New prize established in honor of legendary professor Nahum Glatzer

Nahum Glatzer in his Brandeis office. Courtesy of the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University

By David E. Nathan

To both his students and colleagues, Professor Nahum Glatzer, H’73, represented the Brandeis ideal: an eminent scholar as committed to teaching and mentoring his students as he was to pursuing his own research.

Thanks to a $250,000 gift from Susan Feigenbaum ’74 and Jay Pepose ’75, MA’75, P’08, P’17, Glatzer’s impact on a generation of Brandeis professors and students will be memorialized through the establishment of an endowment to create the Nahum Glatzer Teaching Scholar Prize. The prize, which will bestow a $10,000 prize and commemorative medal on the recipient, will recognize tenured Brandeis faculty who are outstanding teachers and scholars, and exhibit the humility, kindness, integrity and good humor that characterized Glatzer’s interactions with his students and colleagues.

“We thank Susan and Jay for this special gift, which allows us to honor Brandeis faculty members who share legendary teaching scholar Nahum Glatzer’s dual commitment to his students and his scholarship,” Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz said. “As Brandeis alumni and parents (David ’08 and Morissa ’17), Susan and Jay have a special appreciation for the unique bonds that Brandeis students tend to develop with their faculty mentors.”

One of Glatzer’s former Brandeis students, Jonathan D. Sarna ’75, MA’75, University Professor and the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, will chair the faculty committee that will review Glatzer Prize nominations. The prize will typically be presented in alternate years.

“I am deeply honored to chair a prize bearing the name of Professor Glatzer,” Sarna said. “He was an unforgettable teacher, scholar and personality; a friend of the great writer Franz Kafka and the great philosophers Franz Rosenzweig and Martin Buber; and a central figure on this campus until his retirement. To me, he epitomizes the European heritage that made Brandeis so distinctive back in the years when Susan, Jay and I studied here as undergraduates.”

Glatzer, who died in 1990 at the age of 86, taught at Brandeis from 1950 until 1973, the year he earned an honorary degree from the University. He chaired the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies for 11 years.

Feigenbaum, herself a professor and prominent teacher-scholar in the field of economics, says that she “majored in Glatzer” while completing her dual majors in Near Eastern and Judaic tudies and economics at Brandeis. Glatzer’s “humility, deep respect for students and their ideas, and his understated way of conveying his incredible insights” has made him a role model for her career.

“Professor Glatzer drew from his European training to promote the traditional goals of a liberal arts education, focusing on students’ creativity, critical thinking and communication skills,” she says. “He was genuinely interested in his students, both in and outside of the classroom.

“In an era that often ignores faculty who invest enormous time in mentoring their students, my husband, Jay, and I are so very pleased to have this opportunity to recognize current and future Brandeis faculty who share Professor Glatzer’s vision.”

Feigenbaum and Pepose have long been generous donors to their alma mater. In 2009, they made a gift through the Lifelong Vision Foundation that created a $1 million endowment to fund the annual Jay Pepose ’75 Award in Vision Sciences and support graduate research fellowships in vision science.

Glatzer was born in Lemberg, Austria, and pursued his PhD at the University of Frankfurt under the guidance of famed philosopher Martin Buber. Glatzer succeeded Buber as a lecturer on Jewish religious history and ethics at the university, but he fled to Palestine with his wife in 1933 as Hitler came to power. He taught literature in Haifa before moving to the United States in 1938.

Glatzer authored more than 250 books and articles on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from Franz Kafka to Jewish prayer. He edited several English translations of Kafka’s works as well as books by Israeli Nobel Prize laureate S.Y. Agnon, philosopher Franz Rosenzweig and Buber.

He also taught at the College of Jewish Studies, Hebrew Theological College, Hebrew Teacher’s College, Yeshiva University and Boston University. He received honorary degrees from Brandeis, the University of Southern California and the University of Florida.

Categories: Giving, Faculty
Date: August 24, 2017