One of Britain’s Oldest Printed Jewish Books, and Its Author

In 1772, the Jewish printer L. Alexander of London produced one of the country’s first Jewish books: an English translation of the talmudic tractate Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”) along with the commentary of Moses Maimonides. Jeffrey Maynard describes this work, and its historical context. (Reproductions of some pages can be found at the link below.)

The Ashkenazi community in London started to flourish under the . . . rabbinic leadership of Rabbi David Tevele Schiff, who was appointed chief rabbi in 1765. The rebuilt Great Synagogue was dedicated in 1766, and Hebrew printing in London started in 1770 with what was probably the first book by Jewish printers and typesetters, [an edition of the penitential prayers known as sliḥot]. At about the same time (1770), the first siddur in Hebrew with an English translation was printed in London by Alexander Alexander and Baruch Meyers. This was followed in 1771 by a set of Hebrew maḥzorim (festival prayer books).

The translator, the English scholar Abraham Tang (d. 1792) was a grandson of the [rabbinic judge] of Prague, Abraham Tausig Neu-Greschel. Like his grandfather, the author signed his name with the Hebrew initials TN”G, and is thus generally known as Tang. Tang wrote a number of other works, all unpublished, and his manuscripts were until recently in London. . . . In addition to his rabbinic knowledge, Tang was an enlightened scholar, well familiar with secular writings. He cites “a noble passage of my countryman, Milton” as an introduction to a comment by Maimonides. The late Cecil Roth described Abraham Tang as “the first Anglo-Jewish scholar of modern times.”

Abraham Tang was born in England, and we notice interesting accents in his transliterations. He drops his h like a London Cockney, and calls himself an “Ebrew.”

Read more at Jewish Miscellanies

More about: Anglo-Jewry, Moses Maimonides, Rare books

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