HERTZBERG, ARTHUR (1921–2006), U.S. Conservative rabbi, author, and intellectual. Hertzberg was born into a ḥasidic family in Lubaczow, Poland. He came to the U.S. in 1926 and grew up in Baltimore, where his father, a strong influence on his life and thought, was the rabbi of a small Orthodox synagogue. Hertzberg graduated from John Hopkins University. During his time on campus, he became a fervent Zionist. Breaking partially from his Orthodox background, he was ordained as a Conservative rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1943. Hertzberg served as Hillel director at Smith College for one year, then was rabbi in congregations in Philadelphia and Nashville. In 1949, Hertzberg made the first of many visits to the fledging State of Israel. After spending a few years as an Air Force chaplain, he became rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Englewood, n.j., a pulpit he held for nearly 30 years. During his time in Englewood Hertzberg earned a doctorate in history from Columbia University, and he joined its faculty in 1961. From 1985 to 1991 he was professor of religion at Dartmouth College and from 1991 he was Bronfman Visiting Professor of the Humanities at New York University. He was president of the Conference on Jewish Social Studies and served as consulting editor to the Encyclopaedia Judaica.
Hertzberg was president of the American Jewish Congress from 1972 to 1978 and a member of the executive of the World Zionist Congress from 1969 to 1978. In the late 1960s he became the first president of the newly formed International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultation, the body that represented Jews in dialogue with Christian leaders. In 1975 Hertzberg was elected vice president of the World Jewish Congress, and he was president of the newly established American Jewish Policy Foundation, a nonpartisan group engaged in research in the field of American Jewish policy, both foreign and domestic.
Hertzberg's books include The Zionist Idea (1959), an anthology about the intellectual history of the Zionist movement that is still used in college classrooms; Judaism (1961), which brings selections from the Jewish literary tradition; French Enlightenment and the Jews (1968), a groundbreaking work that traces the roots of modern antisemitism to the French Enlightenment; Being Jewish in America (1978); The Jews in America (1989); A Jew in America (2002), a memoir; and The Fate of Zionism: A Secular Future for Israel and Palestine (2003).
Hertzberg was a fiercely contrarian, profoundly American old-school rabbi. His deep Jewish learning was matched by his equally deep secular knowledge; both were guided by a blindingly original mind that can make the obscure seem immediately obvious. His passionate moderation on such subjects as Israel, which he loved deeply but not blindly, and American Jewry, whose future he thought was shaded by most American Jews' inadequate Jewish education, often divided him from others, whose opinions he felt were insufficiently realistic or not rooted firmly enough in Jewish tradition. An importance force and strong believer in the improved relationship between Catholics and Jews, Hertzberg also spoke out on such issues as the Church's refusal to allow historians access to its wartime archives. A profoundly creative thinker, Hertzberg influenced the way American Jews think about Judaism, Israel, and American Jews.
[Victor A. Mirelman /
Joanne Palmer (2nd ed.)]