Jacob Neusner, Judaic Scholar Who Forged Interfaith Bonds, Dies at 84 (WILLIAM GRIMES, New York Times)
Jacob Neusner, a religious historian of enormous breadth and productivity and one of the world’s foremost scholars of Jewish rabbinical texts, died on Saturday at his home in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He was 84.Remembering Jacob Neusner, My Rebbe.. In the 1950s, Jewish intellect Jacob Neusner studied Torah at Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. It was a year that changed his entire outlook. He died on Saturday in New York at the age of 84 (Carey Robinson Wolchok, Tablet).
A spokesman for Bard College, where he taught for 20 years, confirmed his death, saying he had been treated for Parkinson’s disease for many years.
Professor Neusner (pronounced NOOSE-ner) gave new meaning to the adjective “prolific.” “A Life of Yohanan ben Zakkai,” his 1962 study of one of the most important Jewish sages, marked the beginning of an astonishingly productive scholarly career. Over the next half-century, he published more than 900 books devoted to history, source analysis, comparative religion and legal theory.
He also edited and translated, with others, nearly the entirety of the Jewish rabbinical texts. His editions of the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud run to more than 50 volumes. In “Jacob Neusner: An American Jewish Iconoclast,” the Judaic scholar Aaron W. Hughes called him “perhaps the most important American-born Jewish thinker this country has produced.”
Of the six questions the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) tells us we will all be asked by the heavenly court to account for our lives, half are dedicated to one topic—Torah—making it clear what God expects from us during our lives: study Torah, learn it deeply, and apply it to our lives. This past Shabbat morning, when Jacob Neusner was called upstairs to give his answers, it is safe to assume there was quite a tumult in heaven when he showed up accompanied by the more than 1,000 books on Judaism he published during his lifetime. I consider myself blessed to have had the great merit of studying with him at the University of South Florida in 1991 and our relationship blossomed from there. I helped facilitate a meeting between Professor Neusner and Pope Benedict XVI, and identify a fitting biographer to tell the story of his life.Jacob Neusner: In Memoriam by Shaul Magid (Shaul Magid, Tikkun).
Most of Neusner’s life was spent in the academy although he was also an ordained rabbi and took that vocation very seriously. But for Tikkun readers not interested in the study of rabbinics, or of a detached version of academic learning that deadens the mind, Neusner should be remembered as an exemplar of an engaged scholar, a social activist in causes he believed in, even as those causes may have often been antithetical to Tikkun’s progressive agenda.FORKED LIGHTNING (Shai Secunda, The Talmud Blog).
While often measured in dizzying numbers and factoids, the singular, lasting accomplishment of Neusner’s legendary career was his success in building a proper home for Jewish studies and its rabbinic core in an otherwise indifferent American academy. More than anything, he achieved this not through quiet, measured prose but by pecking at a typewriter sharper than any saber, tirelessly writing Jewish texts and religion into the western canon.Background here.