David Hartman, director of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and author of numerous works on modern Jewish philosophy, passed away on Sunday, February 10. He was 81. Hartman, ordained as an Orthodox rabbi, was considered a leading light of the liberal wing of Orthodoxy.
Under his leadership, the Hartman Institute ran hundreds of programs designed to promote the group’s pluralistic viewpoints, giving equal weight and opportunity to leaders from all streams of Judaism, and encompassing ideas and viewpoints from various religious viewpoints, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
Hartman, who was born in Brooklyn in 1931, immigrated to Israel in 1971 after serving as a congregational rabbi in New York. He started the Institute in 1976, naming it in honor of his father. Besides directing the Institute, Hartman was a Professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he taught for over two decades. He was also a top advisor to former Education Minister Zevulun Hammer during the years of the Begin government, 1977-1984.
Hartman studied at The Yeshiva Gevoha of Lakewood, and later at the RIETS school of Yeshiva University, headed by “the Rav,” Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, who gave him smicha (ordination). He wrote dozens of books and articles, among them an in-depth study of the teachings of Maimonides. In 2000, he won the Avi Chai Prize for Jewish literature, the Yakir Yerushalayim Prize in 2001, and the Liebhaber Prize for Jewish Tolerance in 2012, among others.