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Joseph Dan

DAN, JOSEPH (1935– ), scholar and educator in Jewish Studies and Thought. Born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, he was taken to Palestine when he was three. His family settled in Jerusalem and Dan studied at the Hebrew University where he received a Ph.D. for his thesis on "The Theological Basis of the Ethical Thought of Ashkenazi Ḥasidism."

He began teaching at the Hebrew University in 1958, initially in the Department of Hebrew Literature and later in the Department of Jewish Thought where he was appointed professor of Kabbalah in 1978.

One of the most prominent researchers in the area of Jewish mysticism, Dan's research combined a historical, philological, and literary approach. The areas he concentrated on included the beginnings of the Kabbalah, the Heikhalot literature, the Ashkenazi Hasidic movement, and ethics and Hasidism.

In the teaching of Jewish Thought, he developed academic projects of wide public dimensions. He was the editor of Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought and wrote the Open University course "The Theology and Ethics of the Ashkenazi Hasidic Movement," bridging the gap between the purely academic sphere and the broader public.

He was a member of the editorial board of the quarterly Tarbiz from 1981 to 1986 and was director of the Jewish National and University Library 1984–1985.

He was responsible for writing and editing the catalogue of the 12,000-volume Scholem library which houses most of the books ever published in the area of Jewish mysticism. Dan published nearly 200 studies in various scholarly journals and articles in various encyclopedias including the Encyclopaedia Judaica for which he was departmental editor for medieval Hebrew prose.

His books include Ethical and Homiletical Literature (Heb.; 1975), The Hasidic Story (Heb.; 1975), The Teachings of Ḥasidism (1983), and Gershom Scholem and the Mystical Dimension in Jewish History (1987). In 1998 and 1999 he published his four-volume Jewish Mysticism, a historical and comparative study.

In recognition of his great contribution to his field he was awarded the Israel Prize in 1997.