Six Decades after Opening Its Doors to Jews, Oxford Opened Them to Jewish Studies

In 1871, an act of parliament allowed people of all religions—including Jews and Catholics—into the hallowed halls of Oxford and Cambridge. Martin Goodman explains how this development eventually paved the way for the creation of the former university’s Jewish studies department:

Oxford was slow to encourage study of Jewish culture in its own terms. The outstanding Hebrew collections in the Bodleian Library had long attracted Jewish scholars, . . . but Hebrew and Jewish studies only began to be properly recognized by the university as a serious area of study with the appointments of Cecil Roth as reader in post-biblical Jewish studies (in 1938) and of Chaim Rabin as Cowley lecturer in post-biblical Hebrew (in 1943).

Roth (in the Faculty of Modern History) and Rabin (in Oriental Studies) were intellectually quite isolated in Oxford, despite their considerable impact on the wider world of Jewish studies, but in 1972 the university accepted the arguments of David Patterson, a specialist in modern Hebrew literature, [in favor of] establishing the Oxford Center of Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

Read more at Opening Oxford

More about: British Jewry, Jewish studies, Oxford

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