Daniel Elazar, an authority on — and sometimes critic of — the Jewish community, died Dec. 2 of lymphoma in his Jerusalem home. He was 65. Professor Elazar, a Minneapolis-born scholar, made aliyah in the 1970s, subsequently splitting his time between Israel and Philadelphia, where he served as director of Temple University’s Center for the Study of Federalism.
The author of more than 70 books and 700 articles, he is best known for “Community and Polity,” his 1995 book on the American Jewish community.
“He did some really important work on the Jewish political tradition,” said Rabbi Irving Greenberg, president of the Jewish Life Network. “He inspired a whole generation of disciples.”
Professor Elazar, as founder of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an independent Israel policy studies institute that analyzes key problems facing Israel and world Jewry, was an often-quoted expert who did not hesitate to criticize Jewish agencies that he thought were not properly serving their communities. He said some were more sympathetic to people with money than those with knowledge, and he encouraged Jewish federations to strengthen their ties with synagogues and Jewish tradition.
“He challenged people and ideas,” said Gerald Bubis, founding director of the School of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. “He was a genius. There is no other person like him in the Jewish world.”
Professor Elazar received his doctorate in political science from the University of Chicago. He held the Senator N.M. Paterson professorship in intergovernmental relations at Bar-Ilan University, and was appointed by President Reagan to serve as a citizen member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Relations. He also served as president of the American Sephardi Federation.
“He was a traditional Jew … but was comfortable with the whole community,” said Rabbi Greenberg. “He was acceptable to a whole range of people.”
Elazar used a wheelchair for several years, the result of a longtime illness. “It didn’t stop him. He never complained. It was more difficult to get around — he just did it,” Rabbi Greenberg said.
He is survived by his wife, Harriet; his brother, David, his three children, Naomi, Yonatan and Gideon; and three grandchildren.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency contributed to this report.