph B. Soloveitchik American theologian

Joseph Ber Soloveitchik was a major American Orthodox rabbi, Talmudist, and modern Jewish philosopher. He was a scion of the Lithuanian Jewish Soloveitchik rabbinic dynasty.

Yeshiva University Jewish University located in Manhattan

Yeshiva University is a private, non-profit research university located in New York City, United States, with four campuses in New York City.

Rabbi Hartman died on February 10, 2013 in Jerusalem at the age of 81. [1]


After serving as a congregational rabbi in the Bronx, New York, from 1955–1960, Hartman became the Rabbi of Congregation Tiferet Beit David Jerusalem in Montreal. [2] Some of his students moved with him to Israel when he immigrated in 1971. While in Montreal, he also taught and studied at McGill University and received his Ph.D. in philosophy. Rabbi Hartman founded the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem in 1976. He was named founding president in 2009, when his son, Donniel Hartman, was named president.[ citation needed ] In addition to the institute, he founded the Charles E. Smith High School, which operates separate programs for boys and girls, the latter of which is named Midrashiya, [3] in central Jerusalem. Rabbi Hartman was a Professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for over two decades, during which time he was also a visiting Professor of Jewish Thought at the University of California, Berkeley in 1986/1987 and at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1997/1998.[ citation needed ]

The Bronx Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

The Bronx is the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City, in the U.S. state of New York. It is south of Westchester County; northeast and east of Manhattan, across the Harlem River; and north of Queens, across the East River. Since 1914, the borough has had the same boundaries as Bronx County, the third-most densely populated county in the United States.

Montreal City in Quebec, Canada

Montreal is the most populous municipality in the Canadian province of Quebec and the second-most populous municipality in Canada. Originally called Ville-Marie, or "City of Mary", it is named after Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill in the heart of the city. The city is centred on the Island of Montreal, which took its name from the same source as the city, and a few much smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which is Île Bizard. It has a distinct four-season continental climate with warm to hot summers and cold, snowy winters.

McGill University English-language university in Montreal, Quebec

McGill University is a public research university in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It was established in 1821 by royal charter, granted by King George IV. The university bears the name of James McGill, a Montreal merchant originally from Scotland whose bequest in 1813 formed the university's precursor, McGill College.

Thoughts and assessments

Rabbi Hartman viewed his immigration to Israel as an essential part of his mission to encourage greater understanding between Jews of diverse affiliations—both in Israel and the Jewish diaspora—and to build a more pluralistic and tolerant Israeli society. His work emphasized the centrality of the rebirth of the State of Israel and religious pluralism, both among Jews and in interfaith relations. As his views often aligned with Conservative Judaism, some have asked whether he should have been or his writings continue to be considered Orthodox. [4] Elliot Dorff, a leader of Conservative Judaism, described Hartman as "Orthodox, but close to the right border of Conservative Judaism". [5]

Aliyah immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the Land of Israel

Aliyah is the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the Land of Israel. Also defined as "the act of going up"—that is, towards Jerusalem—"making Aliyah" by moving to the Land of Israel is one of the most basic tenets of Zionism. The opposite action, emigration from the Land of Israel, is referred to in Hebrew as yerida ("descent"). The State of Israel's Law of Return gives Jews and their descendants automatic rights regarding residency and Israeli citizenship.

The Jewish diaspora or exile refers to the dispersion of Israelites or Jews out of their ancestral homeland and their subsequent settlement in other parts of the globe.

Conservative Judaism denomination of Judaism

Conservative Judaism is a major Jewish denomination which views Jewish law, or Halakha, as both binding and subject to historical development. It regards the authority of Jewish law and tradition as emanating primarily from the assent of the people and the community through the generations, more than from divine revelation. The Conservative rabbinate therefore employs modern historical-critical research, rather than only traditional methods and sources, and lends great weight to its constituency when determining its stance on matters of practice. The movement considers its approach as the authentic and most appropriate continuation of halakhic discourse, maintaining both fealty to received forms and flexibility in their interpretation. It also eschews strict theological definitions, lacking a consensus in matters of faith and allowing great pluralism.

Political activity

From 1977–1984, Rabbi Hartman served as an advisor to Zevulun Hammer, former Israeli Minister of Education, and he was an advisor to a number of Israeli prime ministers on the subject of religious pluralism in Israel and the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora.[ citation needed ]

Zevulun Hammer was an Israeli politician, minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

Prime Minister of Israel Head of government of Israel

The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of government and chief executive of Israel.

Published works

Hartman's publications in Jewish philosophy have received wide recognition, and become standard references in academic scholarship. He was awarded the National Jewish Book Award in 1977 for Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest (Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1976) and in 1986 for the recently reissued A Living Covenant: The Innovative Spirit in Traditional Judaism (Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 1997 www.jewishlights.com). In 1993, the Hebrew translation of A Living Covenant From Sinai to Zion (Am Oved Publishers) was awarded the Leah Goldberg Prize. A Heart of Many Rooms: Celebrating the Many Voices Within Judaism was published by Jewish Lights Publishing in 1999. Israelis and the Jewish Tradition: an Ancient People Debating Its Future was published by Yale University Press, 2000, Love and Terror in the God Encounter: the Theological Legacy of Joseph B. Soloveitchik was published by Jewish Lights 2001. The Hebrew translation of Israelis and the Jewish Tradition (Moreshet b'machloket) was published by Schocken Publishing House, 2002.


Hartman was awarded the Avi Chai Prize in the year 2000 and on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Shalom Hartman Institute he was awarded the Guardian of Jerusalem Prize. He was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Yale University in May 2003. In 2004 David Hartman received an honorary doctorate from Hebrew Union College and was awarded the Samuel Rothberg Prize for Jewish Education by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2008, David Hartman received an honorary degree from Weizmann Institute of Rehovot, Israel. [6] He received the doctorate "in recognition of 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". [7]

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  1. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4343247,00.html
  2. Tifereth Beit David Jerusalem website Archived July 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  3. Hartman Institute website, Feb. 17, 2009
  4. Shapiro, Samantha M. (January 23, 2008). "Why an Orthodox institute's decision to ordain female rabbis isn't as revolutionary as it sounds. – By Samantha M. Shapiro – Slate Magazine". Slate.com. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  5. Dorff, Elliot, The Unfolding Tradition: Jewish Law After Sinai
  6. Liberal rabbi-philosopher David Hartmen dies
  7. Hartman website, Nov. 17, 2008, citing Weizmann Institute proclamation