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Saul Lieberman Dead at 86

Dr. Saul Lieberman, rector of the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he was also Distinguished Service Research Professor of Talmud and Louis Ginzberg Professor of Palestinian Institutions, died today in his sleep while en route to Israel for the Passover holiday. He was 86 years old. The funeral will take place tomorrow in Jerusalem. A memorial service will be held tomorrow at the Seminary.

Lieberman’s notable record as a scholar and a teacher included world recognition as the discoverer of one of Maimonides’ major works on ancient Jewish law which had been lost for more than seven centuries.

He received the Bialik Prize in 1956 and is the only non-Israeli to hold the Israel Prize, the highest award of the State of Israel. This was presented to him in 1971 in recognition of his total literary output, and especially because of his then most recent, “Siphre Zutta: The Midrash of Lydda.”

In 1976 he was the third Jew to receive the Harvey Prize. This prestigious award usually recognizes achievements in medicine or the sciences, but was awarded to Lieberman for his studies of the civilization of the Middle East. In 1980, a chair in the Jerusalem Talmud was established in his honor at Israel’s Bar Man University.

WAS AUTHOR OF MAJOR WORKS

At the time of his death, Lieberman was working on a definitive commentary of the Tosefta, 12 volumes and a supplement which had already been completed. The Tosefta is part of the Tannaitic literature that flourished during the first to third centuries of the common era.

Lieberman was also the author of “A Commentary on the Palestinian Talmud and The Talmud of Caesarea Jerusalem.” His other works included “Greek in Jewish Palestine,” “Roman Legal Institutions in Early Rabbinica” and the “Acta Martyrum, The Martyrs of Caesarea.” He was the editor of the Louis Ginzberg Jubilee Volumes, the “Laws of Yerushalmi” by Maimonides, the Alexander Marx Volumes and was the general editor of the Concordance to the Palestinian Talmud.

Lieberman had served as Professor of Talmud and dean of the Rabbinical School at the Seminary from January 1954 and before that for five years as the dean of the postgraduate department of the Seminary’s Rabbinical School and professor of Palestinian Literature and Institutions.

He taught Talmud at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem from 1931-1936 and was dean of the Harry Fischel Institute there from 1935-40. He was a Fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research and served several terms as its president. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he also served as a member of its parallel, the Israeli Academy of Humanities and Sciences.

Born in Motol, Poland, Lieberman was ordained at the Slobodca Yeshiva in 1916 and received the degree of Master of Arts from the Hebrew University in 1931. He also received honorary degrees from a number of universities.

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