Kushner, Harold S.

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KUSHNER, HAROLD S. (1935– ), U.S. Conservative rabbi, bestselling author. Kushner was born in Brooklyn, n.y., and received his B.A. from Columbia University in 1955. He was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1960 and earned a Doctor of Hebrew Letters there in 1972. After serving as a U.S. Army chaplain at Fort Sill, Oklahoma (1960–62), he became assistant rabbi to Mordecai *Waxman at Temple Israel in Great Neck, n.y. (1962–66) and then rabbi of Temple Israel in Natick, Mass., where he was named rabbi laureate in 1991. He also taught at Clark University as well as at the Jewish Theological Seminary. In the Conservative movement, Kushner was president of the New England Region of the Rabbinical Assembly (1972–74), editor of the quarterly Conservative Judaism (1980–84), and a member of the editorial committee that compiled the Rabbinical Assembly's prayer books Likrat Shabbat and Mahzor Hadash.

Kushner gained international fame with the publication of his third book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981), a philosophical reflection on the death of his 14-year-old son that became a national bestseller, was translated into a dozen languages, and was named by Book of the Month Club as one of the most influential books of its time. In it he expressed the theology that not everything that happens to people is necessarily part of God's master plan; and when tragedy does strike, religion and faith can serve as sources of strength and comfort for the individual in pain. Kushner's next book, When All You Ever Wanted Isn't Enough: The Search for a Life That Matters (1986), was equally well received: his exploration of human aspiration was awarded a Christopher Medal for its "contribution to the exaltation of the human spirit."

Kushner continued to write books that invariably made the bestseller lists, including Who Needs God (1989); To Life!: A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking (1994); and How Good Do We Have to Be?: A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness (1996); Living a Life That Matters: Resolving the Conflict Between Conscience and Success (2001); The Lord Is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-third Psalm (2003); and Overcoming Life's Disappointments (2006) – all the while serving the pastoral needs of his congregation. Many of Kushner's works – as well as seminars he had given based on his writings – have been recorded as audiobooks.

In 1995, Kushner was honored by the Christophers as one of 50 individuals who made the world a better place in the second half of the 20th century. His earlier books are When Children Ask About God (1971) and Commanded to Live (1973).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]