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Petuchowski, Jakob Josef


PETUCHOWSKI, JAKOB JOSEF (1925–1991), U.S. rabbinic scholar and theologian. Petuchowski was born in Berlin and brought to England from Germany in a "children's transport" before the outbreak of World War ii. Living in London from 1939 to 1947, he studied with Isaac *Markon and Leo *Baeck and earned a B.A. from the University of London while holding a variety of jobs in the Jewish community, including education director of the Youth Association of Synagogues in Great Britain, social worker in the Windermere dp camp, chaplain to the dp Tuberculosis Sanatorium, and Hebrew and religion teacher at the West London Synagogue. In 1948, Petuchowski immigrated to the United States, where he received his B.H.L. (1949), M.H.L. and ordination (1952), and Ph.D. (1958) from *Hebrew Union College. He served as rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Welch, West Virginia, and Beth Israel Synagogue in Washington, Pennsylvania, before returning in 1956 to huc to join the faculty as a lecturer in Jewish theology. In 1974, he was appointed professor of theology and liturgy, and in 1981 he became the Sol and Arlene Bronstein Professor of Judeo-Christian studies. He was the first director of Jewish studies at huc-jir in Jerusalem (1963–64) and a visiting professor of Jewish philosophy at Harvard University Divinity School, Oxford University, Antioch College, Theologische Fakultat Luzern (Switzerland), and *Tel Aviv University.

Petuchowski's writings reflected a rather traditional theological perspective and thus served as a bridge between the Reform movement and the rest of the Jewish world. In his Ever Since Sinai, he articulated a belief in the authority of revelation and *halakhah, while interpreting both concepts in terms of the evolutionary process of Jewish tradition throughout the ages, of which Reform is simply another stage. Though initially severely critical of secular Zionism, particularly in his Zion Reconsidered (1966), Petuchowski's attitude toward Israel as a legitimate continuation of Jewish history became far more positive after the *Six-Day War. A fellow of the American Academy of Jewish Research, Petuchowski wrote more than 35 books and monographs and contributed to several encyclopedias and numerous periodicals. His thought exerted great influence within the U.S. Reform movement and in Germany, where he worked with Christian theologians to improve German-Jewish relations after the Holocaust. He encouraged the program of Judaic studies at the University of Cologne, which awarded him an honorary Ph.D. in 1979, the same year he received an honorary D.L. degree from Brown University. In 1985, 22 Catholic and Protestant theologians published a German volume in his honor, titled (in translation) Judaism Is AliveI Have Encountered: Experiences by Christians.

Petuchowski's major works include Ever Since Sinai: A Modern View of Torah (1961, 1979); Prayer Book Reform in Europe: The Liturgy of European Liberal and Reform Judaism (1969); Heirs of the Pharisees (1970); Understanding Jewish Prayer (1972); Theology and Poetry (1978); Studies in Memory of Joseph Heinemann (1981); When Jews and Christians Meet (co-editor, 1989); Studies in Modern Theology and Prayer (published posthumously, edited by Elizabeth and Aaron Petuchowski, 1998).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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