The Two Halves of an Algerian Torah Scroll, United after 180 Years

When the manuscript expert Paul Mirecki discovered half of a Torah scroll—ripped asunder mid-verse—in the University of Kansas collections, he began a quest for the other half. Some two years later, he has found it and reconstructed the story of the scroll, thought to have been written sometime in the 18th century. Jon Niccum writes:

In 1840, the scroll was intact and residing at a synagogue in the Algerian city of Medea—then an Ottoman province—when France invaded. Meanwhile, a local populace of Muslim extremists launched a pogrom against the Jewish community. The Arab religious and military leader Abd al-Kader intervened in hopes of preventing bloodshed, evacuating members of the Jewish community. But he couldn’t protect their property. As synagogues were looted, the item was taken, . . . likely by people who couldn’t read Hebrew and merely hoped to sell it. By ripping it, they had “two scrolls” and could double their profits.

Enter Henri d’Orléans, the duke of Aumale. The son of the last king of France and the governor-general during the French invasion of Algeria, the duke lived in Chateau Chantilly, [a sprawling estate north of Paris]. “I found a [passage] in his diary,” Mirecki said. . . . “He says in reference to the scroll, ‘I took it with my own hands from Medea’s synagogue in May 1840 when the town had been left to Muslims, and the Jews taken by Abd al-Kader.’” The duke brought it back home, where it remains in the vast collection of antiquities he eventually donated to the Institut de France.

Kansas University acquired its half of the scroll thanks to Alpha Owens. A student [at the school] in the early 1900s, she went on to earn her doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. A woman of wealth, Owens traveled throughout Europe and Latin America “collecting valuable realia material for use in modern language teaching,” according to a 1952 interview.

Read more at University of Kansas

More about: African Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Jewish history, Manuscripts

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