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Max Kadushin


Max Kadushin was a U.S. rabbinic scholar. Kadushin was born in Minsk, Russia, and immigrated with his family to Seattle, Washington in 1897. He earned his B.A. at New York University (1916). He was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1920, where he also received his D.H.L. in 1932. Kadushin held pulpits in New York City (Temple Israel, 1921–26) and left to seek distance from his mentor, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, in Chicago (Humboldt Blvd. Temple, 1926–31).

A Reconstructionist at the time, Kadushin established the Midwest Council of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism. Despite his success in the pulpit, he was drawn to the university and became the Hillel Foundation director at the University of Wisconsin (1931–42). He resigned and moved to New York in 1942, where he taught at the Hebrew High School of Greater New York (1942–52) and then had a series of pulpits, each of short duration. He later taught at the Academy for Higher Jewish Learning in New York, an interdenominational rabbinical school, of which he was also dean (from 1958).

In 1960, he received a coveted academic appointment to the faculty of JTS, where he taught ethics and rabbinic thought. Kadushin's scholarly interest was the explication of talmudic thought. Basing his observations on the latest rabbinic texts and historical investigations, Kadushin explained the unique character of the rabbinic mind. Rather than being random and disorganized, Kadushin believed that the rabbis' thought-world was made up primarily of value concepts, which were expressed in such noun forms as berakhah ("blessing"), ẓedakah ("charity), and derekh ereẓ ("proper behavior," "ethics"). Kadushin believed that four rabbinic concepts play a dominant role in integrating the entire complex of concepts: Middat ha-Din (God's justice), Middat Rahamim (God's love of mercy), Torah, and Israel. In addition, rabbinic thought reflects certain "emphatic trends," i.e., love, the individual, universality, and the experience of God, which Kadushin calls "normal mysticism."

His major works are The Theology of Seder Eliahu; A Study in Organic Thinking (1932); Organic Thinking: A Study in Rabbinic Thought (1938); The Rabbinic Mind (1952, 1965); Worship and Ethics: A Study in Rabbinic Judaism (1964). His wife EVELYN GARFIEL was a psychologist and author. She taught at the universities of Chicago and Wisconsin and wrote The Service of the Heart (1958) on the prayer book. Together they created one of the first Hebrew-speaking homes in America.


T. Steinberg, "Max Kadushin, Scholar of Rabbinic Judaism: A Study of His Life, Work, and Theory of Valuational Thought" (Ph.D. dissertation NYU, 1980).

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.