Obituary for Joseph Baumgarten

Prof. Lawrence Schiffman has written an obituary of Prof. Joseph Baumgarten on the Society of Biblical Literature website:

Professor Baumgarten was a major scholar whose contributions to the study of Jewish law (halakhah) in the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as other aspects of scrolls research were pioneering and central to the development of Qumran Studies as we know it today…

Beginning in 1953, he began to teach at the Baltimore Hebrew College, initially as an instructor in the high school division. From 1955 on he served as Professor of Post-Biblical and Rabbinic Literature, Baltimore’s senior expert in these fields. At the same time he served as a congregational rabbi, from 1959 on leading the Bnai Jacob Congregation. In maintaining his dual commitment to academic scholarship and the congregational rabbinate, he was continuing his modus operandi as a student–combining continuing rabbinical studies with his progress at the university. Baumgarten was one of the last American rabbis to succeed in maintaining both roles at the highest of levels, a challenge that he met naturally and with ease…

Academically, Baumgarten set the example for those of us who apply Talmudic material and methodology to the scrolls, a method and a skill that had virtually gone into disuse in the earlier years of scrolls research. His work exemplified the judiciousness and the depths of Talmudic learning that were necessary for such research to be of true value. His work on the Damascus Document not only brought its manuscripts to publication but provided the basis for understanding it within the framework of the history of Judaism. He lived to participate in conferences in which days of papers were given following the methods he had espoused, and it is to a great extent due to the example of his scholarship that this field has developed as well as it has.

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