Richard Freund, renowned scholar and archaeologist, dies | Herald Community Newspapers


Richard Freund, a universally acclaimed Jewish scholar and biblical archaeologist, rabbi and professor at the University of Hartford, succumbed to cancer on July 14. He was 67 years old.

Barbara Stein, who babysat Freund growing up in Valley Stream, recalls attending Temple Emanu-El, the Reform Jewish Synagogue in Lynbrook, as a boy. Shortly after graduating from Valley Stream North High School in 1972, the still-not-quite-adult Freund booked a one-way ticket to Israel, with aspirations of becoming a rabbi.

He then returned to the United States, ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan. But rather than a life in the pulpit, Freund began what was to be a long and celebrated career in academia, teaching Jewish history and archaeology.

His first classes were taught at Oberlin College in Ohio, before traveling across the country to teach at several locations, including the University of Denver and the University of California-San Diego.

He spent the last years of his career as the Bertram and Gladys Aaron Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies at Christopher Newport University in Virginia.

But Freund’s work took him far beyond the walls of the university. He has embarked on more than a dozen archaeological explorations alongside his team of geoscientists, students and engineering experts at sites ranging from Nazareth in Israel to Rhodes, Greece, and Vilna. , in Lithuania.

His colleagues considered him a pioneer in the archaeological world for pioneering noninvasive archaeological techniques — from ground-penetrating radar to resistivity tomography and aerial imagery — which Freund told the publication. Industry Science Node could provide a structural representation of what lies beneath before a single trowel hits the ground.

“Traditional archeology is a destructive and highly invasive method of obtaining information about any site,” Freund said.

Going against conventional methods was exactly something Freund would do, according to his brother Charlie.

“When I say my brother was stubborn, he was very stubborn,” Charlie said. “He had his position on things.”

And this trait, Charlie suggested, allowed him to push for the use of non-invasive archaeological techniques despite his fair share of detractors.

“He’s always been very independent,” Charlie said. “And he was a leader.”

To that end, using non-invasive methods, Freund led a team to unearth archaeological evidence at dig sites that brought to light buried Holocaust records of mass human and cultural atrocities across the country. Eastern Europe.

Among him and his team’s most notable discoveries was the discovery of what was believed to be a 100ft escape tunnel in the Lithuanian Ponar burial pits that 80 Jewish prisoners dug mostly by hand to escape Nazi execution.

He also discovered the underground remains of the Great Synagogue of Vilna, a former center of Jewish life built in the 17th century, which was damaged during the Nazi occupation and razed by the Soviets in the 1950s.

In one of his most publicized expeditions that seemed to blur the lines between legend and history, Freund’s team allegedly discovered the likely location of the fabled city of Atlantis in the swamps of Dona Ana Park in southern Italy. ‘Spain. The findings were the subject of a special National Geographic article “Finding Atlantis”.

From his research and expeditions, large and small, he also left behind an imposing volume of scholarly works and a dozen books written or co-published.

During his four decades of scholarship, Freund visited universities and synagogues to give lectures, exhibits, and lectures on his archaeological finds and Jewish history. Three years ago he even stunned an audience at Temple Beth El in Cedarhurst, as a Herald reporter described it, telling the tragic and heroic stories of Jewish life during the Holocaust through his archaeological finds.

One of his colleagues, Lawrence Richard, called Freund a natural genius for summarizing complex topics “ranging from biblical archaeology, the Holocaust, Jewish ethics, Latin American Jewry, Ladino and Yiddish in terms of “general audience – as well as scholars – could understand and appreciate.

“I can’t think of anyone I’ve met in my 47 years of college who’s been more effective in bridging the gap between city and dress,” Richard wrote of Freund.

In addition to his wife of 40 years, Eliane, Richard Freund is survived by three sons – Yoni, Eli and Ethan – siblings Andrea Eisen, Charles Freund and Sharon Rockmaker. And her in-laws, including Arthur and Liz Goldgaber, and Alberto and Berta Goldgaber.

A funeral service was held in Hampton, Virginia. Memorial contributions may be made to the Rodef Sholom Temple in Newport News, Virginia, the Betram and Gladys Aaron Chair of Jewish Studies at Christopher Newport University, or the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

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