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obituaries

Rabbi David Hartman dies at 81

Hartman

– Rabbi David Hartman, one of the world’s leading Jewish philosophers who promoted both Jewish pluralism and interfaith dialogue, has died. He was 81.

The Shalom Hartman Institute, founded by the rabbi more than 30 years ago, said Hartman died Sunday after a long illness.

The Brooklyn-born Hartman was known for bringing a more liberal Judaism to the conservative brand commonplace in Israel, where he moved in 1971 after holding rabbinical posts in the U.S. and Canada.

He is praised for having developed a unique Jewish philosophy which positioned man at the center of Judaism, opening the door to a more tolerant approach that took personal choice and experience into greater account.

Hartman’s line of thought places man in a dialogue with God, rather than as an obedient, unquestioning worshipper.

Hartman’s death comes amid an ongoing clash between the more liberal streams of Reform and Conservative Judaism and Israel’s strict, ultra-Orthodox establishment, which has growing political power and has become increasingly resistant to any inroads by those movements. The liberal streams are demanding more recognition for their traditions in Israel, where they are marginal, although they predominate among American Jews, the largest group of the Jewish diaspora.

Chinese champion of table tennis dies

Zhuang Zedong, a key figure in 1971’s groundbreaking “pingpong diplomacy” between China and the U.S., died Sunday in Beijing, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. He was 72 and had struggled with cancer since 2008.

A three-time world champion in table tennis, Zhuang won new fame by presenting a gift to American player Glenn Cowan, who had inadvertently boarded a bus carrying the Chinese team at the World Championships in Nagoya, Japan, in 1971.

Zhuang and Cowan were photographed together, creating an international sensation at a time when China and the U.S. were bitter Cold War rivals.

Under orders from Chinese leader Mao Zedong, the 15-member American team was then invited to China at the end of the Nagoya championships for an ice-breaking visit.

Ten months later, President Richard Nixon made a surprise visit to China, leading to the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1979.

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