December 3

Obituary for Richard Jonas Scheuer

By asor

Remembrance by Past ASOR President Eric M. Meyers (posted December 2, 2008):

Richard Jonas Scheuer, z”l
July 14, 1907 – November 9, 2008

Dick Scheuer was one of ASOR’s holy trinity, along with our Board chair, P.E. MacAllister, and the late Charles Harris, past ASOR treasurer and longtime CAARI President. Dick was also an indefatigable supporter of the Albright Institute in Jerusalem within the ASOR family. As the 2007 recipient of the Richard J. Scheuer ASOR Medal one of the first things I did after receiving the award was to call Dick at home and he was absolutely thrilled with my selection. We reminisced about our long association and friendship and we talked about the future: how the archaeology of the region of the Middle East would take shape over the next years and how it might affect the peace process to which we were deeply committed. Dick Scheuer was a man of great insight and foresight; he knew what we did in Jerusalem and in the region was of great moment and would influence the politics of the region for good or for bad for a very long time.

My wife Carol and I got to know Dick when we were fellows at the HUC in Jerusalem in 1964-65 when we were enrolled at the College and participated in the 1964 seminar on biblical archaeology. Our guide in the Negev was Nelson Glueck, and Frank Cross was outgoing Director of the school and our teacher in the summer seminar at HUC, later to be known as the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology. Frank Cross was succeeded in the fall of 1964 by G. Ernest Wright. It was in that fall that the excavations of ancient Gezer began and Carol and I were part of the original staff on the team till 1969. During these years we came to love the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem and got to know Dick and Nelson as the College embarked on a unique expansion of its Israel program. One of the things I remember most vividly from this time is the vision and commitment of Dick and Nelson to making a Jerusalem experience and the Jerusalem school a requirement and major part of the Reform Jewish experience, a requirement that went into effect in 1970. The new campus on 13 King David Street is in great measure the result of Dick’s efforts and he was responsible for the hiring of the famed Israeli architect, Moshe Safdie, to draw plans for the expansion of the campus that was completed in 1986 and was featured in the Venice Biennale of 1991. Dick’s efforts in behalf of HUC and the city of Jerusalem were recognized in Israel when he was awarded the highest honor of the city: “Yakir of Jerusalem,” Beloved and Honorary Fellow of Jerusalem, an honor bestowed on only a select few. Dick was chair of the HUC Board of Governors from 1983-1990 but served on its Board from 1962.

Dick was also a lover of his alma mater, Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1939 in Classics. In recent years he was instrumental in the campaign to build a new Hillel house at Harvard. Thirty years after his graduation from the College he graduated from New York University with an MA in Near Eastern History and Archaeology, which led him to his profound love and commitment to the archeology of the land of Israel and of the greater Middle East. His support of ASOR and ASOR publications and the Gezer publications led the director of the Albright Institute, Sy Gitin, to comment: “He believed that if it wasn’t published, it was as if it was never excavated.” Dick Scheuer knew what it meant to be involved in archaeology and he challenged all of us to respond to its demands with all due efforts.

Dick also loved Jewish art and served as chairman of the Board of the Jewish Museum in New York City from 1971-79 during which time I taught several courses there commuting from North Carolina. Dick’s involvement with Jewish museums led him to help support the creation of the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles and to establish the Art Committee for HUC-JIR New York’s campus, a committee on which he served until his death. In 1979 he helped launch the organization of American Jewish Museums. Dick was also an avid sailor and with his wife Joan raced a 210 class sailboat on Long Island Sound.

These details are but a snippet of the long and productive life of one of ASOR’s and AIAR’s angels, and one of the giants of those who have supported and participated in the expansion, growth, and maturation of biblical archeology. Richard Jonas Scheuer was a man of rare talent and energy and saw in the day-to-day workings of ASOR and AIAR the workings of something very special that could translate into a new vision of the Middle East as we know it. Dick was up to the minute about every detail of the Middle East peace process and was as downcast as the next person when terrorism struck. But as a student of ancient Near Eastern history and culture he knew full well that better times would come and that an all-inclusive organization such as ASOR was best poised to help us realize a Middle East in which all parties could participate. While he did not live to see this happen, he at least saw in his mind’s eye the hope all of us in ASOR share: that one day not in the too distant future, all peoples of the region would search into their past to rediscover their present and their future, just as HUC had done when it set down its roots in Jerusalem.

We in ASOR will miss Dick Scheuer for his vision, for his generosity of spirit, for his undying support for the Albright, and for all the nitty gritty things that ASOR has to do in order to fulfill Dick’s dream that each dig in order to be a successful one must be one that publishes its results in a readable and timely way.

Dick was truly an angel, and because of that status he is still watching over us today and encouraging us to get over the current crisis and move ahead by making the past a road-sign to a better future. Dick: we miss you sorely and will never forget you. May you rest in peace and watch over us as we seek to do what you have always urged us to do.
Eric M. Meyers

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