GILLMAN, NEIL (1933– ), U.S. scholar in Jewish thought and philosophy. Born in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, Gillman earned his B.A. from McGill University (1954), and received both a master's degree in Hebrew literature and rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (jtsa; 1960). He also received a Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University (1975) and later held the Aaron Rabinowitz and Simon H. Rifkind Chair in Jewish Philosophy at jtsa, where he served in various faculty and administrative roles.
From the 1970s, Gillman primarily taught Conservative Jews how to hold the dynamic tensions among belief, behavior, and community. Students at the Jewish Theological Seminary are taught by Gillman that they must create a personal philosophy that serves them both as an individual and as a member of the Jewish community, and that their philosophy will likely evolve over time. Gillman's extensive experience teaching adults in synagogues throughout America has broadened the impact of his work by bringing the scholarship of Jewish thought from the principal academic institution of the Conservative movement in Judaism to people of all ages and backgrounds.
From his scholarly works on death and dying, such as "Coping with Chaos: Jewish Theology and Ritual Resources in Death, Bereavement, and Mourning" (2005) to widely read articles in popular Jewish periodicals, including "I Believe" (Sh'ma, 1993), Gillman has demonstrated the ability to articulate the challenges facing modern Jews. His ability to help others clarify their personal philosophy and to see how their relationship to God is magical comes not only by sharing his knowledge of those who came before him and how they were able to change their own thinking, but also through sharing his own personal, evolving story.
Gillman's books on Jewish thought include Sacred Fragments: Recovering Theology for the Modern Jew (1990), which won the National Jewish Book Award in Jewish Thought; The Death of Death: Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought (1997); The Way Into Encountering God in Judaism (2000); and Traces of God: Seeing God in Torah, History and Everyday Life (2005).
Committed to creating materials that are accessible to a variety of audiences, Gillman's publications also include scholarly monographs such as "Mordechai Kaplan and the Ideology of Conservative Judaism" (Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly, 1984) and "Covenant and Chosenness in Postmodern Jewish Thought" (Covenant and Chosenness in Mormonism and Judaism, 2001), as well as other writings targeted at a broader audience, such as "Why Can't I Pray and What Can I Do About It" (Moment, 1990) and "On Teaching Jewish Theology" (The Melton Journal, 1994). In 1991, Gillman began writing a column, Sabbath Week, in New York newspaper The Jewish Week.
[Donna Fishman (2nd ed.)]