LIEBER, DAVID (1925– ), U.S. Conservative rabbi, president of the *University of Judaism, and senior editor of the Conservative movement's Etz Hayim commentary. Lieber was born in Stryj, Poland, and came to the United States at age two. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude in 1944 from the City College of New York, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received a Bachelor of Hebrew Letters degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America that same year and was ordained as a rabbi at the seminary in 1948 and received his Doctor of Hebrew Literature degree in Psalms Studies from jts in 1951. Lieber also received a master's degree in philosophy of education from Columbia University in 1947. He completed his abd (all but the dissertation) in philosophy from Columbia and pursued postgraduate studies at the University of Washington in Seattle and at ucla.
Lieber studied at the Seminary when it was the center of Jewish scholarship in the United States under the tutelage of some of the foremost Jewish scholars of the time, including talmudist Saul *Lieberman, Jewish Bible scholar H.L. *Ginsberg, and philosopher Mordecai *Kaplan. It was Kaplan's groundbreaking vision of a University of Judaism – an academy that would embody as many forms of Jewish expression as possible – that would lead to the creation of the institution Lieber was to lead.
As a young man, Lieber was a leader of Shomer Hadati, the religious Zionist movement that is now *Bnei Akiva. He was also an early pioneer in the establishment of the Ramah camps of the Conservative movement. He was the founding head counselor in the first of the camps in Wisconsin, a director of the camp in Maine, and the founding director of the camp in California. He also was the founding director of the Mador, the national training camp for Ramah counselors.
In 1956, when Lieber was appointed dean of students of the nine-year-old University of Judaism, the college was a Hebrew teachers institute training teachers for afternoon Hebrew school and offering adult education classes and art exhibits and dramatic programs. When he resigned from the presidency in 1993, he had helped build the uj into a nationally recognized educational institution complete with an undergraduate college, graduate programs in education, business administration, Jewish studies, and rabbinic studies, a large library, and two think tanks. He had also overseen the acquisition and the building of uj's 25-acre campus in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Upon retiring from the uj presidency, Lieber began focusing his attention on a project he had first proposed in 1969, a new commentary on the Torah. The result was Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary, published jointly by the Rabbinical Assembly, United Synagogue, and Jewish Publication Society, which sought to provide laity with a contemporary interpretation of the text, and a commentary that embraced both tradition and change, ancient teachings and modern scholarship. Major essays on biblical and religious themes were incorporated into the commentary. He was assisted editorially by Conservative rabbis who had become renowned for their writings, Chaim *Potok, author of The Chosen, Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Susan Grossman, and uj Rector Elliot Dorff.
A former spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles (1950–54), Lieber served as a chaplain in the United States Air Force and university chaplain for the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation at both the University of Washington (1954–55) and Harvard University (1955–56). He also was a visiting member of the Near Eastern Language Department of ucla from 1957 to 1990. Lieber served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Jewish Studies. In recognition of his work, Dr. Lieber was awarded the "Doctor of Humane Letters" degree, honoris causa, by the Hebrew Union College in 1982 and the "Torch of Learning" award by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1984. After his retirement in 1993 he served as president emeritus of the University of Judaism and continued to teach at the university as the Flora and Arnold Skovron Distinguished Service Professor of Biblical Literature and Thought. He was the first West Coast president of the International Rabbinical Assembly (1996–98). Over the years he wrote some 50 articles, which appeared in a variety of journals.
[Yaakov Arnold (2nd ed.)]