'Pingpong diplomacy' figure Zhuang Zedong dies at 72
BY Associated Press
Monday, February 11, 2013
2/11/13 at 6:21 AM
BEIJING - Three-time world table tennis champion Zhuang Zedong, a key figure in the groundbreaking "pingpong diplomacy" between China and the United States, died Sunday, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported. He was 72 and had struggled with cancer since 2008.
Zhuang won fame by presenting a gift to American player Glenn Cowan, who had inadvertently boarded a bus carrying the Chinese team at the world championships in Nagoya, Japan, in 1971.
Zhuang and Cowan were photographed together, creating an international sensation at a time when China and the U.S. were bitter Cold War rivals.
Under orders from Chinese leader Mao Zedong, the 15-member American team was then invited to China at the end of the Nagoya championships for an ice-breaking visit. Ten months later, President Richard Nixon made a surprise visit to China, leading to the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1979.
Zhuang became a favorite of Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, a member of the notorious Gang of Four, which held sway during the radical turmoil of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. Jiang appointed Zhuang to a number of political posts in the sports ministry.
Zhuang came under investigation after the Gang was deposed and Jiang imprisoned following Mao's death in 1976, and subsequently spent years coaching the provincial team in the northern province of Shanxi. He returned to Beijing in 1985 and coached young players for several years.
Zhuang was married twice and had one daughter.
David Hartman, leading Jewish philosopher, dies
JERUSALEM - Rabbi David Hartman, one of the world's leading Jewish philosophers who promoted both Jewish pluralism and interfaith dialogue, has died. He was 81.
The Shalom Hartman Institute, founded by the rabbi more than 30 years ago, said Hartman died Sunday after a long illness.
The Brooklyn-born Hartman was known for bringing a more liberal Judaism to the conservative brand commonplace in Israel, where he moved in 1971 after holding rabbinical posts in the U.S. and Canada.
He is praised for having developed a unique Jewish philosophy which positioned man at the center of Judaism, opening the door to a more tolerant approach that took personal choice and experience into greater account.
Hartman's line of thought places man in a dialogue with God, rather than as an obedient, unquestioning worshipper. He promoted thoughtful criticism and interpretation of Jewish texts and laws among his students, spawning a generation of thinkers who continue to challenge what's traditionally accepted or forbidden under Jewish law.
Hartman's death comes amid an ongoing clash between the more liberal streams of Reform and Conservative Judaism and Israel's strict, ultra-Orthodox establishment, which has growing political power and has become increasingly resistant to any inroads by those movements. The liberal streams are demanding more recognition for their traditions in Israel, where they are marginal, although they predominate among American Jews, the largest group of the Jewish diaspora.
Hartman was a proponent of women's rights within the religion, where a battle is being waged between some of Israel's Orthodox rabbis and those who support broadening women's roles. "I can't see a Judaism that flourishes" while considering women to be "second rate," he told NPR in 2011. His daughter, Tova Hartman, is a leading Israeli Jewish feminist and one of the founders of an Orthodox feminist synagogue in Jerusalem.
"He advanced political Jewish thought in Israel to a more progressive, democratic and brave place," said Ruth Calderon, a first-time member of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, who studied under Hartman in the 1980s.
Hartman also extended his hand to members of other religions, hosting a yearly theological conference for leaders of the Abrahamic faiths, where priests, imams and rabbis debate and discuss issues that are universal to each, such as death, prayer or tolerance.
Lorberbaum said Hartman will be known for his accomplishments on religious ethics, and as "a pioneer of interfaith dialogue."
"He was committed to the notion that morality precedes Jewish law," he said.
Hartman is survived by his wife and five children.
Zhuang Zedong (right) shakes hands with U.S. table tennis player Glenn Cowan during a visit to the United States in April 1972. Zhuang, a key figure in the groundbreaking "pingpong diplomacy" between China and the U.S., died Sunday at age 72 in Beijing. A photo taken in 1971 of Zedong and Cowan together created an international sensation at a time when China and the U.S. were bitter Cold War rivals. XINHUA / Associated Press file