Rabbi David Hartman
BRIEFLY Philosopher who brought a liberal approach to Judaism
Rabbi David Hartman, who died on 10 February aged 81, was one of the world's leading Jewish philosophers, who promoted Jewish pluralism and interfaith dialogue. Brooklyn-born, he brought a more liberal Judaism to the conservative brand commonplace in Israel, where he moved in 1971 after holding rabbinical posts in the US and Canada.
He developed a unique philosophy which positioned man at the centre of Judaism, opening the door to a more tolerant approach that took personal choice and experience into greater account. HIs line of thought places man in a dialogue with God, rather than as an obedient, unquestioning worshipper. He promoted thoughtful criticism and interpretation of Jewish texts and laws, spawning a generation of thinkers who continue to challenge what is traditionally accepted or forbidden under Jewish law.
"Contrary to his teachers, who saw Jewish law as signed and sealed, he chose to see it as a type of language where the past and present interact," said Avi Sagi, a professor of philosophy at Israel's Bar-Ilan University who studied and worked with Hartman.
Hartman's death comes amid an ongoing clash between the more liberal streams of Reform and Conservative Judaism and Israel's ultra-Orthodox establishment. The liberal streams want more recognition for their traditions in Israel, where they are marginal, although they predominate among American Jews.
While Hartman adhered to the Orthodox tradition, he was known for his efforts to promote understanding between Jews of various affiliations both inside and outside Israel. …