US Holocaust Memorial Museum
US Holocaust Memorial MuseumiStock

Richard L. Rubenstein, an internationally recognized Holocaust scholar and writer has died at 97.

Rubenstein spend 24 years at Florida State University (FSU) and served the last five years of his career from 1995 to 2000 at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.

From 1971 to 1995 he was a member of the department of religion at FSU where he was given the The Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor award, the highest honour that can be awarded to a professor.

Writing in an obituary in the New York Times, Rubenstein’s family noted he was well known for writing on the meaning of Judaism, religion and modern civilization in the period after the Holocaust and the founding of the State of Israel.

“His 1966 book, 'After Auschwitz: Radical Theology and Contemporary Judaism,' was among the first to systematically probe the significance of Auschwitz for post-holocaust religious life and initiated debate which continues to this day,” they wrote.

Author William Styron reportedly credited Rubenstein as an influence on his novel Sophie’s Choice, about a Polish immigrant who had been interned in Auschwitz after betraying her anti-Semitic father and being arrested by the Nazis. The book was made into a popular 1982 movie starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline.

Tallahassee resident Paul Harvill, who graduated with a degree in religion from FSU in 1977, told the Talahassee Democrat that Rubenstein was his favourite professor.

He recalled that Rubenstein lectured very intensely and that "by the end of class he was exhausted.”

He added, “He challenged me more than any other professors. He opened up to me so many different worlds.”