NOVAK, DAVID (1941– ), U.S. theologian, rabbi, and leading authority on Jewish law. Born in Chicago, Novak received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Chicago in 1961, his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1966, and his doctorate in philosophy from Georgetown University in 1971. From 1966 to 1969 he was Jewish chaplain at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, National Institute of Mental Health, in Washington, D.C., and he served as rabbi to congregations in Maryland, Oklahoma, Virginia, and New York City from 1966 to 1989. He taught at Oklahoma City University, Old Dominion University, the New School for Social Research, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Baruch College of the City University of New York. From 1989 to 1997 he was the Edgar M. Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies at the University of Virginia. In 1997 he joined the University of Toronto, holding the J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies as professor of the study of religion, professor of philosophy, and director of the Jewish Studies Programme.
Novak wrote primarily on the philosophical aspects of Jewish legal tradition; his work concerns the foundations of Jewish theology and its application to contemporary problems, especially those involving ethics. His books include Law and Theology in Judaism (1974, 1976), Suicide and Morality (1975), The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism: An Historical and Constructive Study of the Noahide Laws (1983), Jewish-Christian Dialogue: A Jewish Justification (1989), Natural Law in Judaism (1998), and Covenantal Rights: A Study in Jewish Political Theory (2000). He contributed numerous articles to theology, law, and philosophy journals, and he was a contributing editor of Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility.
Novak was a founder of the Panel of Inquiry on Jewish Law of the Union for Traditional Judaism and a founder of the Institute of Traditional Judaism in Teaneck, N.J. He is a fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research and of the Academy for Jewish Philosophy, and he was a member of the international advisory board to the government of Poland concerning the Auschwitz-Birkenau site. Novak was a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., and in 1996 delivered the Lancaster/Yarnton Lectures in Judaism and Other Religions at Oxford University. He lectured extensively throughout North America, Israel, Europe, and South Africa. He spoke Hebrew, Yiddish, and German, and had a knowledge of Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and French.