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Malter, Henry


MALTER, HENRY (1864–1925), rabbi and scholar of medieval Jewish philosophy. Malter was born in the village of Bonze, Galicia. His father was his teacher and provided him with the fundamentals of a rabbinic education. Hardly past childhood, Malter became interested in secular knowledge, having somehow obtained access to Ha-Maggid, a Hebrew periodical with a Haskalah viewpoint. At the age of 16 in search of broader knowledge he journeyed to Lyck and from there to Berlin. While earning his living by teaching Hebrew, he prepared himself for entering the university and at the same time continued his Jewish education at the Veitel-Heine-Ephraimsche Lehranstalt. There he attracted the attention, and became the favorite pupil, of Moritz *Steinschneider, who encouraged his interest in medieval Jewish bibliography and whose book in that field, Juedische Literatur (1850), Malter translated into Hebrew as Sifrut Yisrael (1897). With his work on the influence of the 11th-century Muslim philosopher Al-Ghazzali on Jewish thought, Die Abhandlung des Abu Hamid al-Gazzali (1894), Malter earned a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Heidelberg. In 1898 he received a rabbinical diploma from the Lehranstalt fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums. The newly founded library of the Berlin Jewish community then invited him to become its librarian. He held this post for a year. Malter went to the United States in 1900 at the invitation of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati to teach medieval Jewish philosophy. He also taught Bible and rabbinic law and literature, and at the same time served as rabbi at the Shearith Israel congregation in Cincinnati. However, he disagreed with the theological attitudes of American Reform Judaism and was, therefore, in conflict with Kaufmann *Kohler, then president of Hebrew Union College; consequently, he left the college in 1907. Thereafter, in New York he collaborated with J.D. Eisenstein on the Hebrew encyclopedia Oẓar Yisrael, contributing articles on Jewish literature, among others. With the opening of Dropsie College in 1909, Malter assumed the chair of talmudic literature which he occupied to the end of his life. He was a stimulating teacher in Talmud and particularly in medieval philosophy and ethics. Painstaking in his scholarship, Malter published a number of important essays in the Jewish Quarterly Review and elsewhere. His chief published work is Saadia Gaon, His Life and Works (1921). The study is based on a meticulous review of every fragment, including genizah material, by and about the head of the Sura academy in the tenth century. It is a model of a biography of a scholar by a scholar: it deals with *Saadiah's eventful life, analyzes his works, and in a bibliographical section shows his influence by citing the numerous references to him in the course of the centuries. Two other books, both published posthumously, deal with the talmudic treatise Ta'anit: Treatise Ta'anit of the Babylonian Talmud (1928), critically edited on the basis of manuscripts and old editions, and Massekhet Ta'anit min Talmud Bavli (1930), a critical edition of the text with notes and explanations on the basis of 24 manuscripts. With Alexander *Marx, Malter edited the Gesammelte Schriften of Moritz Steinschneider, of which only the first volume appeared (1925).


A. Marx, Essays in Jewish Biography (1947), 255–64; D. Druck, in: Der Amerikaner, 20 (April 28, 1922), 4; (May 5, 1922), 6; A. Marx, in: ajyb, 28 (1926), 261–72, also in: A. Marx, Studies in Jewish History and Booklore (1944), 409–17.

[Solomon Grayzel]

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