May 19, 2004 by

Samuel Iwry


Categories: Education, Religious Leaders

siwry.jpgSamuel Iwry, one of the leading authorities on the Dead Sea Scrolls, died on May 8 of a stroke. He was 93.
Born and raised in Poland, Iwry was a direct descendant of Rebbe Israel Shem Tov, the founder of Judaism’s Hasidic Movement. He graduated from Warsaw University, the Higher Institute for Judaic Studies and the Teachers College of Wilno, then left the country in 1939 to escape the Nazis.
In 1941, Iwry was recruited by future Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to serve in Shanghai as the Far East representative for the Jewish Agency for Palestine. While helping refugees escape and return to Palestine, Iwry was imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese occupying forces. He was rescued by Nina Rochman, a hospital administrator who persuaded local authorities to release Iwry for medical treatment.
Samuel and Nina married in 1946 and immigrated to America. Once settled in Baltimore, Iwry worked on his doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University under archaeologist William Foxwell Albright. His traditional Jewish education and knowledge of Semitic languages proved useful when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. After intense study, he and Albright became the first scholars to identify and authenticate the ancient religious texts. They also wrote the first doctoral dissertation on the scrolls.
Iwry instructed literature students at Baltimore Hebrew College from 1947 to 1985, and spent four decades teaching Near Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins until his retirement in 1991. Iwry’s autobiography, “To Wear the Dust of War: From Warsaw to Shanghai to the Promised Land,” will be published in August.

2 Responses to Samuel Iwry

  1. Alan Tischler

    Dr. Iwry was my professor at the Baltimore Hebrew College in the late 1960s for modern Hebrew literature and Biblical archaeology. He also taught me at the University of Maryland, College Park in the fall of 1970 in modern Hebrew literature. He was a wonderful teacher. He knew how to recreate the times of Poland and Palestine in the classroom to bring literature to life.

  2. Steven Fine

    I am saddened to hear of the death of my friend and former colleague Sam Iwry. From the moment I came to Baltimore Hebrew University, almost a decade ago, Sam was supportive of me as a junior colleague and as a friend. As the Jewish Times’ recent obituary so vividly shows, Sam represented an age gone by. From his studies with the Hafetz Hayyim in Radin to university life, from Zionism to Baltimore Hebrew College, Sam lived every phase of Jewish life during what was undoubtedly one of the most torturous and creative centuries in Jewish history. With his passing at 93, so pass important aspects of the Jewish experience in the 20th century into the history books. I shall always value his kind smile, vast erudition, and sparkling Maskilishe Hebrew. May Sam Iwry’s memory be a blessing to all of us, ye-hi zikhro barukh.
    Steven Fine,
    Jewish Foundation Professor of Judaic Studies,
    University of Cincinnati

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