HAMMER, REUVEN

HAMMER, REUVEN (Robert A.; 1933– ), American-Israeli scholar, leader of Masorti/Conservative Judaism, and advocate for special needs students in Jewish schools. Hammer received rabbinic ordination and a D.H.L. from the Jewish Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Communicative Disorders from Northwestern University. After serving as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force and as a congregational rabbi, Hammer was prominent among the young Conservative rabbis and educators who made aliyah from North America in the early 1970s and created many of the institutions of what became Israel's Masorti (Conservative) movement. He headed the Israel campus of the Jewish Theological Seminary in Jerusalem, and after taking part in the planning process that led to the creation of a Conservative seminary in Jerusalem, in 1984 he took on an additional role as director of the Seminary of Judaic Studies, which later grew into the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary and an academic institution, the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. A decade later he served as his movement's representative on the Ne'eman Commission appointed to avert a crisis over "who is a Jew" in Israeli law after the courts insisted on government recognition of non-Orthodox conversions – the Conservative rabbi to serve in an official position vis-à-vis the government of Israel. He later represented the Masorti movement on the board of the Joint Conversion Institute whose establishment was sparked by the Ne'eman Commission's discussions. In Israel's Masorti movement, Hammer served as the head of the Rabbinical Court for Conversion and chairman of the movement's Public Affairs Committee. Hammer also worked to further the interests of Masorti/Conservative Judaism in Israel and elsewhere through the Rabbinical Assembly, which he served as president of its Israel Region and later as president of the worldwide body. Hammer's wide-ranging scholarly endeavors included teaching at the institutions mentioned above as well as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the David Yellin College of Education, and other academic institutions in Israel, Argentina, and Russia. His voluminous writings include Sifre, A Tannaitic Commentary on Deuteronomy (an English translation and commentary, 1986) and many works that brought Jewish scholarship to a wide audience: Entering Jewish Prayer (1994), Entering the High Holy Days (1998), and a collection of his own annotated translations of passages from midrash, The Classic Midrash (1994). He edited The Jerusalem Anthology (1995), a collection of documents and belles-lettres about Jerusalem over the ages. His magnum opus on the literary and theological appreciation of Jewish liturgy, Or Hadash (2003), takes the form of a commentary to the Conservative Sim Shalom prayer-book. The first of two volumes appeared in 2003. Hammer was among the first vocal proponents of providing instruction and support designed to take into account learning disabilities and differences of learning style in North American Jewish education. While still living in the U.S., he undertook his doctoral studies in that field in order to be able to start programs for special education in synagogue schools, which were then non-existent. His book, The Other Child in Jewish Education, enjoyed decades of use and influence. (Peretz Rodman (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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