Rabbi David Hartman, one of the world's leading Jewish philosophers and a promoter of both Jewish pluralism and interfaith dialogue, has died. He was 81.
The Shalom Hartman Institute, founded by the rabbi more than 30 years ago, said Hartman died Sunday after a long illness.
The Brooklyn-born Hartman held rabbinical posts in the U.S. and Canada before immigrating to Israel in 1971. He was known for his efforts to promote understanding between Jews of various affiliations both inside and outside Israel.
He was widely published and won numerous prizes, including the 1977 National Jewish Book Award.
In a 2011 interview to the Yediot Ahronot daily, Hartman spoke out against some religious groups in Israel for their strict interpretation of some aspects of Jewish law.
"It's insane, insane," Hartman said. "These people emphasize marginal issues. The important thing is loving kindness."
"They emphasize trivial things. We lost the deeper meaning," he said. "Do you think that people will want to enter a spiritual life made up only of what is forbidden, forbidden, forbidden?"
"A lot of young people come to me and say, 'If not for you, I wouldn't be religious'," he told the paper.
Menachem Lorberbaum, a professor at Tel Aviv University who worked closely with Hartman at the institute, said he "inspired a whole new generation of teachers in Jewish philosophy and theology."
Lorberbaum said Hartman will be known for his accomplishments on religious ethics, and as "a pioneer of interfaith dialogue."
"He was committed to the notion that morality precedes Jewish law," he said.
Hartman is survived by his wife and five children. His funeral was scheduled for Monday.
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