Ruth Blum, née Golomb (1946-2019)

Today I heard that Ruthi Blum passed away. Ruth was the wife of Old Testament professor Erhard Blum. I met both in 1981, when I moved from Kiel to Heidelberg. That year, together with my friend Andreas Brosch, I started taking Ivrit lessons with Ruth. As far as I recall we were her only students. The year of studying with Ruthi made it possible for me, in summer 1982, to enter the Ulpan at Hebrew University at Ramah “He” and, six weeks later, to graduate with a language exemption exam (“p’tor”). Those Hebrew lessons with Ruthi opened doors for me that allowed me to get where I am today. Hebrew language was key to go beyond university studies in Jerusalem. It allowed me to communicate with my Arab landlords in El Hardoub (yes, our common language was Hebrew); it allowed me to take a job, following my year of studies, in the Makhleket ha-Seminarim of  the Hanns Seidel Foundation in Jerusalem, where I worked in an entirely Hebrew-speaking environment and helped out in a variety of ways. (I once found an error in a hotel bill that saved the foundation lots of money.) I also heard lots of interesting gossip that would have escaped me without Hebrew. When I returned to Heidelberg, in the fall of 1983, I joined a community of German Jews and expatriate Israelis associated with the Hochschule für jüdische Studien who made me feel very much at home. Later on, in a small upper-level seminar with Rolf Rendtorff, my ability to read modern Hebrew made it possible for us to read our way through Yadin’s edition of the Temple Scroll, on which I wrote my first serious academic paper. Rendtorff was so impressed, he cited the paper in his Leviticus commentary and invited me to serve as his assistant. I asked him for a recommendation instead. Thanks to Rendtorff’s support Michael Fishbane invited me to study with him at Brandeis. A few years later, thanks to letters written for me by Rolf Rendtorff, Michael Fishbane, and others, I was invited to interview for a position in Bristol/England, which in turn allowed me to negotiate for a real job at Boston University. The rest is history. — You can understand now why I think it was Ruthi Blum who opened doors for me.

Ruthi was infinitely patient, she was amused by our eagerness. We were like sponges. In turn she fed us vocabulary, grammar, reading material, to feed our insatiable appetite for the Hebrew language. I loved those lessons more than anything. I still have the flashcards Andi and I made to test one another. My proudest moment came when, after returning from Israel, I was given the opportunity to teach the very same introductory Hebrew class Ruth had taught before.

May this short account attest to the impact Ruth Blum had on me. I would not be where I am now without Ruth Blum.