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Martin Buber

Martin Buber (8 February 1878 - 13 June 1965) was a renowned Jewish philosopher, story-teller, and pedagogue.

Martin (Hebrew name: Mordechai) Buber was born on February 8 1878 in Vienna into a Jewish family. His grandfather, Salomon Buber, in whose house in Lemberg (L'viv, now Ukraine) Buber spent much of his childhood, worked as a renowned scholar in the field of Jewish tradition and literature. Buber had a multilingual education: the household spoke Yiddish and German, he picked up Hebrew and French in his childhood, and Polish at secondary school.

In 1892 Buber returned to his father's house in Lemberg. A religious crisis led him to break with Jewish religious customs: he started reading Kant and Nietzsche.

In 1896 Buber went to study in Vienna (philosophy, art history, German studies, philology). In 1898 he joined the Zionist movement. As a Zionist, Buber participated in congresses and undertook organizational work. He argued with Theodor Herzl about the political and cultural direction of Zionism. In 1899, while studying in Zürich, Buber met Paula Winkler (a non-Jewish Zionist writer who later converted to Judaism) from Munich, his future wife.

In 1902, Buber became the editor of the weekly Die Welt, the central organ of the Zionist movement. From 1903 he became occupied with the Jewish Hasidic movement. In 1904, Buber withdrew from much of his Zionist organizational work and devoted himself to study and writing. In that year he published his thesis: "Beiträge zur Geschichte des Individuationsproblems" (on Jakob Böhme and Nikolaus Cusanus).

In 1906 Buber published Die Geschichten des Rabbi Nachman - a collection of the tales of the Rabbi Nachman of Breslau, a renowned Hasidic rabbi, as interpreted and retold in a Neo-Hasidic fashion by Buber. In 1908 Buber published "Die Legende des Baalschem" (stories of the Baal Shem Tov), the founder of Hasidism.

From 1910 to 1914, Buber studied myths and published editions of mythic texts. In 1916 he moved from Berlin to Heppenheim. During World War I he helped establish the Jewish National Commission in order to improve the condition of Eastern European Jews. During that period he became the editor of Der Jude (German for "The Jew"), a Jewish monthly (until 1924). In 1921 Buber began his close relationship with Franz Rosenzweig. In 1922 Buber and Rosenzweig co-operated in Rosenzweig's House of Jewish Learning , known in Germany as Lehrhaus .

In 1923 Buber wrote his acknowledged masterpiece I and Thou. In 1925 he began translating the Hebrew Bible into German. He himself called this translation "Verdeutschung" ('Germanification'), since it does not always use literary German language but attempts to find new dynamic (often newly-invented) equivalent phrasing in order to respect the multivalent Hebrew original. Between 1926 and 1928 Buber co-edited the quarterly Die Kreatur ('The Creature').

In 1930 Buber became an honorary professor at the University of Frankfurt am Main. He resigned in protest from his professorship immediately after Hitler came to power in 1933. On October 4 1933 the Nazi authorities forbad him to lecture. He then founded the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education, which became an increasingly important body as the German government forbad Jews to attend public education. The administration increasingly obstructed this body.

Finally, in 1938, Buber left Germany and settled in Jerusalem. He received a professorship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, lecturing in anthropology and introductory sociology. He participated in the discussion of the Jews' problems in Palestine and of the Arab question -- working out of his Biblical, philosophic and Hasidic work. He became a member of the moderate group Ichud , which aimed at a bi-national state for Arabs and Jews in Palestine. In 1946 he published his work Paths in Utopia .

After World War II Buber began giving lecture-tours in Europe and the USA. In 1951 he received the Goethe award of the University of Hamburg and in 1953 the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.

In 1958 Buber's wife Paula died, and in the same year he won the Israel Prize. 1963 Buber gained the Erasmus Award in Amsterdam.

On 13 June 1965 Buber died in his house in Talbiyeh , Jerusalem.


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