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