One of the World’s Oldest Synagogues Was Unearthed in Modern-Day Russia

Long before Slavs settled the northern coast of the Black Sea, Greek merchants established towns and communities there. Archaeologists have recently uncovered the remains of an ancient synagogue in one of these colonies, known as Phanagoria. Aristos Georgiou reports:

The synagogue is rectangular, measuring just under 70 feet by 20 feet, containing two chambers each about 650 square feet. The walls were adorned with paintings and tiles, the archaeologists said. Inside, they found marble menorahs, liturgy tables, the remains of marble columns, and fragments of marble stelae—upright stone slabs bearing inscriptions or illustrations.

One stela dated to the 5th century CE bears an inscription in Greek that reads “synagogue.” This, along with earlier discoveries at Phanagoria, including marble tablets inscribed with “house of prayer” and “synagogue” dated to 16 CE and 51 CE, respectively, indicates that the synagogue is one of the world’s oldest.

The researchers said the house of worship was likely in use from at least the early 1st century CE—about 2,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of synagogues dates to the 3rd century BCE, although their construction appears to have experienced a notable increase toward the 3rd century CE. . .  An analysis of artifacts at the synagogue indicates that it stood for more than 500 years, meaning it existed until the middle of the 6th century when Phanagoria was pillaged and devastated by local barbarian tribes.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Russian Jewry, Synagogues


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