Dr. Martin Buber, Venerable Jewish Philosopher, Dies in Israel; Was 87

Professor Martin Buber, world famous Jewish philosopher, educator and foremost interpreter of Hasidic thought to the Gentile world, died this morning at his home here. He was 87. He had been suffering from general weakness for the past few weeks following an operation for a broken leg suffered last spring.

Prof. Buber was born in Vienna in 1878 and was raised by his grandfather Solomon Buber of Lvov who first introduced him to Jewish studies. He studied philosophy and history of art at the Universities of Vienna, Leipzig Berlin and Zurich. While still a student, he became active in the Zionist movement as a writer and edited the Viennese Zionist newspaper. Die Welt. He was also a founder and editor of the Jewish Publishing House in Vienna, the Judischer Verlag. From 1916 to 1924 he edited Der Jude, a periodical which he had founded and which became the leading organ of German speaking Jews.

From 1923 until his expulsion from Germany by the Nazis in 1933, Prof. Buber occupied the chair of Jewish studies at the University of Frankfurt–the only such chair in all of Germany. In 1938 following his settlement in Palestine he became Professor of Social Philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a post he held until his retirement in 1951 when he became Professor Emeritus.

Prof. Buber achieved world prominence for introducing Hasidic philosophy into German thought and the philosophical schools of Western Europe. His view that religion is a dialogue between God and man and that self-realization is achieved through perceiving the divine presence in one’s relationship to the world and his fellow man had a decisive impact on the philosophical writing and thinking of post World War II intellectuals. During the 1950s, Buber’s books "I and Thou," "Between Man and Man," "Tales of the Hasidim" and others, enjoyed a widespread vogue among students in France, England and the United States.

ADVOCATED ESTABLISHMENT OF PALESTINE AS A BI-NATIONAL STATE

In Israel, Prof. Buber joined forces with the late Dr. Judah Magnes and other spiritual Zionists in advocating a peaceful attitude towards the Arabs and the establishment of Palestine as a bi-national Arab-Jewish State guaranteeing equality to both Jews and Arabs. He was instrumental in founding the thud movement which sought a rapprochement with the Arabs and stressed the need to preserve the cultural integrity of the Middle East by retaining distinctly Semitic characteristics as opposed to the influence of what were considered alien and synthetic European values.

In addition to his works on Hasidic thought and the history of Hasidism, Prof. Buber was the author of numerous books on the Bible, Jewish and general philosophy, theology, and Zionist theory. Together with the late German-Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig he achieved the monumental task of translating the Old Testament to German during the years 1926-37.

During his lifetime Martin Buber was honored by many of the world’s leading universities and learned societies. He held honorary degrees from the Hebrew University, the Hebrew Union College, the Sorbonne and the New School for Social Research. He was a visiting guest professor at several universities in France, Scandinavia, England, the Netherlands and the United States and set off a widespread controversy by returning to Germany after the war to lecture.

Although he retired from teaching at the Hebrew University in 1951 he never lost touch with Israel’s students and was always accessible for consultation. Two years ago on his 85th birthday the students of the Hebrew University paid tribute to their revered teacher by holding a moving torch light parade outside his home in Jerusalem.

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