Rabbi Michael Signer (1945-2008)
Rabbi Michael Signer died on January 10 at age 63 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Rabbi Signer was an educator, rabbi-scholar and leader in the Jewish-Catholic dialogue and widely respected in Jewish and Christian circles. He completed his studies at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Cincinnati where he mentored under the great Talmudist scholar of Hellensitic Literature, Ben Zion Wacholder. After completing his thesis under the direction of Dr. Wacholder, Michael attended the Center for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto where he pursued a degree in Latin under the tutelage of Father Leonard Boyle, the former Chief Librarian at the Vatican. Michael began his professional career at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, where he served as professor of History from 1974-1991. While in Los Angeles, he was one of the founders of the inter-seminarian program exchange between St. James Major Seminary and Hebrew Union College. He joined the Theology faculty at the University of Notre Dame in 1992 as the first Abrams Professor of Jewish Thought and Culture. At Notre Dame, he became a senior fellow of the medieval Institute, a faculty fellow at the Nanovic Center for European Studies and the Center for Social Concerns, and director of the Notre Dame Holocaust Project that designs educational programs for students to engage in the study of the Shoah.
Rabbi Singer was one of the four authors of the statement, “Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity,” released in 2000 and subsequently signed by more than 220 rabbis and scholars from all branches of Judaism. “Dabru Emet” (derived from the phrase, “speak the truth to one another” in Zechariah 8:16) affirmed the progress in Catholic-Jewish relations made largely possible by Christian initiatives and challenged Jewish participants in the dialogue to take similar initiatives for moving the dialogue forward. He was the author and editor of more than fifty articles and of six books on topics ranging from medieval Latin biblical commentaries to current Christian-Jewish relations.