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Twersky, Pioneer of Jewish Thought, Dies


The Harvard community lost a pioneer in the study of Jewish thought on Sunday when Isadore Twersky, Littauer professor of Hebrew literature and philosophy, died at Massachusetts General Hospital following a long illness. He was 67.

Twersky, an associate of Dudley House, was an authority on Rabbinical literature and Jewish thought, as well as a leader in Brookline's Jewish community. The rabbi's local funeral took place on Monday. His body was then transported to Israel for burial, according to an obituary in yesterday's Boston Globe.

Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from 1963 to 1969, Twersky later served as director of Harvard's Center for Jewish Studies from 1978 to 1993. He also taught Moral Reasoning 19: "Moderation and Extremism."

Twersky's colleagues described him as a leader who helped establish the academic study of Judaica as a rigorous discipline and someone who set a religious example for his community.

"The guiding principle of [Twersky's] directorship was quality," wrote Starr Professor of Classical, Modern Jewish and Hebrew Literature James L. Kugel, in an article about Twersky. Kugel succeeded Twersky as director of the Center for Jewish Studies.

Twersky was noted for his study of 12th-century Jewish philosopher and jurist, Maimonides. One of his most renowned works was an introductory study for a 1980 translation of Maimonides'Mishneh Torah.

His colleagues say his writings are the first integrated treatment of Maimonides' work on both Jewish law and philosophy.

While Twersky became a world-renowned leader in his academic studies, a devotion to Judaism was also seen through his service to the local Jewish community.

According to Michael Rosenberg, executive director of the Maimonides School in Brookline, Twersky "provided the religious example and the undergirding philosophy [for the school]."

Twersky's father-in-law, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, founded the school, which Rosenberg called the "oldest and largest Jewish day school in New England."

The school's curriculum--which includes both college-preparatory and religious studies--reflects Twersky's religious belief that "God wants the Jewish people to take advantage of every learning opportunity," Rosenberg said.

Twersky also volunteered as a spiritual leader at the Congregation Beth David, the temple where he worshipped.

He was a frequent visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he also served on the Board of Governors.

Twersky is survived by his wife, Atarah; two sons, Mosheh and Mayer; and a daughter, Tzipporah Rosenblatt.

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