Rabbi Amnon Haramati was born in Jerusalem. His parents came to Eretz Israel as religious pioneers in the early 1920s. In 1948 he had the historic privilege of participating in the defense of Jerusalem, when the Israeli army was just being formed, as was the state of Israel itself. At every opportunity he took the initiative to organize cultural programs for the members of his army unit. From 1947 to 1950 he attended Mizrahi Teachers College, and then studied for bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Hebrew University from 1951 to 1955. In these same eight years, while he was receiving his own education, he taught in a variety of settings. In the school year 1949-50 he was sent by the Ministry of Education to the children’s village of Kfar Batya to complete his training as a teacher. In 1951 he was sent to teach in a school for underprivileged children and he remained there until 1956 when he was invited by Dr. Joel Braverman, founder of the Yeshiva of Flatbush, to join the faculty of the High School. Since 1956, Rabbi Haramati has worked there as a teacher of Talmud, Bible, Hebrew Language and Literature, Jewish thought, and Jewish law. He has been Chairman of the school’s Bible Department for the last thirty years.
From 1959 to 1963 Amnon Haramati studied in a doctoral program in Bible Studies with Professor H. L. Ginsberg at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Seven years after that, Haramati received rabbinic ordination from Harav Y. Gershuni of Yeshivat Eretz Israel in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to his formal professional tasks, Rabbi Haramati has given his time to community service. He served as Vice President of the G.E.T. organization, which helps Jewish couples reconcile their differences or proceed in a dignified manner to obtain a get, a Jewish divorce. Since 1978 he has conducted an early morning Shabbat class for many adults in his neighborhood, including the parents of his high school students and other community members. The members of this class spend an hour before Shabbat morning services in intensive study of Torah.
From Amnon Haramati's Statement of Motivation and Purpose:
“In 1949 I was sent by the Ministry of Education to the children’s village of Kfar Batya to complete my training as a teacher. Most of the children were new immigrants to Israel, orphans who had lost their parents to the Holocaust in Europe. Needless to say, in addition to being a teacher and a counselor, I was both father and mother to these children.
Day and night, my work never ended. Professor Enoch allowed me to organize any activity that I thought important. I became, among other things, a folk dance instructor every Saturday night…. I was then sent to teach in the Katamon region of Jerusalem. Due to the shortage of teachers, there was no choice but to teach in all grades and every subject…. I continued my full-time work as well as a full load of studies at Hebrew University until 1955 when I was invited to teach at the Yeshiva of Flatbush. My supervisors all stressed the national importance of Jewish education in the Diaspora and advised me to accept the offer. Since 1956 I have been affiliated with this same school. Although I have taught students at all grade levels, my main involvement is with the members of the senior class. My intent is to instill in these students, who are about to embark on a life in the ‘outside world,’ a fundamental understanding of the ideals of our heritage together with an appreciation and love for the beauty of the Jewish way of life…. I strongly believe that my calling is to guide our young people in their formative years…. The responsibility of a teacher is ever present in my thoughts…. As our sages said:
“כל המלמד את בן חברו תורה… כאילו ילדו*”
*Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 19b.
‘One who teaches Torah to another person’s child, it is as if that person gave birth to that child.’ With these strong motivational words in mind, I have dedicated myself to my chosen profession: the education of Jewish youth.”
From His Letters of Support:
“In the almost eighty years that I have been involved in Jewish education – whether as student/ rabbi, principal, university president or chancellor – I have known only one person who is the peer of Professor Nechama Leibowitz of Israel and he is Rabbi Amnon Haramati of New York. Many times he has declined positions to teach on a university level because he prefers to deepen the love of adolescents for their heritage…. In countless cases, he has maintained relationships with them for a lifetime…. His instruction, each Sabbath, of the adults at the Yeshiva of Flatbush continues to edify and inspire hundreds of communal leaders.”
Rabbi Emanuel Rackman
“I have known Rabbi Haramati for over 36 years. We first met when I was 14 years old and he was my Bible and Prophets teacher…. Throughout my high school years he instilled in me and my fellow students a love for learning and challenged us to think critically and ask questions. Learning was a continuous exploration of major concepts and underlying principles. He was always approachable and encouraged us to raise any questions that we might have had regarding any aspect of our lives…. Over the past 15 years I have been most fortunate in having the opportunity to spend early Shabbat mornings…engaged in the study of Torah with our master teacher par excellence, Rabbi Amnon Haramati. Each week brings new excitement and stimulation. As Lionel Arond, one of my fellow classmates, wrote in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of our class: ‘Each Shabbat morning we gather together with the intuitive excitement of a new voyage of discovery, fulfilling Buber’s notion that “all journeys have a secret destination of which the traveller is unaware.” What new wonders of Torah will be unfolded in this week’s session?’
It is clear to anyone who has had the privilege of attending his weekly class that Rabbi Haramati loves to teach and deeply respects his students…. A single phrase from the Bible might be examined from various perspectives…. Not only does Haramati draw upon the traditional sources but also incorporates ideas from numerous thinkers such as Aristotle, Plato, Milton, Shakespeare, and Dante and from varying disciplines such as science, music, philosophy and literature…. Often a question or issue is raised by a participant that cannot be fully addressed because of the time limit. Within a few days that individual can expect to receive a written response in the mail addressing and elaborating upon all aspects of the question…. I eagerly await next year when my oldest daughter will enter her senior year in the Yeshiva of Flatbush High School and will have the privilege of having Rabbi Haramati as her teacher. The legacy continues….”
“Rabbi Amnon Haramati was an outstanding teacher. He used his droll sense of humor to amuse his students as he communicated a fabulous passion for the material he was teaching. He was also a frightening figure. He had high standards of excellence and you felt that you had to jump through hoops to get his approbation. But, if you did get it, what an accomplishment! Everyone in his class was expected to be a good student. I never once felt that, as a girl, I should achieve less.”
Jenna Weissman Joselitt