Life and Works of Two YU Faculty Profiled in Prestigious Volumes

David Shatz and J. David Bleich Featured in Library of Contemporary Jewish Philosophers Series

Two distinguished Yeshiva University faculty members—Rabbi Dr. David Shatz, the Ronald P. Stanton University Professor of Philosophy, Ethics and Religious Thought, and Rabbi Dr. J. David Bleich, the Herbert and Florence Tenzer Professor of Jewish Law and Ethics—have been featured in Brill Press’s “Library of Contemporary Jewish Philosophers” Series, which, as described by the publisher, “showcases outstanding Jewish thinkers who have made lasting contributions to constructive Jewish philosophy in the second half of the 20th century.”

The series, which features 20 scholars from 16 different institutions, devotes each volume to developing a complex and thorough understanding of the individual philosophers’ intellectual journeys and seeks to situate their perspectives and their work in the larger frame of the Jewish philosophical past and contemporary Jewish existence. Every volume features a personal and intellectual biography of the thinker, a collection of his or her critical publications, a select bibliography and an extensive interview or series of reflections. The series is edited by Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, Irving and Miriam Lowe Professor of Modern Judaism and director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Arizona State University, and Aaron W. Hughes, Philip S. Bernstein Chair of Jewish Studies in the Department of Religion and Classics at the University of Rochester.

David Shatz
David Shatz

“Drs. Shatz and Bleich, giants in their fields, have influenced generations of students and scholars,” said Dr. Selma Botman, provost and vice president of academic affairs at YU. “Brill Press recognizes that their scholarship has not only had a profound impact on knowledge but has affirmatively enriched our world.”

David Shatz: Torah, Philosophy, and Culture opens with an intellectual portrait by Alex Sztuden, a Templeton Fellow at the Herzl Institute and Yeshiva College graduate. While devoted primarily to Shatz’s philosophical oeuvre and outlook, Sztuden’s essay and the interview also explore Shatz’s career and his journey from early education to Yeshiva College valedictorian to his teaching at YU, where he has been chair of the philosophy department at Stern College for Women for almost 35 years.

After receiving semicha from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and a master’s degree from YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Shatz pursued graduate work in general philosophy, earning a master’s in the area at New York University and his doctorate with distinction at Columbia University. The interview with Shatz covers a broad range of topics, encompassing not only biography, but also discussions about such subjects as the nature of philosophy, reason and religious commitment, science and religion, transhumanism, Modern Orthodoxy, and more.

The book presents four of Shatz’s previously published essays, covering the topics of free will, virtue and altruism, religious epistemology, and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s views of science. Both Sztuden’s essay and the interview highlight the diversity in Shatz’s works, as well as Shatz’s efforts to facilitate a rich dialogue between Jewish and Western traditions and perspectives. Some of his books and articles deal with general philosophy, others with Jewish philosophy, and still others with the interaction between the two.

“I feel myself part of a historic mission, and truly embrace YU’s ideals,” Shatz says in the book’s interview. “I love what I do.”

Rabbi Dr. J. David Bleich
Rabbi Dr. J. David Bleich

J. David Bleich: Where Halakhah and Philosphy Meet features an introduction by Dr. Steven Resnicoff, director of the Center for Jewish Law and Judaic Studies at DePaul University College of Law. The book includes Rabbi Bleich’s essays on a number of critical topics, such as the halachic process, the intrinsic value of life and the relationship between Judaism and natural law, as well as Rabbi Bleich’s reflections on issues facing the Jewish community. At YU, in addition to his role in the classroom and as rosh yeshiva at RIETS (which he has been since 1969), he is director of the Postgraduate Institute for the Study of Talmudic Jurisprudence and Family Law and professor of law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Rabbi Bleich also serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Jehuda in Manhattan, a position he has held for more than 50 years.

The book tackles Rabbi Bleich’s perspective as a halachist (master of Jewish law) and renowned authority on Jewish law and ethics, especially his contributions to the fields of medical ethics, Jewish law and contemporary social issues, and the interface of Jewish law and the American legal system. It also discusses his roots in the rabbinical schools of Yeshivas Torah Vadoth and Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim of Radun and his intellectual journey as he earned his bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College, his master’s in philosophy from Columbia University and his doctorate in the field from New York University.

Since beginning his academic career as an educator at Hunter College in 1962 and later at Stern College in 1965, Rabbi Bleich has helped to shape the genre of Jewish law literature written in English. He continues to author his column “Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature” in the rabbinic journal Tradition. Rabbi Bleich’s greatest impact has been in the field of bioethics; in his writings and international presentations, he shares Jewish law perspectives with a worldwide audience.

“The need of the hour is availability of a broad spectrum of information addressed to any and all, the highly educated and the less educated, Jew and non-Jew, presented in language and form comprehensible to the individual reader,” Rabbi Bleich notes in the book’s reflections. “Most importantly, the information and values must be unadulterated and uncompromised. We are duty-bound to do no less.”