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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 as a child of a Jewish family. His grandfather, Salomon Buber, in whose house in Lemberg (Lvov) Buber spent much of his childhood , was a very renowned scholar on the field of Jewish tradition and literature. Buber had multilingual education: Yiddish and German were spoken at home, he picked up Hebrew and French already in his childhood, Polish at secondary school.

In 1892, Buber came back to his father's house of in Lemberg. A religious crisis he underwent led him leading to a break with the Jewish religious customs. Buber started reading Kant and Nietzsche.

In 1896 Buber went to study in Vienna (philosophy, art history, German studies, philology). In 1898 Buber joined the Zionist Movement. As a Zionist, Buber participated in congresses, undertook organizational work. He had an argument 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 editior of the weekly Die Welt, the central organ of the Zionist movement. From 1903 Buber 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" (about 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 by Buber. In 1908 Buber published "Die Legende des Baalschem" (stories of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Jewish Hasidism.

From 1910 to 1914, Buber studied about myths, edition 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 help better the lives 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 cooperated in Rosenzweig's House of Jewish Learning, known in Germany as Lehrhaus. In 1923 Buber wrote his greatest masterpiece I and Thou. In 1925 Buber began translating the Hebrew Bible into German. Between 1926-28 Buber was the co-editor of the quarterly Die Kreatur ('The creature'). In 1930 Buber became an honorary professor at the University of Frankfurt. He resigned in protest from his professorship immediately after Hitler came to power in 1933. On October 4, 1933 he was forbidden by the Nazi autorities to give lectures. He then founded the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education which became an increasingly important body as Jews were forbidden from attending public education. This body was increasingly obstructed by the administration. Finally in 1938 Buber left Germany and settled in Jerusalem (then Palestine, now Israel). Buber received professorship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in anthropology and introduction into sociology. Buber participated in the discussion of the Jews' problems in Palestine and the question of the Arabs working out of his Biblical, philosophic and Hasidic work. He was 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 the war Buber began giving lectures and tours in Europe and the USA. In 1951 Buber received the Goethe award of the University of Hamburg and in 1953 the Peace Prize of the German Booktrade In 1958, his wife Paula died and in the same year he was awarded the Israel Prize. 1963 Buber was awarded the Erasmus Award in Amsterdam .

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