In Loving Memory – Rabbi Joshua O. Haberman

Rabbi Joshua Haberman, surrounded by loving family, passed away peacefully at his home on September 24, 2017. He is survived by his treasured wife of 73 years, Maxine Rudin Haberman; children Deborah (Rabbi Mayer) Perelmuter, Judy (Rabbi David Forman, of blessed memory), Daniel (Osna) Haberman, and Michael (Martha) Haberman; 15 grandchildren; and 22 great-grandchildren.

Born in Vienna in 1919, Rabbi Haberman was the son of Berta (Berger) and Isser Alter Haberman. He attended the University of Vienna and was enrolled in Vienna’s Jewish rabbinical seminary when, in 1938, the Nazi’s annexed Austria. An invitation by the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio enabled Rabbi Haberman to come to the United States, where he completed his studies (a B.A. from the University of Cincinnati) and received ordination in 1945 from Hebrew Union College. He received a Doctor of Hebrew Letters (DHL) degree in 1966 and a Doctor of Divinity (DD) degree in 1970.

Rabbi Haberman served four Reform congregations during a rabbinic career that spanned 72 years: Springhill Avenue Temple (formerly Congregation Sha’arei Shomayim) in Mobile, Alabama; Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo, New York; Har Sinai Temple in Trenton, New Jersey; and Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C., where he was elected Senior Rabbi in 1969. During his 18-year tenure as WHC’s fourth senior rabbi, he reintroduced the Congregation to many of the beautiful traditions that early Reform Judaism had discarded. His scholarship and love of learning enhanced the spirituality of the Congregation throughout his tenure. He also nurtured a growing connection between the Congregation and the State of Israel, was active in interfaith dialogue with Christians and Muslims, and preached at the White House and Congress on numerous occasions. In 1983, he created the Foundation for Jewish Studies. Upon his retirement from Washington Hebrew in 1986, he became Rabbi Emeritus and remained active in the Congregation as a beloved teacher, preacher, and spiritual leader.

He taught as an adjunct professor at Rutgers, American, George Washington, and Georgetown Universities, as well as at The Washington Theological Union (Catholic) and the Wesley Theological Seminary (Methodist).  Rabbi Haberman was a past president of The National Association of Retired Reform Rabbis and served on the Board of Fellows of the Jewish Policy Center.

Rabbi Haberman was the author of The Philosophy of Revelation: The Life and Thought of S. L. Steinheim; The God I Believe In: Conversations on Religion with 14 Leading Jewish Intellectuals; Healing Psalms: The Dialogues with God that Help You Cope with Life; Three Cities in the Making of a Rabbi: Vienna, Washington, and Jerusalem; and Facing the Crises of Life.

As a respected voice of Reform Judaism on the local, national, and international level, Rabbi Joshua Haberman touched the lives of countless individuals and, indeed, fulfilled the precept of tikkun olam, to make the world a better place.