A Zionist and a Philosopher

The Fellowship  |  February 10, 2021

Martin Buber - 1961
Martin Buber - 1961

Known best for his essay I and Thou, Israeli You Should Know Martin Buber worked at translating the Hebrew Bible into German and received many nominations for a Nobel Prize.

Born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Vienna, Austria, Martin Buber learned from his grandfather, a scholar of religious Jewish literature. Speaking both Yiddish and German growing up, Buber later studied German in college in Vienna, as well as philosophy, art, and philology.

At the age of 20, Buber joined the burgeoning Zionist movement, and a year later met his wife, Paula Winkler. Although a professor in Frankfurt before World War II, Buber resigned after Hitler came to power. He then founded the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education, an extremely important group after the Nazis banned Jews from being educated.

However, in 1938, Buber left Nazi Germany and made aliyah (immigrated to the Holy Land), where he settled in Jerusalem and became a professor at Hebrew University.

Throughout his career, Buber fiercely advocated his Zionist beliefs, both before and after his move to Israel. He also advocated for education and peace in the Holy Land.

During the First World War, he helped found the Jewish National Committee, in order to help the Jews of Eastern Europe, and after Israel gained her independence in 1948, he worked for the Jewish state’s participation in the larger international scene.

Perhaps Buber’s most famous work, his philosophical essay I and Thou, reflects on the relationship between a human and our God.

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