Last week, Harvard University announced that its new chief chaplain is a nonbeliever—Greg Epstein, who received his quasi-rabbinic ordination, naturally, from the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism. While the news item invited much mockery, Samuel Goldman takes seriously both Epstein’s ideas, which he outlined in his book Good without God, and the aptness of a secular chaplain at an institution like Harvard:
An Atheist Rabbi May Make a Good University Chaplain, but His Secular Humanist Vision Is Unlikely to Be Sustainable
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.