Beacon of Masorti Judaism, Rabbi Reuven Hammer, dies at 86 – Israel News


Beacon of Masorti Judaism, Rabbi Reuven Hammer, dies at 86


Rabbi Reuven Hammer.
(photo credit: Courtesy)


Rabbi Reuven Hammer, one of the founders and driving forces of the Masorti Movement of Judaism in Israel, died Monday in Jerusalem at the age of 86 after a short illness.

A scholar of Jewish liturgy, author and lecturer, Hammer was past president of the International Rabbinical Assembly and served many years as head of the Masorti Beth Din in Israel. He headed the Israel programs of the Jewish Theological Seminary in Jerusalem and was also the founding director of the Seminary of Judaic Studies, today the Schechter Institute.

A regular columnist for The Jerusalem Post and The Jerusalem Report, Hammer was a prolific writer, authoring Sifre: A Taanaitic commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy (1986) and Entering the High Holy Days: A guide to origins, themes, and prayers (2005) which were awarded the National Jewish Book Award as the best book of scholarship for their respective years.

As president of the 1,500-member Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement in Israel, Hammer authored the movement’s official commentary on the prayer book, Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, published in 2003. This work contains the complete text of Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and festivals, surrounded by a comprehensive commentary. In 2008 Rabbi Hammer, also authored the commentary for Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Weekdays.

A native of Syracuse, New York, Hammer received his rabbinic ordination and doctorate in theology from the Jewish Theological Seminary and a PhD from the School of Speech of Northwestern University.

After making aliyah from the US with his wife Rahel in the 1970s, Hammer was one of the founders of Kehilat Moreshet Avraham in Jerusalem’s East Talpiot neighborhood, considered the flagship synagogue of the Masorti Movement. From October 2005 to July 2007 Hammer was the Interim Rabbi at the New London Synagogue in London, England.

Hammer’s Torah scholarship stressed faith over knowledge, stating, “it is belief and not reason that will determine what one thinks.”

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