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Donin, Hayim Halevy


DONIN, HAYIM HALEVY (1928–1983), U.S. Orthodox rabbi and author. Donin was born Herman Dolnansky in New York City, legally changing his name in 1955. He earned his B.A. from Yeshiva University in 1948; his ordination from Yeshiva University in 1951; his M.A. from Columbia University in 1952; and his Ph.D. from Wayne State University in 1966. He served as rabbi of Congregation Kesher Israel in West Chester, Pennsylvania (1951–53), where he was also counselor of the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation at West Chester State Teachers College. In 1953, he became rabbi of Congregation B'nai David in Southfield, Michigan, where he remained until he immigrated to Israel in 1973.

Donin was Adjunct Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Detroit (1969–73) and co-founder (with James Gordon) and first president of Akiva Hebrew Day School (1964), the first modern Orthodox day school in metropolitan Detroit. (Donin had previously started the Hebrew Academy of Oak Park, the forerunner of Yeshivat Akiva.) Donin also served as vice president of the Jewish Community Council of Detroit and chairman of the Board of License for Hebrew teachers in the Detroit area, and was a member of the Michigan Governor's Ethical and Moral Panel (1966–68). In 1961, he participated in the White House Conference on Aging, as Chairman of the Social Actions Commission of the Rabbinical Council of America, on whose National Executive Board he subsequently served (1967–8).

After publishing Beyond Thyself (1965), Donin wrote a highly acclaimed series of books on practicing Judaism from the Orthodox perspective: To Be A Jew: A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life (1972); To Raise a Jewish Child: A Guide for Parents (1977); and To Pray as a Jew: A Guide to the Prayer Book and Synagogue Service (1980). Following the success of To Be a Jew, which was translated into seven languages, Donin moved to Jerusalem to write full-time, along with lecturing at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan (1974–76). He was also one of the most popular teachers of conversion classes for non-Israelis sponsored jointly by the Rabbinical Council of America and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. In 1999, Donin, who had already received Yeshiva University's Torah U'Mada Award, was honored posthumously by Yeshiva University with the Dr. Samuel Belkin Award for Excellence in Religion and Religious Education.

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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