Our founder: Nelson Glueck (1900-1971)

Nelson GlueckBorn in Cincinnatti, Ohio in 1900, Nelson Glueck was one of the foremost leaders in the field of biblical archaeology and Reform Judaism. He read the benediction at the swearing-in ceremony of President John F. Kennedy. 

At the age of 23, Glueck was ordained as a Reform rabbi by the Hebrew Union College and four years later was awarded his Ph.d at Jena, Germany, for his dissertation on the biblical concept of hesed (the Hebrew term for goodness or divine kindness). Until World War II he worked with William Foxwell Albright at the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem (ASOR, now the Albright Institute) and at Albright’s excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim. Later, Glueck himself served as director of ASOR, as well as having a faculty position at HUC in Jerusalem.


Glueck was a prolific scholar, excavator and surveyor. His early work centered on the exploration of Transjordan, where he identified over 1000 ancient sites, and the Negev, where he found another 500. His excavation of the Nabatean temple at Khirbet et-Tannur did much to forward knowledge of Nabatean religion and cult, and his books Exploration in Eastern Palestine (I-IV, 1934-51), The Other Side of the Jordan (1940), Rivers in the Desert (1959), and Deities and Dolphins (1966) established him as the foremost expert on the deserts of Palestine and their ancient inhabitants. 

During World War II Glueck served in the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor of the CIA), examining possible escape routes for the allies through the desert, in anticipation of the German army under General Rommel, reaching Palestine. Fortunately, Rommel’s advance was halted by the Allies in Egypt. 

TIMEAfter the war, Glueck became president of the Hebrew Union College, and then president of the combined HUC-Jewish Institute of Religion, a position he held until his death in 1971. He created the HUC Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem in 1963, the same year that he appeared on the cover of Time magazine. In 1972, the institute was renamed the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology. 

Glueck believed that the Hebrew Bible contains historical memory, but one that cannot be proven. He felt that the spirit of the Israelites was still alive in modern Israel, instilling that belief in both his students and his colleagues. Today, our research paradigms may differ from those of Glueck’s day, but his enthusiasm and scholarly integrity remain with us always. 

Publications of Nelson Glueck:
The Other Side of the Jordan (ASOR), 1945.
Exploration in Eastern Palestine IV:1-2, 1952.
The River Jordan: Being an illustrated Account of Earth’s Most Storied River, London, 1954.
Rivers in the Desert: An Adventure in Archaeology, London, 1959.
Deities and Dolphins: The Story of the Nabataeans, New York, 1965.
Hesed in the Bible, Ohio, 1967.

Further reading about Nelson Glueck:
Brown, J. and Kutler, L. 2006. Nelson Glueck: Biblical Archaeologist and President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Cincinnati.
Walberg, G. 1992. The Nelson and Helen Glueck Collection of Cypriot Antiquities, Cincinnati (with a biography of Nelson Glueck). Astrom. 
Fierman F.S. 1986. Rabbi Nelson Glueck - an Archaeologist’s Secret Life in the Service of the OSS. Biblical Archaeology Review 12(5), pp. 18-35.
Baron A.G. 1978. The Glueck Survey: Issues and Problems in the Archaeology of the Negev.
Ann Arbor.Vogel E.K. 1975. Negev Survey of Nelson Glueck: Summary. Eretz-Israel 12, pp. 1*-17*.
Gordon W.J., Vogel E.K. and Wiener T. 1962. Nelson Glueck: A Bibliography. Philadelphia.