I and Thou (Ich und Du), the best known philosophical work of Martin Buber (February 8, 1878 – June 13, 1965), was published in 1923. I and Thou presents Buber’s philosophy of dialogue, the idea that humans relate to objects/people from the perspective of either I-You (which has mutual engagement) or I-It (in which one or both participants is objectified).

I and Thou was not Buber’s only philosophical tract. In fact, Buber was involved in far more than just philosophy. Born in Vienna, he was raised by his grandparents in Lvov, Poland.

In 1896, Buber began his philosophical studies in Vienna, where he met Theodore Herzl and was introduced to Zionism. Buber supported the call for the creation of a Jewish state, but after working as the editor for Die Welt (the main Zionist paper), he began exploring other Zionistic factions and eventually supported the idea of a bi-national state in Palestine.

In the early 20th century, Buber developed his interest in the Chassidim. He was intrigued and impressed by the Chassidim’s complete integration of Judaism into every aspect of their lives. He went on to publish several collections of great Chassidic tales.

Buber was very focused on Jewish life. During World War I he established the Jewish National Commission to help the Jews of Eastern Europe. He edited the Jewish monthly Der Jude. He befriended Franz Rosenzweig, with whom he worked on creating a famed translation of the Bible in German.

Although Buber was given an honorary professorship at the University of Frankfurt am Main, he resigned three years later when Hitler came to power. In 1935 he created the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education and began teaching full time at Rosenzweig’s “The House of Jewish Learning” (Der Lehrhaus). In 1938 Buber emigrated to Palestine and began teaching at Hebrew University. Buber continued teaching, lecturing and writing until his death in 1965.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.