Remembering Saul Lieberman

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Kudos to FailedMessiah for noting the upcoming lecture to commemorate Professor Saul Lieberman’s 25th yahrzeit.

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about Rabbi J.H. Hertz, who was educated at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary and later became the (Orthodox) chief rabbi of Britain.

Well, Professor Lieberman was another figure who lived on the border of Orthodox and Conservative Judaism (which, as mentioned in my Hertz post, used to be much closer in practice and ideology).

Born in Motol (now Motal’), near Pinsk, Belarus (then Russian empire), he studied at the Orthodox yeshivot of Malch and Slobodka. While studying at the Slabodka Yeshiva, he befriended Rabbi Yitzchak Ruderman and Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, both of whom would become leaders of great Rabbinical seminaries in America. In the 1920s he attended the University of Kiev, and, following a short stay in Palestine, continued his studies in France. In 1928 he settled in Jerusalem. He studied talmudic philology and Greek language and literature at the Hebrew University, where he was appointed lecturer in Talmud in 1931. He also taught at the Mizrachi Teachers Seminary and from 1935 was dean of the Harry Fischel Institute for Talmudic Research in Jerusalem.

In 1940 he was invited both by Rabbi Isaac Hutner to teach in the Orthodox Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, and by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America to serve as professor of Palestinian literature and institutions. Lieberman chose the offer by the Jewish Theological Seminary.  (MORE)

Lieberman held down the traditional arm of JTS. It’s no coincidence that the year he died coincided with the year that JTS decided to ordain women.

Interestingly, the memorial lecture is sponsored by the Union for Traditional Judaism, the group founded by Rabbi David Weiss Halivni who left JTS after the 1983 decision.

Posted on March 12, 2008

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