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Transcript of Emanuel Synagogue Seminar on Martin Buber

Finding aid prepared by John R. Nemmers

University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections
April 2004


Descriptive Summary

Creator: Emanuel Synagogue (Hartford, Conn.)
Title: Transcript of Emanuel Synagogue Seminar on Martin Buber
Dates: 1964
Abstract: Typescript transcript of two seminar sessions on Jewish religious philosopher Martin Buber held at the Emanuel Synagogue in Hartford, Connecticut.
Extent: 0.01 Linear feet. 1 folder.
Identification: MS Group 112 2/3
Language(s): English

Biographical/Historical Note

Hans Kohn was born in Prague on September 15, 1891, and grew up under the Hapsburg monarchy. He was active in Jewish student organizations in Prague, and it was during this period that he came to know Martin Buber, who often made addresses at the invitation of the student organization, Bar Kochba, to which Kohn belonged. During World War I, he was captured as a prisoner of war and held in Russia for five years, including a year in Siberia. For the next ten years, he lived in France, England and Palestine.

He was a professor at Smith College in Northampton for fifteen years, and at City College in New York for over ten years. At the time of this seminar, he held a position at the Center for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan. The author of numerous books and publications, including one of the first Buber biographies, he wrote extensively on the topics of nationalism, pan-Slavism, German thought, and the Jewish religion. He died in 1971.

Alexander Altmann was born in Hungary in 1906 and studied in Berlin, receiving a degree from the University of Berlin. He was ordained and served as a rabbi during the 1930s in Berlin, where he was a leading figure in the Jewish resistance to Nazism. In 1938, he fled Germany with his family and moved to England, where he was appointed communal rabbi of Manchester. There, he founded the Institute of Jewish Studies, which later moved to University College, London.

In 1959, he took a position at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, teaching philosophy and serving as the director of the Lown Institute of Advanced Judaic Studies. He remained at Brandeis until his retirement in 1976. Altmann was a distinguished rabbi and scholar, and was the author of numerous publications on topics such as Moses Mendelssohn, Jewish mysticism, classical rabbinic literature, medieval Judeo-Arabic philosophy, and modern Jewish thought. He died in 1987.

Martin Buber was born in Vienna on February 8, 1878. Buber studied in Vienna, Zurich, and Berlin, and quickly became a leading religious figure in the Zionist movement during the first half of the 20th Century. He taught Jewish philosophy and religion at the University of Frankfurt from 1924 to 1933, but escaped Nazi Germany in 1938 and took a position at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. An existentialist, Buber became widely known for his philosophy of dialogue, which views human existence in terms of relations, including the I-Thou relation. He died in 1965.


Scope and Content

Typescript transcript of two seminar sessions on Jewish religious philosopher Martin Buber held at the Emanuel Synagogue in Hartford, Connecticut on May 2, 1964. The first session features a presentation by Dr. Hans Kohn entitled, "Life and Times of Martin Buber." The second session is an address by Dr. Alexander Altmann entitled "Martin Buber." Both sessions include discussions with various rabbis, as well as question-and-answer periods. These Buber seminars were part of a seminar series at the Emanuel covering modern Jewish thought.

The first session is moderated by Harry Cooper, and Dr. Kohn is introduced by Rabbi Simon Noveck, spiritual leader of the congregation. Kohn gives an overview of Buber's life, which he places in context by discussing Germany and Eastern Europe around World War I, as well as the spiritual and moral crisis that was building during that time. He devotes a great deal of the discussion to various influences on Buber, including Hasidism and philosophers such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Hegel. There are 34 pages of the Kohn address, which includes a period for audience questions and a short talk by Rabbi Nathan Hershfield of the Temple Beth Israel in Hartford.

The second part of the transcript is an address by Dr. Altmann, who discusses the I-Thou philosophy that Buber proposed in his book, I and Thou. He examines Buber's views on the Jewish deity, the relationship between intellectualism and spiritualism, the existence of evil, fatalism in Judaism, and Buber's thoughts on the Bible. In addition, Rabbi Harry Zwelling speaks on Buber's influence on Jewish philosophy and theology. Zwelling and Altmann further discuss the I-Thou philosophy, Buber's views on the Bible, and the role of Hasidism. Rabbi William Cohen and Rabbi Noveck also join this discussion, which concludes with an examination of Buber's thoughts on Christianity and Jesus, as well as Buber's popularity with Christian churches. There are 48 pages of the Altmann address, including the question-and-answer period.

Various discussants, including Rabbi Noveck, Dr. Altmann, and Harry Cooper, talk about the importance of the Buber seminar as it increases communication between Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox denominations, as well as Christians and other non-Jewish people.

The typescript transcript of the seminar has handwritten corrections throughout but is not fully corrected. There are several gaps where the transcriber was unable to determine names or words (and a few locations where notes such "inaudible" are included).


Access or Use Restrictions

Access

The collection is open for research.


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Transcript of Emanuel Synagogue Seminar on Martin Buber, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Acquisition Information

Purchased in 2002 from McBlain Books, Hamden, CT.



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