JTS Professor Shamma Friedman Wins 2014 Israel Prize for Talmud Study

Press Contact: Beatrice Mora
Office: (212) 678-8950
Email: bemora@jtsa.edu

January 21, 2014, New York, NY

The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) is proud to announce that Dr. Shamma Friedman, Benjamin and Minna Reeves Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at JTS and professor of Talmud at its Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies for 25 years, will receive the 2014 Israel Prize at a ceremony to take place on Yom Ha'atzma'ut (Israeli Independence Day), which falls on May 6. The Israel Prize is Israel's highest honor, awarded to those who are preeminent in their fields and have made extraordinary contributions to Israeli life and culture. "Professor Friedman was selected in light of his remarkable endeavor to research the various forms of talmudic literature," wrote the prize committee. "He has acquired an international reputation as a leading figure in the study of the Mishnah and Tosefta in questions regarding the literary structure and development of the text of the Babylonian Talmud, the development of motifs in Aggadic literature, lexicographical studies of rabbinic language, and the study of rabbinic literature from the time of the Geonim and Rishonim."

Dr. Friedman has been at JTS since 1958, when he enrolled in The Rabbinical School and, following ordination, became one of the first two JTS students to earn a PhD. He joined the JTS faculty in 1964. At JTS, Dr. Friedman studied under the tutelage of some of the world's leading scholars, including Professor Haim Zalman Dimitrovsky, who was his dissertation sponsor, and Professor Saul Lieberman, JTS rector and doyen of Talmud scholarship in the 20th century, with whom Dr. Friedman forged a special relationship. In 1985, Dr. Friedman founded the Saul Lieberman Institute of Talmudic Research of JTS, which encourages innovative Talmud scholarship and provides sophisticated tools for its implementation. Over the years, he has served JTS in a variety of roles, including professor, acting librarian, editor of Hebrew publications, and director of the Schocken Institute for Jewish Research. During the 1970s and 1980s, Dr. Friedman was the dean and director of JTS's Jerusalem campus, now known as the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, the largest Israeli-accredited MA program in Jewish Studies in the State of Israel. He is the author of many books and articles dealing with various aspects of talmudic studies.

"I am greatly encouraged by winning the Israel Prize," said Dr. Friedman. "It gives me additional strength to face the challenges that lay ahead in researching talmudic literature. Receiving the Israel Prize is another expression of how much I enjoy my work and how each day I am rewarded anew by discoveries found in this vast tract of knowledge."

In July 2013, Dr. Friedman was awarded a three-year research grant by the Israel Science Foundation for the preparation of "A Critical Commentary on Three Chapters from the Babylonian Talmud (Bava Metzia 7, Bava Qamma 8, Avoda Zara 3)." The research will be carried out under the auspices of the Schechter Institute. Dr. Friedman was elected to the Israel Academy of the Hebrew Language and the American Academy of Jewish Research, is Talmud division editor of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, and is a member of the editorial board of Jewish Studies, an Internet journal.

JTS Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen said, "All of us at JTS are enormously proud of Shamma. He is Saul Lieberman's true heir, expanding Professor Lieberman's legacy by constructing a computerized database containing the text of almost all surviving Talmud manuscripts, and a computerized page-by-page bibliography of hundreds of books. The product of decades of work, these resources are aimed at opening new horizons in the field of talmudic study. It is with great joy and admiration that we watch Israel come to recognize Shamma's outstanding contributions. We are also proud of JTS, which can continue to claim that, since the days of Frankel, it has always had the world's leading talmudist as a member of its faculty, a record of 160 unbroken years. May Dr. Friedman go from strength to strength."