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<< Return to SBL Forum Archive Lou H. Silberman, 1914-2006

Lou H. Silberman, President of the Society of Biblical Literature in 1982, died in Tucson on 6 June 2006 at the age of 91.

Professor Silberman, born 23 June 1914 in San Francisco, received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, before moving to Hebrew Union College where he earned the B.Heb.L. in 1939, the M.Heb.L. in 1941, and the D.Heb.L. in 1943. He served as rabbi in Omaha and Dallas. In 1952 he succeeded Samuel Sandmel at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and continued as Hillel Professor of Jewish Literature and Thought until his retirement in 1980. From 1980 until 2000 he held positions as Visiting and Adjunct Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona.

At Vanderbilt he helped to found the undergraduate Department of Religious Studies, which he then chaired from 1970 to 1976. In the early 1960s he played a key role in helping the university reach a resolution in the widely publicized affair involving civil rights leader and student James Lawson, who had been expelled from the university in 1960. In 1979 Silberman received Vanderbilt's Thomas Jefferson Award for distinguished service to the university.

Professor Silberman wrote, lectured, and taught on a variety of subjects ranging from the origins and rise of rabbinic Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, apocalyptic, New Testament, and the Talmud, to nineteenth and twentieth -century Jewish thought, post-Holocaust theology, and Jewish-Christian relations. Many students and young faculty members have benefited from his sagacious mentoring.

He was a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Society of New Testament Studies, the Jesus Seminar, and the American Association of Rabbis.

Two Festschriften have appeared in his honor: The Divine Helmsman: Studies on God's Control of Human Events, Presented to Lou H. Silberman, ed. James L. Crenshaw and Samuel Sandmel (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1980); and The Echoes of Many Texts: Reflections on Jewish and Christian Traditions: Essays in Honor of Lou H. Silberman, ed. William G. Dever and J. Edward Wright (Brown Judaic Studies, 313; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997).

A graveside service was scheduled for 8 June 2006 in the Congregation Anshei Israel section of Evergreen Cemetery, Tucson. He is survived by his daughter Syrl Silberman and son-in-law Saul Rubin of Arlington, MA; his granddaughter Amanda Cohn of Los Angeles; and a nephew and niece. He was predeceased by his wife Helen and daughter Deborah Cohn.

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