Jewish education will itself become the subject of education at a Jewish university next year — for the first time at a nonsectarian institution of higher learning in North America.
A new Chair in Jewish Education will begin in September 1999 at Brandeis University, a nonsectarian school in Waltham, Mass., President Jehuda Reinharz recently announced. “This is a big step,” Reinharz said.
The holder of the academic chair will be a professor to be chosen during an international search that begins this month, Reinharz said.
The announcement follows a two-year university self-study.The person selected will teach a curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate levels about Jewish education, which previously has been taught at a separate subject only at rabbinical seminaries in the United States.
The professorship marks an attempt to strengthen Jewish education, which is recognized as “the key to continuity and survival” of the American Jewish community, Reinharz said.
Funded by the Mandel family of Cleveland, for whom the chair will be named, the Brandeis initiative has “both symbolic and practical significance,” he said. “We want it to develop into a major … think tank and academic center of the American Jewish community.” The chair’s specific academic orientation and communal activities will depend on the holder’s background.
“Given the fact that one of Brandeis’ missions is service to the Jewish community, I fully intend that the person who fills this chair will play a major role in improving Jewish education at all levels in North America, and will collaborate with Jewish institutions in Israel and around the world,” Reinharz said.
Brandeis, which is celebrating its 50th year, has a student body of 4,000. Its search committee for the professorship is headed by Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history.
The $2.5 million gift for the chair is funded equally by the Jack N. and Lilyan Mandel Foundation, the Joseph and Florence Mandel Family Foundation, and the Morton and Barbara Mandel Family Foundation.