Seymour (Sy) Gitin

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Seymour (Sy) Gitin

Sy, a member of a distinguished rabbinic family, was ordained at HUC-JIR, Cincinnati in 1962, and for the next two years, served as the Alaskan Air Command Chaplain in Anchorage. During this time, he helped to design and find funding for the first synagogue in Anchorage, Beth Shalom, and organize the first Jewish Sunday School in Fairbanks. He was also an instructor in Hebrew in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. On Erev Pesach, March 27, 1964, Sy went through the unique experience of the Alaskan 9.2 magnitude earthquake, the second largest earthquake ever recorded.


From 1964-1967, he was Assistant Rabbi at Temple Beth Hillel, North Hollywood, California, and in 1967, while serving as the Educational Director at Temple Israel, Long Beach, he began his doctoral studies at UCLA.  From 1968-1970, he held the position of  HUC-JIR’s national Director of Admissions, during which time he began  a  Ph.D. program working with Nelson Glueck, among others, In 1970, Sy moved to Israel to continue his Ph.D. in Archaeology at the Hebrew University and HUC under the supervision of William G. Dever. He was a staff member of the excavations at Jebel Qa‘aqir and Tell Gezer, the Director of the Gezer Publications Project, and a Senior Lecturer at HUC Jerusalem. In 1975, he married Cheryl Klempner Chafets, whom he met at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem, and in 1980, he was awarded a Ph.D. in Syro-Palestinian Archaeology from HUC-JIR Cincinnati.


From 1979-1982, Sy served as an Adjunct, Assistant, and then Associate Professor in Brandeis University’s Department of Classical and Oriental Studies program in Jerusalem. In 1980, he was appointed Director (Dorot Director from 1994) and Professor of Archaeology of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, the endowed position he holds to date. For the past 31 years, he has worked to create and develop the Albright’s widely-acclaimed international fellowship program in ancient Near Eastern studies.


From 1981-1996, Sy co-directed with Trude Dothan of the Hebrew University the excavations of the Philistine capital city of Ekron, the publication component of which continues to date.  Among the main discoveries was the Ekron Royal Dedicatory Inscription one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century in Israel and the largest olive oil industrial center in antiquity. The project also helped to train many of the next generation of American field archaeologists.


Sy has authored/co-authored and/or edited/co-edited 171 publications, including 21 books and 150 articles, and is currently editing the three-volume Ancient Pottery of Israel and Its Neighbors: From the Neolithic through the Hellenistic Period, an encyclopedic work slated to become the archaeologists’ “ceramic bible” for the region. In the course of his academic career, Sy has received 44 fellowships, grants, and honorary degrees including awards from the Ford Foundation, Smithsonian Institution, Annenberg Research Institute, National Endowment for the Humanities, and University of Cincinnati, among others, and a Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa from HUC Jerusalem, a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Buffalo, and the Israel Museum’s Percia Schimmel Award for Distinguished Contributions to Archaeology in Eretz Israel and the Lands of the Bible.


In 2007, the Albright and the Israel Exploration Society published the Festschrift entitled “Up to the Gates of Ekron”: Essays on the Archaeology and History of the Eastern Mediterranean in Honor of Seymour Gitin, and in 2011, the Seymour Gitin Distinguished Professorship was established at the Albright Institute.


In addition to Sy’s academic achievements, while in a year abroad program at the Hebrew University in 1960, he had the extraordinary experience of starring, together with Haim Topol, in “I Like Mike,” the first-ever full-length Israeli movie in Hebrew.


Sy lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Cherie. They have three children, Michal, Adam, and Talya, and three grandchildren, Ella and Abigail Roden, daughters of Michal and Charley, and Ayala, daughter of Adam and Noam.