May 14, 1998
Vol. 17, No. 16

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    In memoriam: J. Coert Rylaarsdam

    Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School A memorial service for J. Coert Rylaarsdam (Ph.D.'44), Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School, will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, May 29, in Bond Chapel. Rylaarsdam died March 25 in Chicago. He was 91.

    Rylaarsdam, who joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1945 as Assistant Professor of Old Testament Studies, was a leading young scholar in the area of Hebrew Bible Studies.

    "He was way ahead of his time. He was a prophetic figure," said Jerald Brauer, the Naomi Shenston Donnelly Professor Emeritus and Frederick W. Bateson Senior Professor in Residence in the Divinity School. "Rylaarsdam had a concern and sensitivity to Judaism and Roman Catholicism at a time when the Protestant public at large was either antithetical to or not that concerned with either of those groups."

    Rylaarsdam's interest in Judaism led him to develop communication between the two traditions. He delivered numerous papers and lectures that addressed the need for relationships between Jewish and Christian communities, and was the first advocate of a special chair in Jewish studies at the University. He also was one of the first scholars to argue for serious academic study of Islam, and incorporated this into his later work.

    In 1993 the J. Coert Rylaarsdam Prize was established to honor Rylaarsdam's legacy of promoting interfaith communication. The prize is awarded to students who have made significant contributions to ecumenical relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims in their academic or extra-curricular work .

    Rylaarsdam received his B.A. from Hope College in 1931, his B.D. in 1938 from the Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, N.J. and his Ph.D. from Chicago in 1944. He was a professor at the Theological Seminary from 1941 to 1945, when he joined the Chicago faculty.

    He is survived by his wife, Harriet; his two children, John and Katharine; and his sisters, Anne Lotterman and Jeanette Baas.