Obituary: Judith Zabarenko Adams

Sarah Imhoff's picture
H-Judaic mourns the untimely passing of Rabbi Dr. Judith Zabarenko Abrams (1958-2014) who passed away from a heart attack on Wednesday.  Abrams, a frequent participant on this list, was a comparative latecomer to Jewish study.  Inspired by a semester studying in Soviet-era Leningrad, where she met Jews in synagogue and on the streets, she entered Hebrew Union College with practically no background, and rapidly displayed the brilliance which characterized her entire career: she graduated top of her class.  Her rabbinic thesis, on the image of America in the Russian-Language Jewish press, was published in American Jewish History (1986) and in Qesher (1988).  Abrams received her Ph.D. in Rabbinic Literature from Baltimore Hebrew University in 1993 for her dissertation, published under the title Judaism and Disability: Portrayals in Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli (1998). Moving to Houston, she soon embarked on a career as a teacher and writer.  She pioneered online teaching of Talmud to adults through her website MAQOM ( and she authored some 23 books for grownups and children, mostly dealing with rabbinics. Her most recent contribution, The Other Talmud (Jewish Lights) appeared in 2012.  Abrams won the Covenant Award for her teaching in 1999 and for that occasion penned a valuable autobiographical sketch of her career which captures both her humor and her motivations (   Tragically, Abrams was plagued for many years with health problems. She remained a tireless student and teacher throughout her career, and will be sorely missed by colleagues and friends.  Deepest condolences to her husband, Dr. Steven Abrams, and her three children.


​Chair, H-Judaic​


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