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Altmann, Alexander


ALTMANN, ALEXANDER (1906–1987), rabbi, teacher, and scholar. His father was Adolf *Altmann (1879–1944), a Hungarian-born rabbi who officiated in Trier in 1920–38 and wrote a history of the Jews there and in Salzburg. He died in Auschwitz, together with his wife and other members of his family. Alexander commemorated them in "A Filial Memoir," which appeared in the Leo Baeck Yearbook, 26 (1981). In 1931, Altmann received both a doctorate in philosophy from Berlin University and ordination from the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin, where he taught from 1932. He served as rabbi in Berlin from 1931 and established there the Rambam Lehrhaus, a public institute for adult education, in 1935. Altmann was obliged to flee Germany in 1938, and was then appointed communal rabbi in Manchester, England, serving in that capacity until 1959. In 1954 he founded the Institute of Jewish Studies in Manchester, serving as its director until his departure from England, when the Institute moved to University College, London, under the watchful eyes of his devoted brother, Manfred. In 1959, Altmann was appointed Lown Professor of Jewish Philosophy and History of Ideas at Brandeis University, where he taught until his retirement in 1976. He established the Lown Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies at Brandeis and directed it from 1960 to 1965. Altmann's scholarship was primarily in the fields of medieval Jewish philosophy and mysticism, as well as in the writings of Moses *Mendelssohn. His initial German essays were theological and contemporary in nature and appeared in translation as The Meaning of Jewish Existence (1992). Altmann's work includes Des Rabbi Mosche Ben Maimon More Newuchim (abridged German translation, 1935); Saadya Gaon: The Book of Doctrines and Beliefs (1946, abridged English translation and commentary); Isaac Israeli (together with S.M. Stern, 1969); Moses Mendelssohns Fruehschriften Zur Metaphysik (1969); Studies in Religious Philosophy and Mysticism (1969); Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study (1973); Essays in Jewish Intellectual History (1981); Moses Mendelssohn, Jerusalem or On Religious Power and Judaism (introduction and commentary; translation by Allan Arkush, 1983); Von der Mittlealterlichen zur Modernen Aufklaerung: Studien Zur Juedischen Geistesgeschichte (1987). Altmann was the editor of Scripta Judaica (jointly with J.G. Weiss) and the Journal of Jewish Studies (1954–58); of Studies and Texts of the Lown Institute (four volumes, 1963–67); and editor in chief of the Moses Mendelssohn Gesammelte Schriften Jubilaeumsausgabe from 1970 until his death in 1987. In that period, he was sole editor of five volumes in that series and part editor of five more. A complete bibliography of Altmann's work is found in Perspectives on Jewish Thought and Mysticism, edited by A.L. Ivry, E.R. Wolfson, and A. Arkush (1998). An appreciation of his manifold contributions to scholarship is given in the Leo Baeck Yearbook, 34 (1989) and in the Hebrew publication In Memory of Alexander Altmann (1990), published by the Israel Academy of Sciences and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

[Alfred L. Ivry (2nd ed.)]

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