Kotsuji, Setsuzo

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KOTSUJI, SETSUZO (Abraham ; 1899–1973), Japanese Hebraist. Kotsuji was born in Kyoto, Japan, into a family claiming descent from a long line of Shinto priests. Converted to Christianity when a youngster, he attended the American Presbyterian College in Tokyo from 1916 to 1923. After serving as a minister for several years, he went to the United States in 1927 and studied at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York and then at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. There he received his B.D. degree in 1931. His thesis, "The Origin and Evolution of the Semitic Alphabet," was published several years later in Tokyo. Returning to his homeland, he taught the Old Testament and Hebrew at the Theological Seminary of Aoyama Gakuin University. In 1937 he wrote a Hebrew grammar and for a brief while struggled to organize the Institute of Biblical Research in Tokyo. Shortly before Japan's involvement in World War ii, Kotsuji exerted himself in assisting numerous East European Jews who found temporary haven in Kobe. In his volume, Yudaya-jin no Sugata (1943), he sought to familiarize his countrymen with the history and life of the Jewish people. Kotsuji continued his Hebraic and biblical studies in the postwar period, and in 1959 journeyed to Israel where taking the name Abraham, he formally became a Jew. In the next few years he lectured before Jewish audiences in the United States. In his autobiography, From Tokyoto Jerusalem (New York, 1964), Kotsuji recounted the central theme of his life – the quest for spiritual satisfaction, which he ultimately found in Judaism.

[Hyman Kublin]