In 1670, a commencement speaker at Harvard College cited Maimonides’ halakhic code; in the next century, the school hired Judah Monis, a converted Jew, as its first full-time professor of Hebrew. It was not until 1912, however, that the university would hire a Jew to teach Jewish studies. Jon D. Levenson, in a brief history of Jewish studies at Harvard Divinity School, tells of these developments, focusing on “the most impressive scholar of Hebraica in the history of Harvard,” the historian of religion George Foot Moore, who taught at the university from 1902 to 1928. Moore learned Hebrew from his grandfather, a pastor, and served as a clergyman himself before coming to Harvard:
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At the time of Columbia University’s founding in 1784, notes Meir Soloviechik, the leader of the local synagogue, Gershom Mendes Seixas, was made a member of its board of regents. A Jewish student even gave a commencement address, composed by Seixas, in Hebrew. In the 20th century, Columbia attracted numerous Jews with the relaxation of quotas, and was the first secular university to create a chair in Jewish history. Barnard College, Columbia’s all-women’s school, was itself founded by a Jewish woman, and today has a large number of Orthodox Jewish students.