Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak Twersky
Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak Twersky

On Sept. 11, 2022, the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies hosted a conference marking the 25th yahrtzeit of Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak (Isadore) Twersky and the publication of his collected writings Ke-Ma’ayan ha-Mitgabber: Law and Spirit in Medieval Jewish Thought. Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University; Dr. Daniel Rynhold, dean of Revel; and Rabbi Dr. Carmi Horowitz, professor of Jewish Thought and Intellectual History at Michalalah Yerushalayim in Jerusalem and editor of this recently published work, introduced the conference with thoughts on Rabbi Twersky’s unique character.

(l-r) Rabbi Menachem Genack and Prof. Carmi Horowitz at the conference

             Rabbi Twersky (1930-1997) was the Nathan Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy at Harvard University and also the Talner Rebbe in Boston, serving as the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth David, or the Talner Beis Midrash.  He was renowned both as an academic scholar with groundbreaking insights into Jewish intellectual history and as well as an inspiring and loving rabbi, wholly dedicated to his constituents’ well-being.  

           The two morning sessions of the conference, “Halakhic Scholars and Their Impact,” and “Jewish Intellectual History, Medieval and Modern,” were meant to reflect Prof. Twersky’s breadth of scholastic inquiry and impact. Six professors presented papers on topics ranging froom “The Intellectual History and Literary Corpus of R. Isaiah di Trani” (Prof. Ephraim Kanarfogel), “Intellectual Humility in the thought of the Rambam” (Prof. Elisha Russ- Fishbane, NYU), to “Rationalizing Qeri u-Ketiv: Radak’s Methodology in his Biblical Commentaries” (Prof. Naomi Grunhaus). Prof. Jacob J. Schacter reflected on his experience as a student of Prof. Twersky and Prof. Tamara Morsel-Eisenberg (NYU) responded to aspects of Prof. Twersky’s essay about the Shulkhan Arukh. Prof. Ira Robinson (Concordia) presented a snapshot of Yehuda Kaufman Even Shmuel, a modern-day commentator of the Moreh Nevukhim. Many of the speakers made reference to Prof. Twersky’s scholarly attention to the works of Maimonides and his seminal assertion of unity between the Mishneh Torah and Moreh Nevukhim, at the same time notimg that his academic influence was felt in the entire field of Jewish Intellectual History.  


The afternoon sessions of the conference were dedicated more specifically to Prof. Twersky’s own work and life. Profs. Bernard Septimus (Harvard) and Michael Shmidman (Touro), who both studied for their doctoral degrees at Harvard with Prof. Twersky, presented different aspects of Maimonidean scholarship. Professor Shnayer Leiman (Touro) spoke about his interaction with Prof. Twersky as an academic colleague and highlighted the sincere respect he accorded his colleagues as well as his deep dedication to improving Jewish education.  Lastly, Dr. Kalman Stein (Hebrew Academy, Miami) described his interaction with Rabbi Twersky as a member of his congregation and spoke movingly about the close relationships that Rabbi Twersky formed with his family and children and the formative influence this had upon his family’s spiritual development.  

            Video of this conference can be found here:  https://youtu.be/BlXciczKyN8


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