Dr. Jacob Neusner to Present the 2009 Dr. Fritz Bamberger Memorial Lecture at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York

Thursday, October 22, 2009
“Reform Judaism for Our Day: Why It Is Necessary”
Dr. Jacob Neusner, the renowned historian and theologian, will present the 2009 Dr. Fritz Bamberger Memorial Lecture on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 6 pm at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, One West 4th Street, New York City. Dr. Neusner will lecture on “Reform Judaism for Our Day: Why It Is Necessary.”

This lecture is sponsored by the Bamberger Family in memory of their father, Dr. Fritz Bamberger, z"l, who served as Assistant to the President and Professor of Jewish Intellectual History at HUC-JIR/New York.

Dr. Neusner is Distinguished Service Professor of the History and Theology of Judaism and Senior Fellow, Institute of Advanced Theology, at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. He also is a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, and Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University, England. He has published more than 1000 books and unnumbered articles, both scholarly and academic and popular and journalistic, and is the most published humanities scholar in the world.

He has been awarded nine honorary degrees, including seven U.S. and European honorary doctorates, from the University of Chicago, the University of Rochester, Bologna University in Italy (in celebration of the University’s 900th anniversary), Cologne University in Germany, Tulane University, St. Louis University, and Dowling College. In addition he holds fourteen academic medals and prizes, including The University Medal of Excellence, Columbia University, the Medal of Collège de France, the University of Tübingen Medal commemorating that University’s 500th anniversary, the Queen Christina of Sweden Medal of Åbo Akademi (Finland), and the Abraham Berliner Prize in Jewish History of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, as well as numerous other academic awards.

He grew up in West Hartford, CT, and is a graduate of William H. Hall High School (1950). He received his A. B. from Harvard College in 1953, his Ph.D. from Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in 1961, and Rabbinical Ordination and the degree of Master of Hebrew Letters from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1960. During his graduate studies he also was Henry Fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford University, 1953-1954, and Fulbright Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1957-1958. In his professional career he was founding chairman of the Department of Hebrew Studies at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1961-2), held a post-doctoral fellowship at Brandeis University (1962-4), and taught at Dartmouth College and at Brown University (1964-1989); he spent a research year at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, (1989-1990), and served as Distinguished Research Professor of Religious Studies at University of South Florida (1990 to 2000). He began teach at Bard College on a part-time basis in 1994 and moved to New York to assume full-time duties in 2000.

He has held two fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and two fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation as well as an NEH Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study, and many other research awards. He also has held visiting professorships at the University of Minnesota and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In 1991 he was awarded the Buber Chair at the University of Frankfurt, in 1992 was Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University, in 1993 was Visiting Research Professor at Åbo Akademi in Finland, in 1994 was Canterbury Fellow at University of Canterbury, New Zealand, in 1995 was Von Humboldt Research Professor at University of Göttingen, and in 1996 was Visiting Professor in Theology at Uppsala University.

He was President of the American Academy of Religion (1968-1969), the only scholar of Judaism to hold that position, and a member of the founding committee of the Association for Jewish Studies (1967-1970). He single-handedly founded the European Association of Jewish Studies (1980-1981). He also served, by appointment of President Carter, as Member of the National Council on the Humanities and, by appointment of President Reagan, as Member of the National Council on the Arts (1978-1984, 1984-1990, respectively). He is editor of the Encyclopaedia of Judaism (Brill, 1999. I-III) and its Supplements; chairman of the Editorial Board of The Review of Rabbinic Judaism and Editor in Chief of the Brill Reference Library of Judaism, both published by E. J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands. He is editor of Studies in Judaism, University Press of America. He was editor for Judaism of the Dictionary of Religion (Harper/AAR), and of the Encyclopaedia of Religion (Britannica/Merriam Webster).

He resides with his wife in Rhinebeck, New York. They have a daughter, three sons and three daughters-in-law, seven granddaughters, and two grandsons.

The Dr. Fritz Bamberger Memorial Lecture honors the memory of the noted German-Jewish scholar and specialist in Jewish intellectual history. Born in 1902 in Frankfurt-am-Main, Dr. Fritz Bamberger received his doctorate from the University of Berlin. From 1926 to 1933 he was a member of the Forschungsinstitut of the Akademie fur die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin, working on books about Maimonides and Gabirol and serving as one of the editors of the “Akademie edition” of Moses Mendelssohn’s Collected Works. From 1933 to 1934 he taught philosophy at the Hochschule die Wissenschaft des Jundentums in Berlin, of which he was a graduate.

After Hitler’s rise in Germany, Dr. Bamberger organized at great personal risk a system of schools from kindergarten to college for Jewish students expelled by the Nazis from public schools. In 1934 he was appointed Director of the Bureau of Education for Jews in Berlin and President of the Jewish Teachers College, which was established to train general teachers for the new Jewish schools. In these capacities, he was responsible for the establishment of new types of Jewish schools and for many educational innovations designed to meet the needs of young Jews during the Nazi era. In January 1939 he came to the United States where, until 1942, he taught at the College of Jewish Studies and the University of Chicago. In 1942 Dr. Bamberger joined Esquire, Inc., the American publishing house, where he served as Executive Director of Esquire and Coronet magazines. After twenty years in the publishing field, he resigned in 1962 to become Assistant to the President and Professor of Intellectual History at HUC-JIR in New York. Dr. Bamberger served on HUC-JIR’s Board of Governors and was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in 1982 for his courage, moral integrity, and scholarly attainments. Dr. Bamberger’s encyclopedic collection of works by and about Spinoza is a treasured resource of the Abramov Library at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.

A contributor to scholarly journals and general periodicals, his publications included The Origin of the Problem of Values in the Philosophy of the 19th Century (1924), Moses Mendelssohn (1929), The System of Maimonides (1935), The Ninth School Year (1937), Zunz’s Conception of History (1941), Leo Baeck – The Man and the Idea (1958), Julius Guttmann – Philosopher of Judaism (1961). He was the editor of The Teachings of Judaism (3 volumes; 1928-30), Moses Mendelssohn’s Collected Writings (7 volumes, 1929-32; new edition 1970-74), Mendelssohn Autographs (1929), The Book Zunz (1932), Herder’s Jewish Fables (1936), and Books are the Best Things (1962). In 2003, at the inauguration of the Dr. Fritz Bamberer Memorial Lecture, Hebrew Union College Press published Dr. Bamberger’s Spinoza and Anti-Spinoza Literature, the Printed Literature of Spinozism 1665-1832, and reprinted his Books are the Best Things, An Anthology from Old Hebrew Writings.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu