SPERO, SHUBERT


SPERO, SHUBERT (1923– ), U.S. rabbi. Born in New York City, Spero received his rabbinic ordination at Yeshiva and Mesifta Torah VaDaath in 1947. After serving as rabbi at the Young Israel of Brookline, Mass. (1947–50) he assumed the same position at Young Israel of Cleveland (1950–83). He holds a B.S.S. from the CCNY, an M.A. from Case Western Reserve University, and a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University (1971). His thesis was on the subject, "The Justification and Significance of Religious Belief." He also served as the secretary of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of Cleveland and lecturer in philosophy at the Cleveland Institute of Art. After making aliyah to Israel in 1983, he has served as Irving Stone Professor of Basic Jewish Thought at Bar-Ilan University.

For over 40 years Spero made contributions to Jewish thought in areas of moral philosophy, aesthetics, religious Zionism, and the accommodation between traditional Judaism and modern life. His published works include Faith in the Night (A Bedside Companion for the Sick) (1957); a compilation of Maimonides' writings, The Faith of a Jew (1949); and Story of Chasam Sofer (1946). His book God in All Seasons (1967) discusses Jewish festivals as an integral force in the life of the observant Jew. His major philosophical work Morality, Halakha and the Jewish Tradition (1982) is an attempt to present a comprehensive study of the morality of Judaism. In this work he argues that the ultimate creative task of man is to create himself as a moral personality.

After many years of research he published his second major work, Holocaust and Return to Zion (2000). In this book he analyzes the idea of history from both a Jewish and a philosophical perspective. He presents a novel interpretation of exile in Jewish history, in which it has the special function of bringing about the slow, progressive development of certain key factors in Jewish and world history that make a renewed Jewish sovereign polity possible.

These key factors are from the Jewish side: the presence of a sizable number of Jews, identifiable as Biblical Israel, in Europe by the middle of the 19th century, in possession of a Torah which had been elaborated into a viable philosophic worldview and a comprehensive way of life, and from the side of the larger society, the spread of liberal democracy, the doctrine of human rights, the growth of science and technology, and the serious efforts to establish institutions working toward an international order. As he understands it, the improbable conjunction of these key factors made possible the reestablishment of the Jewish state within the historic boundaries in 1948 – a return that had been promised by the Hebrew prophets.

Spero suffered a great personal tragedy in the 2003 suicide bombing at Café Hillel in Jerusalem. Both his son-in-law, physician Dr. David Appelbaum, and his granddaughter, Nava, who was to be married the next day, were killed in the blast. Spero and his family in the following years dedicated themselves to establishing humanitarian and religious projects in memory of his son-in-law and granddaughter.

[Shalom Freedman (2nd ed.)]


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