This Sunday will mark the 100th birthday of the Jewish analyst and intellectual Milton Himmelfarb, who died in 2006. Perhaps best known for his famous quip, following the 1968 presidential election, that “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans,” and for his dire and prescient warnings about declining American Jewish birthrates, Himmelfarb also devoted much energy to Bible scholarship—ancient, medieval, and modern. His daughter, the classicist Martha Himmelfarb, examines his relationship with Jewish tradition in her reflection on his life and legacy:
Milton Himmelfarb’s Complex and Idiosyncratic Spirituality
At America’s Best Universities, Biblical Religion Is a Curiosity, if Not a Menace
At the time of Columbia University’s founding in 1784, notes Meir Soloviechik, the leader of the local synagogue, Gershom Mendes Seixas, was made a member of its board of regents. A Jewish student even gave a commencement address, composed by Seixas, in Hebrew. In the 20th century, Columbia attracted numerous Jews with the relaxation of quotas, and was the first secular university to create a chair in Jewish history. Barnard College, Columbia’s all-women’s school, was itself founded by a Jewish woman, and today has a large number of Orthodox Jewish students.