Glatzer, Nahum Norbert

views updated


GLATZER, NAHUM NORBERT (1903–1990), scholar, teacher, and editor. Glatzer was born in Lemberg (Lvov), and pursued his higher education in Germany and at the Breuer Yeshivah in Frankfurt on the Main (1920–22). He became a disciple and associate of Franz *Rosenzweig, whose life and work so influenced him that he decided to devote himself to scholarship rather than pursue a career in the rabbinate. In 1932 he succeeded another mentor, Martin *Buber, in the University of Frankfurt's chair of Jewish philosophy and ethics. In fact, Glatzer had been Buber's only doctoral student during his years at the university (1924–33). In 1933 Glatzer left Germany for Israel, where he taught at Bet Sefer Reali in Haifa. From 1938 he was in the United States, teaching at several colleges before joining the faculty of Brandeis University in 1950. He served as editorial adviser to *Schocken Books, where he was chief editor (1945–51), and was a director of the Leo Baeck Institute from 1956. Before retiring from Brandeis in 1973, Glatzer served as the Michael Tuch Professor of Jewish History and Samuel Lane Chair in Jewish History and Social Ethics, as well as chair of the nejs Department from 1957 to 1969. He was also the first faculty member to receive Brandeis's honorary degree.

In his doctoral dissertation, Untersuchungen zur Geschichtslehre der Tannaiten (1933), Glatzer maintained that the rabbis of the first and second centuries c.e. retained their faith in the God of history in the face of apocalyptic tendencies and the consequent denigration of this world. Glatzer's Geschichte der Talmudischen Zeit (1937) elaborates and continues his earlier work. He wrote a number of studies on particular problems of talmudic history.

Glatzer wrote, translated, and edited more than 50 books, with a range of expertise that extended from the Bible to existentialism. He also wrote extensively on the history of 19th-century Jewry, especially on the history of the Wissenschaft des Judentums. His book Franz Rosenzweig: His Life and Thought (1953, 19612) is considered the definitive volume on Rosenzweig. Glatzer edited more than a dozen anthologies, which are used widely in teaching Jewish history and ideas.

Among his many works are Hillel the Elder (1956, 1962), Anfaenge des Judentums (1966), The Rest Is Commentary (1961, 19692), Faith and Knowledge (1963, 19692), Dynamics of Emancipation (1965, 19692), The Dimensions of Job (1969), Languageof Faith (1974), The Loves of Franz Kafka (1986), and The Quest for the Cities of Gold, vol.16 (1987). He edited A Jewish Reader (1961, 19662), Hammer on the Rock (1962), Parables and Paradoxes by Franz Kafka (1961), and The Essential Philo (1970).

In 1992 the Nahum Glatzer Archives were donated to Brandeis; they include his correspondence with colleagues worldwide, manuscripts of his books, and his lecture notes.


A. Altmann, in: Judaism, 12 (1963), 195–202, contains a list of Glatzer's writings. add. bibliography: M. Fishbane and J. Glatzer Wechsler (eds.), The Memoirs of Nahum N. Glatzer (1998).

[Abram Leon Sachar /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]