March 4, 2004 • Volume 12 Number 12
Former BC Theologian Rabbi Neiman Dies
Rabbi David Neiman, who became the first Jewish professor of theology at a Catholic university when he accepted an appointment at Boston College in 1966, died Feb. 22 in Los Angeles. He was 82.
An archeologist and scholar in Bible studies, Jewish history and Catholic-Jewish relations, Rabbi Neiman in 1963 was on the faculty at Brandeis University - where he had organized a scholarly meeting on Biblical literature - when a group of Catholic priests asked him if he would be interested in teaching at a Catholic seminary. Three years later, he was offered an appointment as associate professor of Jewish theology at Boston College.
Assoc. Prof. Thomas Wangler (Theology) recalled Rabbi Neiman as a colleague who helped expand the scope of enquiry and scholarship in theology at BC at an opportune moment.
"David came to BC only a few years after the Second Vatican Council at a time when there was an atmosphere of greater inclusiveness and efforts were made to find outstanding Jewish, women and lay scholars," said Wangler.
Rabbi Neiman was able to attract some financial support for Jewish studies and related activities, Wangler said, including a scholarship fund that enabled BC students to go to Israel.
"David had a unique position here, and was able to open some important doors," said Wangler.
In 1971 Rabbi Neiman was invited to teach a course at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, the world's leading Jesuit institute. He taught a course on the Jewish background to the New Testament to a class of post-graduate priests and nuns and conducted a Passover seder for more than 200 people.
A native of Novgorod-Seversk, Russia, Rabbi Neiman was the author of The Book of Job, Domestic Relations in Antiquity, and the forthcoming Mink Shmink - The Influence of Yiddish on the American Language, part of a comprehensive study of the history of the Jewish languages. His daughter Becky recorded his lectures, and produced a series on compact disc. He amassed an extensive library of Jewish literature, history, and religion, as well as collections focusing on the Catholic church, the popes and other related topics, which was donated to the Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue in Encino, Calif.
Rabbi Neiman retired from Boston College in 1991, but continued his work as rabbi of Congregation Beth Zion in Brookline. He later taught Yiddish at Touro College in Moscow and was visiting professor of religion at Boston University before moving to Los Angeles in 1998.
Rabbi Neiman was married to Israeli native Shulamith Dubno, a singer and guitarist, who died in 1975. He is survived by his daughters Rachel, Rina and Becky. A memorial service was held in Los Angeles at Valley Beth Shalom. Burial was at a family plot in New Jersey.
-Sean Smith •