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David Neumark

NEUMARK, DAVID (1866–1924), scholar and philosopher of Reform Judaism. Born in Galicia, Neumark was ordained as rabbi at the Lehranstalt fuer die Wissenschaft des Judenthums in 1897. He served as rabbi in Rakonitz (Rakovnik), Bohemia, from 1897 to 1904, and as editor in chief of the division of philosophy and halakhah of the proposed Hebrew encyclopedia Oẓar ha-Yahadut from 1904 to 1907, whose specimen volume on the principle and philosophy of Judaism he edited in 1906. He was professor of Jewish philosophy at the Veitel-Heine-Ephraimschen Lehranstalt in Berlin in 1907 and professor of philosophy at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati from 1907 to 1924. In 1919 Neumark founded The Journal of Jewish Lore and Philosophy, which became The Hebrew Union College Annual in 1921.

Neumark's philosophy of Judaism is representative of the Reform Jewish position of his time, and includes the following points: Judaism is an evolving religion which has undergone change in the past and will continue to do so in the future; the vital continuing element in Judaism is ethical monotheism, which Jewish philosophy must defend, explicate, and refine; the Bible was written by men, and while it is a source of inspiration and instruction, it is not binding and may be disagreed with. Neumark was unusual among the Reformists of his day in that he was an ardent Zionist. However, on the basis of his philosophy of Judaism, he insisted that Zionism must have a religious base, which for him was the only raison d'être for any significant Jewish enterprise.

Neumark's scholarship reflected his concept of Judaism. He attempted in his many works to show that throughout the evolution of Judaism the basic commitment of the Jew was to religion, and that the Jews remained true to Judaism through the ages only because their concepts of God and morality differed from and were superior to all other religions and philosophies of their time. Neumark's magnum opus, Geschichte der juedischen Philosophie des Mittelalters (1907–10; translated into Hebrew under the title Toledot ha-Filosofyah be-Yisrael, vol 1, 1922, vol. 2, 1929), combines considerable acumen and occasional penetrating insights with a lack of critical method and an excess of imagination. His Essays in Jewish Philosophy (1929) contains a bibliography of his writings, which also included "The Philosophy of Judaism" (HUCA 1925), The Philosophy of the Bible (1918), and Toledot ha-Ikkarim be-Yisrael (Odessa, 2 vols., 1912–19).

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