Israel Prize laureate Prof. Yeshayahu Charles Liebman died at his Petah Tikva home yesterday. He was 69. Liebman was considered one of the most important researchers into the culture and political behavior of Jews in Israel and the United States.
Born into a Zionist family in New York, Liebman completed his high school studies at the Herzliya Gymnasium in Tel Aviv. In 1952, he returned to the U.S. to further his studies and later taught at Yeshiva University in New York.
In 1969, he returned to Israel and founded the Political Science department at Bar-Ilan University where he remained as a researcher until his death. Over the years, he was a guest researcher at Yale, Brown, Michigan and Chicago universities.
Liebman's studies and research covered a wide range of subjects, ranging from local government in the U.S., to the sociology of the Jews of America and relations between secular and religious Jews in Israeli society. He received the Israel Prize earlier this year for his contribution to the study of political science. He was cited as one of the pioneers in researching the symbols and myths of Israeli society.
Prof. Eliezer Don-Yihye of Bar-Ilan, with whom Liebman co-authored a book on "The Civilian Religion in Israel," described Liebman last night as "a moral person, a man of principles who stuck to his own inner truth." In their book, published in 1983, the two described the Zionist movement as an attempt to find a replacement for Judaism as a binding force.
Prof. Moshe Lissak of the Hebrew University last night said that Liebman was "a renowned scholar, original and independent. He applied the American term `civilian religion' in a brilliant way to Israeli society." Lissak added that "as a Jew who wore a skullcap, Liebman was impressive in his humanistic approach."
Over the past few years, Liebman also involved himself in various public issues such as intermarriage in the United States, conversion in Israel and the implications of the Rabin assassination on Israeli society.
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