Jewish scholar Neusner dies at 84
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.