JOSPE, ALFRED


JOSPE, ALFRED (1909–1994), rabbi, educator, author, and editor. Jospe was born in Berlin to Josef and Rosa Jospe; his father and both his grandfathers, Israel Jospe and Selmar Cerini (Steifmann), were cantors. An active Zionist from his youth, Jospe received his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Breslau in 1932. In 1935 he married Eva Scheyer and received his rabbinic ordination from the Juedisch-Theologisches Seminar in Breslau. After serving for two years (1934–35) as district rabbi of the province of Grenzmark, he was appointed to the community rabbinate in Berlin (1936). Following *Kristallnacht (November 9–10, 1938), Jospe was interned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In March 1939 he was able to leave Germany for the United States (via England) with his wife and daughter.

Jospe's first American rabbinical position, and only pulpit, was in Morgantown, West Virginia (1939–44), where in 1940 he also assumed the responsibility for directing the Hillel Foundation at the University of West Virginia. In 1944 he became director of Hillel at Indiana University, and in 1949 joined the national leadership of Hillel in New York, becoming its director of programs and resources. Jospe and his family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1957, when B'nai B'rith (including the Hillel Foundations) moved its headquarters there from New York. In 1971 he was elected Hillel's international director, a position he held until his retirement at the end of 1974.

For most of his career Jospe was involved in educational administration, and in many respects he provided the intellectual leadership shaping the Hillel Foundations during its years of great growth, seeking to formulate an evolving "philosophy of Hillel" that would enable Hillel to meet changing student needs (especially in the "turbulent years" of the 1960s and early 1970s), while remaining faithful to abiding underlying principles.

At the same time, Jospe retained an active interest in philosophy and Jewish thought. His many publications include academic works (on Moses Mendelssohn, on Wissenschaft des Judentums, on the history of the German rabbinate, and on the teaching of Jewish Studies at German universities); essays in Jewish thought; anthologies he edited of thematically arranged lectures by leading thinkers and scholars, based on programs at successive national summer institutes of Hillel; and professional guides relating to Hillel as the "Jewish presence on the campus." The rapid expansion of purely academic programs in Jewish Studies in many universities began to take place during the last few years of Jospe's career. Until then, on many campuses, Hillel, besides its other functions in offering religious, cultural, and chaplaincy services, provided the only link for students with an academic (even if extracurricular) presentation of Judaism, to combat what Jospe called the "pediatric Judaism" of many alienated young Jews, whose minimal childhood exposure to Jewish education could not compete with their advanced secular education for intellectual respectability and serious commitment. A proper Jewish education should be both cognitive and affective, involving both mind and heart: "Both celebration and cerebration have a legitimate place, but not at the expense of the other."

Jospe's publications, reflecting his diverse areas of interest, include Die Unterscheidung von Mythos und Religion bei Hermann Cohen und Ernst Cassirer in ihrer Bedeutung fuer die juedische Religionsphilosophie (1932); The Legacy of Maurice Pekarsky (1965); an annotated English translation with introduction of Jerusalem and Other Jewish Writings of Moses Mendelssohn (1969); Tradition and Contemporary Experience: Essays on Jewish Life and Thought (1970); Bridges to a Holy Time: New Worship for the Sabbath and Minor Festivals (with Richard Levy; 1973); Studies in Jewish Thought: An Anthology of German Jewish Scholarship (1981). To Leave Your Mark: Selections from the Writings of Alfred Jospe, ed. E. Jospe and R. Jospe, was published posthumously (2000). For a complete bibliography until 1980, see Go and Study: Essays and Studies in Honor of Alfred Jospe, ed. R. Jospe and S. Fishman (1980).

His wife EVA (1913– ) was born in Oppeln, Germany (now Opole, Poland) and pursued graduate studies in philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York and Georgetown University in Washington, DC. She taught modern Jewish thought at Georgetown and then at George Washington University until the age of 80. Her publications and translations include Martin Buber's "Early Addresses" in On Judaism, ed. N. Glatzer (1967); Reason and Hope: Selections from the Jewish Writings of Hermann Cohen (1971; reissued 1993); Moses Mendelssohn: Selections from His Writings (1975); "Hermann Cohen's Judaism: A Reassessment," in: Judaism 25:4 (1976), 461–72; "Encounter: The Thought of Martin Buber," in: Judaism, 27:2 (1978), 135–47; "Moses Mendelssohn: Some Reflections on His Thought," in: Judaism 30:2 (1981), 169–82; Franz Rosenzweig's commentary to Ninety-Two Poems and Hymns of Yehuda Halevi, ed. R. Cohen (2000).

Eva and Alfred Jospe had three children: SUSANNE GREENBERG (1935– ), a rabbi in West Chester, PA; NAOMI PISETZKY (1942– ), a teacher in Petah Tikvah; and RAPHAEL JOSPE (1947– ) of the department of Jewish Philosophy at Bar-Ilan University and the Hebrew University Rothberg International School, and editor of the Jewish Philosophy division of the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica.

Alfred Jospe's brother, ERWIN JOSPE (1907–1983), was a musician, choir director, professor of music and dean of fine arts at the University of Judaism. He edited with Joseph Jacobsen a collection of Jewish music, Hawa Naschira: Auf! Lasst uns Singen (1935; reissued 2001).


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.