NEW YORK, Dec. 5 (JTA) Daniel Elazar, who was widely respected for his contributions to organized Jewry, died in his Jerusalem home Dec. 2 at 65 from a rare form of lymphoma.
“Today a giant has fallen,” said friend and colleague Gerald Bubis, founding director of the School of Jewish Communal Service at the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. “He was a genius. There is no other person like him in the Jewish world.”
In 1976 Elazar founded the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an independent Israeli policy studies institute that analyzes key problems facing Israel and world Jewry.
Elazar did not shy away from criticizing Jewish agencies that he believed did not best serve their communities. He said some were more sympathetic to people with money than to people with knowledge, and said a balance between the two was lacking in organizations involved in Jewish politics.
These were “things that were not desired to be heard or confronted,” said Bubis.
“He challenged people and ideas,” he added, describing conversations with Elazar as “intellectual roller-coaster rides.”
“Community and Polity,” published in 1995, is Elazar’s best-known work on the American Jewish community.
“He was a prolific writer who knew so much about the Jewish American society,” said Bill Berman, who chaired the Jerusalem Center’s board of directors and contributed to his research.
Elazar was also an expert on federalism, and authored more than 70 books and 700 articles on the subject. In 1986 President Reagan appointed Elazar to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
Up until his death, Elazar split his time between Israel and the United States.
He served as the director of the Center for the Study of Federalism at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he edited Publius: The Journal of Federalism, and lectured at political science seminars. In Israel, he headed the Institute for Local Government at Bar-Ilan University.
Elazar is survived by his wife, Harriet; his brother, David; his three children, Naomi, Yonatan and Gideon; and three grandchildren.