In Memoriam: A. Thomas Kraabel (1934-2016)

ICS marks the passing on 2 November 2016 of Professor A. Thomas Kraabel, who collaborated with ICS founder Estelle S. Brettman on the organization of the international panel "Diaspora Judaism Under the Roman Empire: Recent Archaeological Evidence," at the American Institute of Archaeology's Annual Conference in Boston in 1979. Invited panel speakers were Prof. Cesare Colafemmina on the Jewish Catacombs of Venosa; Prof. Dean L. Moe on the synagogue at Stobi; Prof. A. T. Kraabel on Jewish Communities of Western Asia Minor; and Prof. Eric M. Meyers on Gailean Synagogues and the Eastern Diaspora, with Prof. Jacob Neusner as respondent.  As AIA Boston Program Director, Brettman helped to raise funds for Prof. Colafemmina's travel expenses and speaking engagements around Boston.  Her exhibit, "Vaults of Memory: Jewish and Christian Imagery in the Catacombs of Rome," (link) also made its debut at the Boston Public Library at this time as a featured event during the AIA conference. ICS reprints below Kraabel's AIA panel abstract, both as a tribute to his fine scholarship and as a sign of support for his view that much work remained to be done.

"The study of Diaspora Judaism, the Jews under Roman rule but outside ancient Palestine, has long been only a "related field" for classical archaeology - which stresses "classical" sites and problems - and for Biblical Studies and Jewish Studies, which tend to focus on other geographical areas or time periods.  The latter also favors other kinds of evidence, chiefly religious texts, while the data for Diaspora Judaism are chiefly archaeological.In the last quarter-century, several major new sites have been discovered, and the reexamination of previously known evidence has progressed substantially.  Presently, major initiatives are underway to preserve and record endangered sites and other evidence from the Diaspora, chiefly in Italy and Egypt.  Beginning with the new data, this colloquium attempts to view Diaspora Judaism in its own right, in order to more fully understand it as at the same time (his emphasis) an important phenomenon of the society of the Roman Empire, and an authentic and creative expression of ancient Jewish culture and religion. The newest evidence is coming from Italy, where some of the most ancient Diaspora communities were located; the major presentation, by Prof. Cesare Colafemmina, deals with some of this material, nearly all not yet published.  The next three speakers summarize the results of their own excavations and related sites.  Prof. Neusner, dean of academic Jewish studies in North America, assesses the new archaeological evidence against the background of the larger context of the Judaism of Late Antiquity, known previously chiefly from rabbinic writings. The concluding discussion permits responses from the previous speakers and from the floor."