David Hartman

Founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute

Shalom Hartman Institute Founder Rabbi Prof. David Hartman z”l was a leading thinker among philosophers of contemporary Judaism and an internationally renowned Jewish author. As part of his unique vision to deal with the challenges of Judaism in the modern world, Rabbi Prof. David Hartman founded the Shalom Hartman Institute in 1976 in honor of his father.

He was a man who is with us no more
A thinker, teacher, and lover of mankind
Our teacher, our rabbi, and our friend
David Hartman left this world on Sunday, 30 Shevat 5773 – February 10, 2013

Early Life and Career

Born in 1931 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, David 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 Rabbi Soloveitchik until 1960, while pursuing a graduate degree in philosophy with Robert C. Pollock at Fordham University. From his teacher Rabbi Soloveitchik, David learned that the practice of Judaism can be integrated with a deep respect for knowledge regardless of its source. From Professor Pollock he learned to joyfully celebrate the variety of spiritual rhythms present in the American experience.

After serving as a congregational rabbi in the Bronx, New York, from 1955-1960, David Hartman became Rabbi of Congregation Tiferet Beit David Jerusalem in Montreal, where he had a profound influence on the lives of many of his congregants, some of whom followed him to Israel when he moved there in 1971. While in Montreal, he also taught and studied at McGill University and received his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1973.

Move to Israel

In 1971, Prof. Hartman immigrated to Israel with his wife Barbara and their five children, 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 – and to help build a more pluralistic and tolerant Israeli society. It is with this unique vision that David Hartman founded the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem in 1976, dedicating it to the name of his father. At the institute, Prof. Hartman built a team of research scholars in the study and teaching of classical Jewish sources and contemporary issues of Israeli society and Jewish life.

Work and Legacy

David Hartman’s work emphasized the centrality of the rebirth of the State of Israel – the challenge as well as the opportunities it offers to contemporary Judaism. His teachings drew upon the tradition of Orthodox Judaism and emphasize religious pluralism, both among Jews and in interfaith relations.

Professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he taught for more than two decades, David Hartman 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. His involvement went beyond academia, in which he published extensively. His influence was also felt in Israel’s political and educational arenas: From 1977-84, he served as an advisor to Zevulun Hammer, former Israeli Minister of Education, and he was advisor to a number of Israeli prime ministers on the subject of religious pluralism in Israel and the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora.


David Hartman’s publications in Jewish philosophy 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 reissued A Living Covenant: The Innovative Spirit in Traditional Judaism (Jewish Light Publishing, Vermont, 1997). 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 published by Yale University Press, 2000, Love and Terror in the God Encounter: the Theological Legacy of Joseph B. Soloveitchik published by Jewish Lights 2001. The Hebrew translation of Israelis, and The Jewish TraditionMoreshet B’Machloket was published by Schocken Publishing House, 2002. Sub Specie Humanitatis, an Italian translation of A Living Covenant, was published in 2004. The God Who Hates Lies, written in collaboration with Charlie Buckholtz, was published by Jewish Lights in 2011. From Defender to Critic: The Search for a New Jewish Self, was published in 2012.

Awards and Honors

1977 National Jewish Book Award in Jewish Thought for Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
1985  National Jewish Book Award in Jewish Thought for A Living Covenant: The Innovative Spirit in Traditional Judaism
1993  Leah Goldberg Prize awarded in Israel for A Living Covenant translated into Hebrew, From Sinai to Zion, Am Oved
1998  Invited to give Terry Lectures at Yale University
1999  National Publishers Association chose the book, A Heart of Many Rooms, as one of the 10 best books in the category of religion
2000  Avi Chai Prize in Israel, for promoting understanding between religious and secular elements in Israeli society
2001  Amit Yerushalayim
2004  Samuel Rothberg Prize for Jewish Education
2012  Marc and Henia z”l Liebhaber Prize for Religious Tolerance

Honorary Doctorates

2003 Yale University
2004 American University
2004 Hebrew Union College
2008 Weizmann Institute of Science

David Hartman


May 23, 2019

Certain organizing principles underlie the sense of common destiny and interdependence that so many Jews feel

Nov 7, 2018

Hanukkah challenges us to build an identity that accepts outside cultures while maintaining loyalty to our own history and culture.

Nov 6, 2018

Newly discovered 1980 essay on Hanukkah from David Hartman

Nov 6, 2018

Newly available: 1984 Essay on Hanukkah from David Hartman. For Jews who live in the different areas of the globe, the memory of the Maccabees can be an inspiration to persevere and believe that ultimately, they will be victorious in their struggle.

Sep 18, 2017

Richard and Sylvia Kaufman chose to establish this chair to honor both David and Donniel Hartman, who gave them an opportunity to learn about the Jewish tradition in new ways

May 17, 2016

2011 interview for the program, On Being with Krista Tippett of National Public Radio

Apr 10, 2016

Pesach (Passover) negates the idea that the ultimate purpose of being Jewish can be realized by an individual leap of faith or by fulfilling the commandments at Sinai

Mar 3, 2014

The story of Purim is a classic account of our people's confrontation with brute antisemitism.

Nov 17, 2013

Pre-Hanukkah webinar on one of David Hartman’s classic arguments about Maimonides’ integration of halacha and aggadah – the preference for Shabbat over Hanukkah candles.

Feb 10, 2013

Passover is meant to celebrate and sustain our deep yearning for freedom, not necessarily to show that God can change the order of the universe.

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