Rabbi Adin Even Yisrael Steinsaltz died Friday at the age of 83.
A longtime educator and prolific author of over 60 books, Steinsaltz’s translation and groundbreaking commentary of the entire Babylonian Talmud and Bible has been lauded for making the ancient Jewish texts approachable to new readers and scholars, the Times of Israel reports.
The Israel Prize laureate (who years ago switched to a Hebraicized version of his surname, Even-Israel, but never shook off the original), was also an educated physicist and chemist, a biting social critic, and a beloved public figure in Israel — revered for his encyclopedic mind, and admired for his down-to-earth and kindly bearing.
But Steinsaltz’s crowning achievement was the 45-year project of democratizing the 1,500-year-old corpus of rabbinic Jewish law — a “once-in-a-millennium” intellectual undertaking, said Time magazine in 2001. His 41-volume translation of the Talmud into modern Hebrew was not the first translation of the Babylonian Talmud. But as the first into modern Hebrew, with his own phrase-by-phrase commentary appearing alongside medieval commentaries Rashi and Tosafot, it was widely hailed by students and educators — and widely criticized by scholarly and religious rivals.
The founder of a network of yeshivas in Israel and the former Soviet Union, Steinsaltz was also active in outreach to Jews beyond the Iron Curtain. From 2004, he also served as the head of a nascent right-wing Israeli movement to revive the Sanhedrin, or supreme religious tribunal, though he resigned in 2008. His New York based support group, the Aleph Society, sponsors an annual Global Day of Jewish Learning.
In 2016, Steinsaltz lost his capacity to speak after suffering a stroke, his son told the Makor Rishon newspaper in 2018. He continued to work, proofreading and marking up his previous work, while silently signaling to his son to convey his edits.
Steinsaltz is survived by his wife, three children, and numerous grandchildren.
Read more: The Jewish Week’s Steve Lipman profiled Steinsaltz in 2010. “Jewish knowledge belongs to everyone,” the rabbi told him. “Our goal is not so much to ‘spread’ knowledge, but to give it back to its owners.”
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia said it will not work with the local NAACP because of its leader’s “anti-Jewish” posts.
Rodney Muhammad “still has yet to fully apologize for his most recent actions,” the federation said in a statement updated earlier this week.
Last month, Muhammad posted a meme on his public Facebook page known as “the Happy Merchant,” an image that the Anti-Defamation League says is commonly used by white supremacists. The meme included photos of Ice Cube, DeSean Jackson and Nick Cannon, Black celebrities who recently posted anti-Semitic comments on social media, along with a quote that originated with an American neo-Nazi. (Jackson and Cannon have apologized.)
The NAACP national leadership announced Wednesday that it will not cut ties with Muhammad, the Philadelphia Tribune reported. It cited an email statement from NAACP spokeswoman Austyn Ross saying that Muhammad “now recognizes the offensive nature of the imagery and post.”
The coronavirus, terrible in just about every way, has been very good for Yiddish.
YIVO’s Uriel Weinreich Summer Program in the language boasted record attendance for its online program: On Friday, 120 students will graduate from the six-week course, a 60 percent increase from last year. “It was a chance of lifetime for people who didn’t have to come to New York,” said Dovid Braun, the summer program’s academic director.
The students and two dozen faculty met daily on Zoom – the first online foray in the program’s 53-year history, The Jewish Week reports.
Israel’s confirmed coronavirus case count surpassed 80,000 on Friday morning, with 1,917 new infections recorded in the previous 24 hours.
The Health Ministry put the number of cases since the start of the pandemic at 80,431, including 24,577 active cases. Of those, 374 were in serious condition — a new high and 29 more than on Thursday morning — of which 106 were on ventilators. The death toll grew by two to 578.
Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu said Thursday that Israel’s coronavirus infection rates were the highest in the world relative to population size, and warned that the country could face another nationwide lockdown if daily confirmed cases were not brought down to “hundreds” by September 1.
Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center is Israel’s most overwhelmed hospital, rising on Thursday evening to 202% of the standard capacity of its coronavirus ward and to 204% on Friday. According to the Ynet news site, the hospital has been sending patients to other medical centers to try to ease the caseload.
The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, weighed in against statements by Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Germany, Douglas Macgregor.
Greenblatt was appalled by Macgregor’s statement in 2018 on Nazi Germany, in which he declared that there is a “sort of a sick mentality that says that generations after generations must atone for sins of what happened in 13 years of German history,” Macgregor said.
CNN’s K File unearthed a long history of the retired general’s attacks on Muslims and immigrants. That earned him rebukes from the Jewish left, with J Street Vice President Dylan Williams decrying his “shameful record of expressing profoundly bigoted views.” B’nai B’rith International, which tacks to the right on foreign policy, also raised concerns about Macgregor even before the K File story was posted, noting his past propensity to insinuate that “neocons” serving Israel’s interests were controlling U.S. foreign policy.
What is so special about bread? Rabbi Shlomo Riskin writes that this week’s Torah portion, Ekev, reminds us that bread-making and the blessings surrounding it are a reminder of the partnership between human beings and God.
Jewish Theological Seminary of America presents Rabbi Jan Uhrbach, director of the Block Kolker Center for Spiritual Arts, discussing stories of crisis, brokenness, disappointments and failure, both human and Divine, in the first book of the Torah. She will mine the Book of Genesis for strategies for living through difficult times, and as the grounding of a hopeful and resilient theology. Aug. 10, 1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy presents a talk on Zoom with real estate expert Jason Haber. Haber will explore historic moments that speak to us now, and will offer his thoughts on how the city can emerge as a more just, affordable, sustainable, and livable city. Aug. 10, 7:00 p.m.
Princeton University’s Julian E. Zelizer, author of the new book “Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party,” will be in conversation with comedian David Cross. Zelizer argues that Donald Trump is “a culmination, a logical conclusion of the rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party.” Sponsored by Book Soup. Aug. 10, 9:00 p.m.