Tractate Avot (“Fathers”) is unique within the Talmud in that it is composed of a series of rabbinic moral teachings and aphorisms without any discussion of Jewish law. While the first two chapters follow a clear chronological order, moving from teacher to disciple, from Moses until the end of the 2nd century CE, the fifth and final chapter begins by listing things of which there are ten, then things of which there are seven, and so on. As for the third and fourth chapters, they jump from one sage to the next in little discernible order.
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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.