The Buried Medieval Jewish Treasure of Colmar

Currently in France, but until the 17th century belonging to the Holy Roman Empire, the territory known as Alsace lies in the center of the original heartland of Ashkenazi Jewry and includes some of Europe’s oldest Jewish communities. A buried Jewish treasure found in the Alsatian town of Colmar and dating to the early 14th century is now on display in the Cloisters museum in upper Manhattan. Diane Cole writes in her review of the exhibit:

In 1863, workmen at a Colmar confectionary shop situated on a street once called “Rue des Juifs” (Street of the Jews) chipped a hole into a mortared wall, reached inside, and pulled out a terracotta pot filled with a collection of precious jewels, rings, a colorful brooch, decorative buttons and belt buckles, a miniature silver key, coins, and other objects.

A major clue to the original owners’ being Jewish is the most exquisite artifact in the cache: a gold Jewish ceremonial ring topped with a miniature rendition of the lost Temple in Jerusalem. An engraved Hebrew inscription reads mazal tov.

Sleuths should also seek out another object that points to the cache having once belonged to a Jewish family: a tiny silver key [comparable] to a delicate “Tiffany” key, to be worn as . . . a small accessory. . . . Jewish observance prohibits carrying money and valuables beyond the household on the Sabbath, [while] wearing jewelry is allowed. The key would have been used to lock up the box, which would have been kept at home. With important objects thus safeguarded, the wearer of the key could feel comfortable going outside on the Sabbath, whether to synagogue or to visit members of the community.

In the mid-14th century, the Black Death swept through Europe, provoking murderous pogroms and expulsions of Jews. Most likely, writes Cole, the owner of the treasure hid the cache to protect it from plunder, and never returned.

Read more at Jewish Week

More about: Ashkenazi Jewry, French Jewry, Jewish art, Sabbath

How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus