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Moshe Dror, Futurist Rabbi

By  Mel Alexenberg.  Moshe Dror was my hevrutah (study partner) since we first began studying together 38 years ago. Moshe’s passing is my great loss. I have never known another person with whom I could share in creatively exploring the dynamic interface between Jewish thought, art, media ecology, futurism, new technologies and human consciousness. Moshe’s interdisciplinary imagination and analytic brilliance always made my studying with him intellectually stimulating and a joyous romp through multiple worlds. His cognitive powers were enriched by his kindness, sensitivity and sense of humor.

 

Dr. Rabbi Moshe Dror

I was working in the turkey coops at Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi in 1973 when I received a letter offering me a professorship in art and education at Columbia University that I accepted. On the bus from Teaneck to my office at Columbia, I read that a Rabbi Moshe Davidowitz had founded a Center for Art and Jewish Life. I phoned him. We met and spoke about our mutual interests. It was immediately obvious that we had to become a hevrutah for walking together along unpaved paths of torah study. We met each week alternating between Columbia and his office at NYU. We began at the beginning with first verse of Bereshit (Genesis). Four years later when our paths diverged, we had advanced to the middle of parshat Bereshit.
I moved back to Israel with my wife Miriam and our three children to Yeroham, a dusty town isolated in the Negev desert mountains where I founded a regional college. Moshe moved from his houseboat in the Hudson River to a villa overlooking Lake Geneva to accept a two-year role as president of the international humanistic psychology association. We met in the summer in New York. I asked Moshe about his plans after his two years in Switzerland. He said that he planned to return to NYU unless a more interesting opportunity arose. I invited him to come to Yeroham to work with me on building the college there.
The following spring, my secretary Simcha told me I had a call from an American named Moshe. He asked if my offer was a serious one. As soon as I said it was, he replied that he’d come before Rosh Hashanah and that I should find him an interesting place to live. Having been on his houseboat, Miriam was upset that I had invited him to Yeroham sight unseen. The clue that he had no idea what he was getting himself into was his housing request. The only housing in town was in run-down Soviet-style buildings. Moshe lived with Miriam and me for a month until a small apartment became available.
We returned to studying together, created an educational program on art in Jewish life, co-authored a paper “Educating a Jewish Artist” that was published in Hebrew, and built a new arts building at the college. However, the brightest happening at the college was the blossoming love between Moshe and Simcha. We celebrated their wedding at the college. Every time Moshe spoke to me or Miriam for nearly three decades, he thanked us for our matchmaking that brought him so much happiness with Simcha and her daughters who Moshe adopted. Miriam and I became parents to Moshe Yehuda in Yeroham 18 years after our youngest son Ron was born.
After seven years in Yeroham, I accepted a position at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Moshe and I worked together to create the exhibition “LightsOROT: Spiritual Dimensions of the Electronic Age” at MIT for Yeshiva University Museum. Moshe flew to the States for our planning sessions at the YU Museum. In 1990, I was invited to be dean of New World School at the Arts in Miami. A few years later, Moshe, Simcha and their three girls came to live in Florida. They would babysit for our little Moshe Yehuda.
In 2000, Miriam and I joined Moshe Yehuda when he decided to return to Israel to serve in the IDF. Moshe and I renewed our dialogue by phone, Internet, and in meetings when Miriam and I visited our son Ron and his family in Yeroham and when Moshe took the train to Petah Tikva. I wrote about Moshe’s collaboration with me in “LightsOROT” in my 2008 book on digital art and Jewish thought. The editor of Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press chose to print Moshe’s review on the back cover and front page of my 2011 book The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness. Moshe was at work on an essay to have been included in an anthology Zionist Artists in a Networked World that I am editing. The world will miss his highly original insights.

 

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