“The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.”-Moses Hadas

This morning I learned about someone I had never heard of before…Moses Hadas, Scholar, former Columbia University Professor, Family Man, Spiritual Leader, Writer, Translator.

Although he was known as a quiet, even shy man, Moses Hadas made his presence felt at the College as a prolific scholar and as one of the College’s truly great teachers. A classicist by training, he began teaching as an instructor in the General Honors course in 1925, and except for brief service in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, he stayed at Columbia for the rest of his career, remaining one of the College’s most sought-after teachers until his death in 1966. Born in Atlanta, Hadas received his bachelor’s degree from Emory University in 1922, and came to Columbia to do advanced work in Greek and Latin literature. Even as his own academic accomplishments mounted, Hadas continued to embrace undergraduate education. After teaching General Honors, he taught the Colloquium on Important Books; he was one of the original teachers of Humanities A and continued to teach it for years. It was said of Hadas that he “always had enough time to discuss anything of humane interest with the demanding young.” Little wonder that, as a teacher, he was often mentioned in the same breath as Mark Van Doren.”Columbia College Faculty Profiles

His daughter, Rachel Hadas, wrote a loving bio on him for Columbia University in 2001 and the information below is from that text:

“Moses Hadas was raised in Atlanta in an Orthodox household by Yiddish-speaking parents and trained as a rabbi (he graduated from Jewish Theological Seminary in 1926 and completed his doctorate in classics in 1930); later in life he continued to fulfill the rabbinical function of performing wedding ceremonies, specializing in marriages, like his own second one, between Jews and Gentiles. Thus not only in his teaching, translating, and scholarship but also in his own life, Hadas was a bridge builder who crossed his own bridges; a mapper of cultures who especially enjoyed seeing where traditions converged. His linguistic talent (Yiddish, German, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Italian, and add later some Spanish, Dutch, Modern Greek, and Hebrew as he experienced it spoken in Israel) was mirrored by a remarkable cultural fluency.

Hadas was praised by his colleague Jacques Barzun ’27C ’32SGSAS as belonging “to that ancient time when scholars loved to teach, knew how to write, and developed personalities without effort,” his distinctively multicultural interests and identity make him look, from my perspective now in 2001, more like a man ahead of his time. Hadas was also ahead of his time in his populist instinct. A crucial—perhaps the crucial—theme of his career was the urge to transmit the classical legacy, in the widest sense of the term, to as wide an audience as possible—certainly an audience outside the classrooms of Columbia College. Thus mid–century technology allowed him to reach a television audience; he spoke about the classical legacy on Channel 13 and traveled to Israel with Eric Sevareid in 1965 for a program about the Shrine of the Book. And in 1963, in a pilot program conducted under the auspices of the Ford Foundation, Hadas delivered lectures on classical civilization by telephone to several Southern black colleges, including Grambling State University. (Partial tapes and transcripts of these lectures survive; it is a chapter of his career worth reexploring, and more surprising than the fact that Hadas corresponded with Robert Graves about Greek mythology and with Mary Renault about the way Euripides’ Medea hisses her s’s.)”

Moses Hadas was born today, June 25th in 1900.
















3 thoughts on ““The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.”-Moses Hadas

  1. It sounds like Moses Hadas was a truly amazing individual. You just have to respect someone who has an open mind and a never ending quest for knowledge. Then finds the time to use that to teach and help others. Thanks for the insight, I’ll have to look him up when I find some time.

    Survive Reality, Live the Dream

  2. Great article, I never heard his name before.
    Moses Hadas is the kind of person that I’m looking to recognize on the Jewish Hall of Fame on my blog. If it’s okay with you, I’ll list the source as your blog.
    Best regards,

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