A Rebbe in the Academic World – By Dr. Joshua Kulp

The Jewish world recently lost great scholar David Weiss Halivni, who served as a rabbi at Camp Ramah in Connecticut (in the 1950s) and Camp Ramah New England (in the 1970s) and at other Ramah camps over many decades. He had a tremendous impact on generations of students at Ramah, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and other institutions. His family, including his children and grandchildren, have long ties to Ramah. Dr. Joshua Kulp, a long-time CRNE teacher and the head of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, shares his thoughts about Professor Halivni, “A Rebbe in the Academic World.”

On Wednesday [June 29, 2022], the world lost one of its greatest scholars of Torah, Professor David Weiss Halivni. Professor Halivni was a survivor of Auschwitz, and went on to become a professor of Talmud, teaching at JTS and Columbia University. His work helped pioneer the methods that are the basis of modern Talmudic commentary. But Professor Halivni will be remembered by those who knew him for far more than his books. Many academics write their books and articles as far away from others as possible, seeking an ivory tower of silence. Professor Halivni sought a Bet Midrash. In the National Library in Jerusalem, he would sit on the outer row of tables, close to the aisle, so that everyone who walked by could see him and ask him a question. While writing my doctorate, I would often find him at his table or looking at a book in the stacks and pose to whatever question puzzling me in my own work. He always gave generously of his time. Professor Halivni was the Rebbe of the National Library, a man who loved Torah but loved people even more. May his memory be for a blessing.