Dresner, Samuel Hayim

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DRESNER, SAMUEL HAYIM (1923–2000), U.S. Conservative rabbi, activist, scholar, and author. Dresner was born in Chicago and began his education at the University of Cincinnati (B.A., 1945) and Hebrew Union College. He left huc to study with his mentor Abraham Joshua *Heschel, who went to the Jewish Theological Seminary after World War ii, where Dresner was ordained (1951) and subsequently earned his D.H.L. degree (1954). Dresner began his career as associate rabbi of Congregation Har Zion in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; in addition, in 1955, Dresner and several colleagues revived the quarterly magazine Conservative Judaism. For 10 years, Dresner almost single-handedly kept the magazine alive. In 1957, he became the rabbi of Congregation Beth El in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he also joined the civil rights struggle as chairman of the Massachusetts Human Relations Commission. He used his positions in the Conservative movement to promulgate a code of Jewish living, promoting Sabbath observance, and establishing an adult Leadership Training Institute. As part of his lobbying efforts for Jewish funeral reform, Dresner co-chaired the Committee on Funeral Practices of the non-denominational *Synagogue Council of America. In 1969, Dresner became rabbi of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois (1969–77). In 1977, Dresner joined the faculty of Spertus College in Chicago and moved to Deerfield, Illinois, where he assumed the pulpit at Congregation Moriah. Following his retirement from the congregational rabbinate in 1984, he taught at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1985), at Hebrew Union College (1986–88), and at the Jewish Theological Seminary (1989–2000).

Dresner contributed hundreds of articles to such periodicals as Judaism, Commentary, Forum, and Jewish Digest, and wrote and edited numerous books, including Prayer, Humility and Compassion (1957), The Jewish Dietary Laws (1959, 1966), Three Paths of God and Man (1960), The Zaddik (1960; reissued as The Zaddik: The Doctrine of the Zaddik According to the Writings of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoy, 1994), The Jew in American Life (1963), God, Man and Atomic War (1966), The Sabbath (1970), Between the Generations: A Jewish Dialogue (1971), Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev: Portrait of a Hasidic Master (1974; reissued as The World of a Hasidic Master: Levi Yitzhakof Berditchev, 1985, 1994), Agenda for American Jews: Federation and Synagogue (1976), Judaism: The Way of Sanctification (with Byron Sherwin, 1978), Rachel (1994), Can Families Survive in Pagan America? (1995), Abraham J. Heschel: Prophetic Witness (Vol. i, with Edward Kaplan, 1998), and Heschel, Hasidism and Halakha (2000).


P.S. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1988); Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2005.

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]