Mihaly, Eugene

views updated


MIHALY, EUGENE (1918–2002), rabbi, professor, and college administrator. Mihaly was born in Hungary and immigrated to the United States in 1930. He received his B.A. from *Yeshiva University in 1940 and dual ordination from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (Orthodox, 1941) and *Hebrew Union College (Reform, 1949), where he also earned a Ph.D. in 1952. Invited to join the huc faculty, Mihaly became professor of rabbinic literature and homiletics and Deutsch Professor of Jewish Jurisprudence and Social Justice (emeritus in 1989). He added high-level administration to his lecturing duties when he was named executive dean for academic affairs of all four huc-jir schools in 1976, becoming academic vice president in 1985. After his retirement in 1990, he continued to contribute to the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Encyclopedia Judaica.

Mihaly, a radical reformer in the mold of classical Reform, wrote responsa sanctioning such controversial practices as rabbinic officiation at mixed marriages and holding weddings on the Sabbath. In response to the Reform movement's perceived drift toward Orthodox and Conservative stances on such issues as the importance of Zionism and Israel, the vital role of Hebrew and the embracing of ritual and tradition, Mihaly wrote the articles "Reform Judaism and Halacha" and "Halakhah Is Absolute and Passé," which articulated the need for Reform Judaism to return to its original rejection of Jewish law. In 1974, he was unanimously elected president of the newly formed (and ultimately short-lived) Association for a Progressive Reform Judaism, established by a group of approximately 100 Reform rabbis who shared concerns about what they claimed to be the subordination of the freedom of individual rabbis to positions adopted by the *Central Conference of American Rabbis, the alienation of the institutions of Reform Judaism from Reform laity, and undue emphasis on the ethnic and national aspects of Judaism at the expense of pure religion. In addition to numerous articles, responsa, and monographs, Mihaly wrote the books Religious Experience in Judaism (1957) and A Song to Creation (1975).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]