Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig were two of the most influential late 19th–early 20th century philosophers and theologians. Both were German Jews—Buber was born in Vienna (1878) and died in Israel (1965); Rosenzweig was born and died in Germany (1886–1929)—but they came from very different backgrounds and followed singular and independent paths as they developed their respective approaches to religion and the supreme being and giving meaning to an individiual’s life. Different as they were, they managed to become colleagues late in their lives. Rabbi David Nesson, spiritual leader of Morristown Jewish Center–Beit Yisrael (MJCBY) for over 30 years, will discuss these two unparalleled thinkers in a three-part Our Jewish World Clergy Learning Series on Thursdays, May 5, 12 and 19, at 1 p.m. Rabbi Nesson’s series, coordinated by Our Jewish World co-chairs Melanie Levitan and Ilene Dorf Manahan, will be presented over Zoom.

In the first session, Rabbi Nesson will introduce the extraordinary life story of Franz Rosenzweig, his “almost” conversion to Christianity, his Kol Nidre “Return to Judaism,” how he began his seminal work, The Star of Redemption while on the front lines of the Balkan war, and his extraordinary inner strength to continue to write while suffering from ALS (often is referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”).

In the second class, Rabbi Nesson will turn to the life of Martin Buber, especially how his young life, split between an Orthodox upbringing and his “enlightenment” education, led to his masterful work I and Thou. He will lead the class in exploring the main themes of that work and its impact on Jewish thought.

The third session will turn to the “crossroads” that brought Rosenzweig and Buber together, beginning at the Frankfurt Lehrhaus, and their collaboration on the new translation of the Bible into German. “Together, we will consider, as we go along, how very different and how remarkably alike their quest for meaning in their time was, and its implications for our own search for meaning today,” Rabbi Nesson noted.

A popular NCJW, West Morris speaker for his studiously researched presentations, Rabbi Nesson is known as a passionate speaker and educator. A supporter of Israel and of Jewish education, he has taught throughout the community as a Hirschhorn scholar and as a rabbinic fellow of the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1983, Rabbi Nesson also holds a master’s degree in Jewish education from JTS, graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the JTS in 2010.

There is no charge for the series, which is open to all. However, preregistration is required by e-mailing