Canadian Jew. b: 1916, Halle, Germany. Cat: Rabbi and theologian. Ints: Metaphysics; philosophy of religion; existentialism; history of Jewish thought. Educ: Ordained rabbi, Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judenturns, 1939; emigrated to Canada, 1940; interned as ‘enemy alien’; University of Toronto 1943–5; PhD, 1945. Infls: German idealist philosophy, history of Jewish philosophy, Martin Buber, and his own experience of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust. Appts: Rabbi, Hamilton, Ontario, 1943–8; Lecturer, then Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto, 1945-; Fellow of Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1992–; various Honorary Degrees, LLD and DD.
Fackenheim’s PhD dealt with Greek influences on medieval Arabic philosophy, but he has a wide range of intellectual and practical interests. He is famous for attempting to come to terms with the Holocaust by positing an extra commandment to the 613 incumbent upon traditional Jews. His 614th commandment is not to give Hitler a posthumous victory. He advocates supporting the Jewish people, and by extension the State of Israel, at all times. Various religious and political criticisms have been levelled at this position. However, Fackenheim continues to draw large audiences wherever he goes, because of his refusal to ignore the philosophical dimensions of the destruction wrought by the Holocaust.
Sources: EncJud; NUC; DAS, 4, 1982, p. 149.
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