Jacob Neusner, Benedict XVI’s ‘favourite rabbi’, dies aged 84 (Catholic Herald).
Rabbi Jacob Neusner, the Jewish scholar who influenced the writings of Pope Benedict, has died.How a Jewish Kid from the Suburbs Transformed Jewish Studies in America (Aaron W. Hughes, History News Network). "Aaron W. Hughes holds the Philip S. Bernstein Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Rochester. He is the author of the newly published Jacob Neusner: An American Jewish Iconoclast (NYU Press, 2016)." Except from the obituary:
Neusner died at his home in Rhinebeck, New York, on Saturday, according to Bard College, where he had taught since 1994. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease. He was 84.
Pope Benedict quotes Neusner in the first volume of his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy. On the release of Neusner’s 1993 essay A Rabbi Talks With Jesus, the then Cardinal Ratzinger called it “by far the most important book for the Jewish-Christian dialogue in the last decade.”
The two corresponded for many years, before finally meeting when Benedict came to the US in 2008. “It was a moving moment,” Neusner recalled. “The Holy Father greeted me, saying, ‘After 15 years of letters at last we meet’.” They tried speaking in English, then switched to Italian.
Neusner sought to create a systematic and non-partisan study of Judaism that took place within the context of the discipline of Religious Studies. Today we may well take this for granted. One can now go to college and take a course on Jewish texts taught by someone with a PhD in religion and with a specialization in Judaism, as opposed to being taught by the local rabbi. However, this required real intellectual battles. Neusner was the instigator of many of these conflicts, and he was in the thick of many others. In this way, he created an intellectual space for the academic study of Judaism in the secular setting of higher learning.Neusner, Famed Scholar, Remembered at Bard For Life of Jewish Learning (Ira Stoll, New York Sun)
Jacob Neusner wrote, in his report to his Harvard classmates for his 30th college reunion, “When I came to Harvard in 1950, I was so enthralled with this new world...that I just did not want to go home. I stayed at the college the entire year and did not take any of the vacations. I had the odd fear that if I left that enchanted place, it might not be there when I got back.”
That was read Monday at the memorial service for Neusner, who died Saturday at the age of 84. The service was at Bard College, where he taught for a generation of students. It was a spectacular autumn day, with leaves in blazing color on the campus, which overlooks the Hudson River.