The Gentile Scholar Who Became the First Campus Rabbi

In 1759, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Lifshuetz gave a Danish Protestant named Olaf Gerhard Tychsen a document certifying him as a ḥaver, or fellow—a sort of junior version of a rabbinic degree. This is likely the only case in history of traditional rabbinic ordination of any sort being granted to a non-Jew. Previously, Tychsen had studied under Jonathan Eybeschuetz, considered one of the foremost rabbis of his day. Edward Reichman shares some new research into Tychsen’s subsequent activities:

One year after his ordination, toward the end of 1760, Tychsen was appointed professor of Oriental Languages at the newly established University of Bützow in Mecklenburg, [Germany]. It is in this capacity that Tychsen exercised a rabbinic role, becoming a university campus rabbi of sorts for a select group of Jews at the university. Though he may not actually have had a “minyan” of students, nonetheless, his impact on this select group was profound and long lasting.

Reichmann notes that Tychsen, who became the leading scholar of coins from the Islamic world, carried out correspondence in fluid Hebrew with Jewish colleagues, which he peppered with learned puns and allusions in the rabbinic style of the day. He developed a particularly close friendship with a medical student named Markus Moses:

Tychsen had a working academic relationship with Moses, as evidenced by the multiple research papers Moses wrote under his mentorship. It is remarkable that all of the papers were on Jewish topics. I have found a number of cases, though relatively few in number, of Jewish medical students throughout the centuries who wrote their medical school dissertations on a Jewish related topic, but I have never encountered any student who authored so many Jewish related papers as part of their medical training. The topics included the Samaritan Bible, a discussion of kosher and non-kosher animals based on the work of Maimonides, and an essay on the diseases of the old as reflected in Ecclesiastes 12. Moses’ dissertation . . . was also on a Jewish topic and was supervised by Tychsen.

An oath was . . . part of the graduation ceremony, and it typically involved avowing one’s belief in Christianity. Tychsen intervened with the duke of Mecklenberg on Moses’ behalf to allow him to take his graduation oath invoking the name of the God of Israel as opposed to the Christian deity. He even publicly conversed with Moses in Yiddish at the graduation.

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More about: Jewish-Christian relations, Rabbis

The Palestinian Authority Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Jan. 31 2023

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials announced that they had ceased all security cooperation with Israel; the next two days saw two deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. But the PA has in the past made numerous threats that it will sever its ties with the Israeli government, and has so far never made good on them. Efraim Inbar poses a different set of questions: does cooperation with Palestinian leaders who actively encourage—and provide financial incentives for—the murder of Jews really help Israel protect its citizens? And might there be a better alternative?

The PA leader Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to rule effectively, i.e., to maintain a modicum of law and order in the territories under his control. He lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007, and we now see the “Lebanonization” of the PA taking place in the West Bank: the emergence of myriad armed groups, with some displaying only limited loyalty to the PA, and others, especially the Islamists, trying to undermine the current regime.

[The PA’s] education system and media continue propagating tremendous hostility toward Jews while blaming Israel for all Palestinian problems. Security cooperation with Israel primarily concerns apprehending armed activists of the Islamist opposition, as the PA often turns a blind eye to terrorist activities against Israel. In short, Abbas and his coterie are part of the problem, not of the solution. Jerusalem should thus think twice about promoting efforts to preserve PA rule and prevent a descent into chaos while rejecting the reoccupation of the West Bank.

Chaos is indeed not a pleasant prospect. Chaos in the territories poses a security problem to Israel, but one that will be mitigated if the various Palestinian militias vying for influence compete with each other. A succession struggle following the death of Abbas could divert attention from fighting hated Israel and prevent coordination in the low-intensity conflict against it. In addition, anarchy in the territories may give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the terrorists.

Furthermore, chaos might ultimately yield positive results. The collapse of the PA will weaken the Palestinian national movement, which heretofore has been a source of endemic violence and is a recipe for regional instability in the future.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror