Jewish scholar Neusner dies at 84

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Brian Hu­bert bhu­bert@free­manon­ @bri­anat­free­man on Twit­ter

RHINEBECK >> Rabbi Jacob Neusner, a noted Jewish scholar/au­thor and long­time Bard Col­lege pro­fes­sor, died Satur­day.

Neusner, 84, was a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of His­tory and The­ol­ogy of Ju­daism and a se­nior fel­low at the In­sti­tute of Ad­vanaced The­ol­ogy at Bard. He joined the fac­ulty of the An­nan­da­leon-Hudson col­lege in 1994.

“It was an honor to have as great a scholar and teacher as Jacob Neusner on the Bard fac­ulty. He left a per­ma­nent legacy in the study of Ju­daism and re­li­gion,” Bard Col­lege Pres­i­dent Leon Bot­stein said.

Jerry Weiss, vice pres­i­dent and rit­ual chair­man at Con­gre­ga­tion Aha­vath Israel in Kingston, where Neusner was a mem­ber, re­called the rabbi as a quiet and unas­sum­ing man.

“He wasn’t the most talk­a­tive gen­tle­men,” Weiss said. “He was a sweet­heart. He was just happy to come here to syn­a­gogue and pray.” Ac­cord­ing to his Wikipedia page, Neusner wrote or edited 950 books, with much of his re­search cen­ter­ing on rab­binic Ju­daism of the Mish­naic and Tal­mu­dic eras.

Neusner re­ceived 10 hon­orary de­grees, 14 aca­demic medals and prizes, fel­low­ships from the Ful­bright and Guggen­heim foun­da­tions, the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Hu­man­i­ties and the Amer­i­can Coun­cil of Learned So­ci­eties.

He also was a mem­ber of the In­sti­tute for Ad­vanced Study at Prince­ton Univer­sity and Clare Hall at Cam­bridge Univer­sity. He re­ceived his rab­binic or­di­na­tion at The Jewish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary of Amer­ica in New York City.

In 2010, Neusner took part in a his­toric meet­ing with Pope Bene­dict XVI at Rome’s main syn­a­gogue, where they dis­cussed each other’s schol­ar­ship, his bi­og­ra­phy on the Bard Col­lege web­site said. Neusner also taught at Columbia Univer­sity, the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin (Mil­wau­kee), Bran­deis Univer­sity, Dart­mouth Col­lege, Brown Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of South Florida. Weiss said Neusner was never one to want to stand out. “He was one of the most bril­liant schol­ars we had, yet he didn’t care for recog­ni­tion,” Weiss said. “He was a very hum­ble gen­tle­man, a very hum­ble man. “That was Rabbi Neusner in a nut­shell for us.”

Funeral ser­vices will be held 10:30 a.m. Mon­day at Blithe­wood Manor on the Bard cam­pus. Burial will fol­low at Mount Eden Ceme­tery in Hawthorne (Westch­ester County) at 1:30 p.m.

His fam­ily will sit Shiva (Jewish pe­riod of mourn­ing) Mon­day evening and Tues­day morn­ing at Neusner’s home in Rhinebeck, where he lived with his wife Suzanne.


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