Birthday: February 27, 1903
Nationality: American, Belarusian
Spiritual & Religious Leaders
Died At Age: 90
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Joseph Soloveitchik
Born Country: Belarus
Born in: Pruzhany
Famous as: Rabbi
father: Moshe Soloveichik
siblings: Ahron Soloveichik
children: Haym Soloveitchik
Died on: April 9, 1993
place of death: Boston
Founder/Co-Founder: Maimonides School
education: Humboldt University of Berlin
awards: National Jewish Book Award for Modern Jewish Thought & Experience
Joseph B. Soloveitchik was a major American Orthodox rabbi and Modern Jewish philosopher. He served as an advisor, guide, mentor, and role model for many Modern Orthodox Jews as their favorite Talmudic scholar and religious leader. Born into a rabbinical dynasty, he was destined to become supreme leader from an early age and received his Jewish education alongside a systematic secular teaching. After his graduation, he went to Berlin from where he received his doctoral degree, also undertaking a rigorous schedule of Talmud studies. Then he traveled to the United States and founded one of the first Hebrew day schools in the country which later promoted co-education. Subsequently, he succeeded his father as the head of the rabbinical school at Yeshiva University and also served as the chief decision-maker of Modern Orthodoxy in America. He was an acknowledged rabbinic leader and leading ideologue of American Modern Orthodoxy for much of the 20th century. He also made a great impact through his theological works such as ‘Halakhic Man’ and ‘Lonely Man of Faith’ which presented a sophisticated religious anthropology. Through public lectures, writings, and his policy decisions for the Modern Orthodox world, he emerged as the spiritual leader of Modern Orthodoxy in America and one of the 20th century's greatest Jewish thinkers
Childhood & Early Life
Joseph Ber Soloveitchik was born on February 27, 1903 in Pruzhany, then Russia, to Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik, and his wife, Rebbetzin Pesia. He had four siblings: Samuel, Shulamith, Anne, and Ahron.
His family belonged to a rabbinical dynasty which dated back two centuries. His father was the head of the RIETS rabbinical school at Yeshiva University who bestowed upon him an intellectual-moral tradition of discipline while his mother exposed him to science and non-Jewish culture.
He received his education at a Talmud Torah, an elementary yeshiva, and also from private tutors. In 1922, he completed his graduation from the liberal arts Gymnasium in Dubno.
In 1924, he entered the Free Polish University in Warsaw where he studied political science for three terms.
During his years in Berlin, he also became an ardent devotee of Rabbi Hayyim Heller, who established an institute for advanced Jewish Studies from an Orthodox perspective in the city.
In December 1932, he obtained his PhD with his doctoral thesis on the epistemology and metaphysics of the German philosopher Hermann Cohen.
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At the beginning of his career, Joseph B. Soloveitchik became a member of the traditional movements such as Agudath Israel of America and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of North America. But later on as he became ingrained in the Modern Orthodox outlook, and joined the Mizrachi Religious Zionists of America (RZA) and the centrist Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America (RCA).
In 1937, he founded the Maimonides School, one of the first Hebrew day schools in Boston. In the late 1940s, a high school was also established where he introduced a number of innovations which included teaching Talmud to boys and girls together in a class.
In 1941, he succeeded his father as the head of the rabbinical school, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), of Yeshiva University in New York, where he educated an entire generation of Orthodox rabbis until 1986.
Over the course of his long career he became the leader of the Rabbinical Council of America and later emerged as an increasingly popular public figure within American Orthodoxy. He also served as the honorary president of the Religious Zionists of America (Mizrachi).
In his extensive career, he ordained close to 2,000 rabbis who took positions in Orthodox synagogues across America and propagated Orthodox Jewish observance.
Joseph B. Soloveitchik published a number of essays and books offering a unique synthesis of Neo-Kantian existentialism and Jewish thought. His book ‘The Lonely Man of Faith’ which deals with issues such as the willingness to stand alone in the face of monumental challenges is considered to be one of his best works.
He faithfully defended the authority of the rabbinate, fought against unjustified halakhic change and opposed theological dialogue with Reform and Conservative rabbis as well as with the Church.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1931, Joseph B. Soloveitchik married Tonya Lewit, a Ph.D. in Education from Jena University. The couple had three children together: two daughters, Atarah and Tovah, and a son, Rabbi Dr. Haym Soloveitchik.
He suffered from several serious illnesses such as Parkinson's Disease followed by Alzheimer's Disease in old age.
He died on April 9, 1993, at Boston, Massachusetts, at the age of 90. He was interred next to his beloved wife in Beth El Cemetery in the Baker Street Jewish Cemeteries, Massachusetts.