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Nechama Leibowitz

(1905 - 1997)

Nechama Leibowitz

Nechama Leibowitz (sister of Yeshayahu) was born on September 3, 1905, in Riga, educated in Berlin, and moved to Eretz Yisrael in 1930. She taught for many years at the Mizrachi Women Teachers Seminary, at Tel Aviv University, and at numerous other schools, including Hesder yeshivot. In 1942, she began to distribute stenciled pages of questions on the weekly Torah portion, and over the years the “Pages,” which became her trademark, reached incrreasingly wider audiences. Leibowitz was a frequent radio commentator on the Israel Broadcasting System, and she was awarded the Israel Prize for Education in 1956. She died in Jerusalem in 1997.

Although appointed professor at Tel Aviv University in 1968 and recognized publicly on numerous occasions, Leibowitz, known simply as “Nechama” to her students, preferred the title of teacher to other distinctions. Her approach to the Bible was an active one, and through her thought-provoking questions, she demanded that her students adopt a similar active role towards the text. For many years, Leibowitz’s “Pages” consisted only of questions, and it was only at the insistence of many students that she later agreed to publish answers along with the questions, yet still appending questions for further study. Her interpretations reflect her vast knowledge of traditional and modern Biblical commentaries, and display a sensitivity to the religious, literary, and psychological meanings of the text. She sought to infuse her students with a love of the Bible as well as the belief that its levels of meanings were to be probed by its readers.

Leibowitz’s “Pages” were translated into many languages and reached students and educators alike around the world. They were later collected into book form and published as Studies in the Weekly Sidra and Studies in Bereshit (with similar volumes for the other books of the Torah). She is recognized as one of the leading teachers of the Torah of the twentieth century, as well as a role model for Orthodox women who are professional Jewish scholars and teachers.

Sources: Joint Authority for Jewish Zionist Education.