Thursday, July 10, 2014

Marc B. Shapiro: Obituary for Prof. Mordechai Breuer zt"l

"Obituary: Professor Mordechai Breuer zt”l
By Marc B. Shapiro

Professsor Mordechai Breuer passed away on the twelfth of Sivan, 5767. It is a great loss for the world of Jewish scholarship as well as that of Orthodox Jewry. Breuer, born in Frankfurt in 1918, was the great-grandson of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, the grandson of R. Shlomo Zalman Breuer, who succeeded Hirsch as Rav of the Frankfurt separatist community, and the son of Dr. Isaac Breuer, the leading theoretician of the Agudah (although the latter’s philosophy would later diverge from what came to be known as the Agudah Daas Torah).

Breuer came to the world of academic Jewish studies rather late, earning his PhD in 1967 for a study of the Ashkenazic yeshiva in the late Middle Ages. (He had previously earned an MA at the Hebrew University, writing on David Gans.) At that time, he was principal of the Horeb school in Jerusalem. He later became professor of Jewish history at Bar Ilan. It is more than a little ironic that a great-grandson of Hirsch would devote himself academic Jewish studies.[1]

Returning to Prof. Breuer, it is hard to do justice to such a productive scholar in a short post. One can be sure that the next issue of Ha-Maayan, with which Breuer was associated since its founding, will have an important obituary.

As one who has worked a great deal in the field of German Orthodoxy, I can state that my work would be much the poorer if not for Breuer’s many writings. His classic Modernity Within Tradition is a marvelous study of the German Orthodox community and a model for how to write the history of American Orthodoxy. For those who read German, I recommend the original version, published by the Leo Baeck Institute. While containing the same text as the English, the German version has additional information in the footnotes."

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