Martin Mordechai Buber-biography
Martin Buber (Hebrew: מרטין בובר; February 8, 1878 – June 13, 1965) was an Austrian-born Jewish philosopher best known for his philosophy of dialogue, a form of religious existentialism centered on the distinction between the I-Thou relationship and the I-It relationship.
Born in Vienna, Buber came from a family of observant Jews, but broke with Jewish custom to pursue secular studies in philosophy. In 1902, Buber became the editor of the weekly Die Welt, the central organ of the Zionist movement, although he later withdrew from organizational work in Zionism. In 1923 Buber wrote his famous essay on existence, Ich und Du (later translated into English as I and Thou), and in 1925 he began translating the Hebrew Bible into the German language.
In 1930 Buber became an honorary professor at the University of Frankfurt am Main, and resigned in protest from his professorship immediately after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. He then founded the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education, which became an increasingly important body as the German government forbade Jews to attend public education. In 1938, Buber left Germany and settled in Jerusalem, in the British Mandate for Palestine, receiving a professorship at Hebrew University and lecturing in anthropology and introductory sociology.
Buber's wife Paula died in 1958, and he died at his home in the Talbiyeh neighborhood of Jerusalem on June 13, 1965.
Martin (Hebrew name: מָרְדֳּכַי, Mordechai) Buber was born in Vienna to an Orthodox Jewish family. His grandfather, Solomon Buber, in whose house in Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine) Buber spent much of his childhood, was a renowned scholar of Midrash and Rabbinic Literature. At home Buber spoke Yiddish and German. In 1892, Buber returned to his father's house in Lemberg. A personal religious crisis led him to break with Jewish religious customs: he started reading Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The latter two, in particular, inspired him to pursue studies in philosophy. In 1896, Buber went to study in Vienna (philosophy, art history, German studies, philology). In 1898, he joined the Zionist movement, participating in congresses and organizational work. In 1899, while studying in Zürich, Buber met his future wife, Paula Winkler, a non-Jewish Zionist writer from Munich who later converted to Judaism.
Buber's evocative, sometimes poetic writing style has marked the major themes in his work: the retelling of Hasidic tales, Biblical commentary, and metaphysical dialogue. A cultural Zionist, Buber was active in the Jewish and educational communities of Germany and Israel. He was also a staunch supporter of a binational solution in Palestine, and after the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, of a regional federation of Israel and Arab states. His influence extends across the humanities, particularly in the fields of social psychology, social philosophy, philosophical anarchism, and religious existentialism.
Approaching Zionism from his own personal viewpoint, Buber disagreed with Theodor Herzl about the political and cultural direction of Zionism. Herzl envisioned the goal of Zionism in a nation-state, but did not consider Jewish culture or religion necessary. In contrast, Buber believed the potential of Zionism was for social and spiritual enrichment. Herzl and Buber would continue, in mutual respect and disagreement, to work towards their respective goals for the rest of their lives. In 1902, Buber became the editor of the weekly Die Welt, the central organ of the Zionist movement. However a year later Buber became involved with the Jewish Hasidism movement. Buber admired how the Hasidic communities actualized their religion in daily life and culture. In stark contrast to the busy Zionist organizations, which were always mulling political concerns, the Hasidim were focused on the values which Buber had long advocated for Zionism to adopt. 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).
Martin Buber's House (1916-1938) in Heppenheim, Germany. Now the headquarters of the ICCJ.
Literary and academic career
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 famous essay on existence, Ich und Du (later translated into English as I and Thou). Though he edited the work later in his life, he refused to make substantial changes. In 1925 he began, in conjunction with Franz Rosenzweig, 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 Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. On 4 October 1933 the Nazi authorities forbade him to lecture. In 1935 he was expelled from the Reichsschrifttumskammer (the National Socialist authors' association). He then founded the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education, which became an increasingly important body as the German government forbade Jews to attend public education. The Nazi administration increasingly obstructed this body. Finally, in 1938, Buber left Germany and settled in Jerusalem, then capital of Mandate Palestine. He received a professorship at Hebrew University there, 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 group Ichud, which aimed at a bi-national state for Arabs and Jews in Palestine. Such a binational confederation was viewed by Buber as a more proper fulfillment of Zionism than a solely Jewish state. In 1946 he published his work Paths in Utopia, in which he detailed his communitarian socialist views and his theory of the "dialogical community" founded upon interpersonal "dialogical relationships". After World War II Buber began giving lecture-tours in Europe and the USA.
- In 1951, Buber received the Goethe award of the University of Hamburg.
- In 1953, he received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.
- In 1958, he was awarded the Israel Prize in the humanities.
- In 1961, he was awarded the Bialik Prize for Jewish thought.
- In 1963, he won the Erasmus Prize in Amsterdam.