№ 22/2011 from Jan 24, 2011
The University of Potsdam, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin, and Technische Universität Berlin have reached an agreement in planning a joint center for Jewish studies. They intend to combine various scholarly activities in this field related to studying and teaching. International exchange will be promoted through positions for visiting professors and fellows, in particular from the United States, Israel, Great Britain, France, and the CIS countries. During the 19th and early 20th centuries Berlin had a strong tradition of Jewish scholarship, but the anti-Semitismus of the German Empire prevented this tradition from becoming established at Prussian universities. Today Jewish studies are a significant part of academic training and research in many disciplines, not only in theology, but also philosophy, history, literature and the arts, cultural studies, education, European ethnology, law, and the history of medicine.
In addition to the four universities, the New Synagogue Berlin - Centrum Judaicum Foundation, the Abraham Geiger College, and the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies in Potsdam are also involved in the project. The possibility of using the former Jewish children’s home, called the Ahawah Building, is under discussion with the Jewish community. Originally built by Eduard Knoblauch, the architect of the New Synagogue on Oranienburger Strasse, the Ahawah Building is now a listed building. After restoration the premises of the building will offer space not only for academic activities, but also cultural events and exhibitions.
The Berlin-Brandenburg region already has a high concentration of expertise in research and teaching in the field of Jewish studies. To name just a few examples: A number of years ago at the University of Potsdam, B.A. and M.A. degree programs were set up in Jewish studies with a focus on religion, history, and literature. At Humboldt-Universität the Kollegium Jüdische Studien offers a wide network of subjects with interdisciplinary doctoral training and research projects. Humboldt also holds the Leo Baeck Summer University for Jewish Studies and has the Walter Benjamin Chair in German-Jewish History and Culture as well as a visiting professorship in Jewish law. Humboldt’s Faculty of Theology has the Institut Kirche und Judentum, a center for Christian-Jewish studies. At Freie Universität a B.A. degree program is offered in Jewish studies. The master’s degree program, “Judaism in Historical Context” with the two profile areas, “Judaism in the Graeco-Roman and Islamic-Christian context (ancient / medieval / early modern period)” and “Modern Judaism and Holocaust Studies (19th and 20th cent.)” is a joint master’s program at Freie Universität and Touro College Berlin. Since 2008 the Institute of Catholic Theology at Freie Universität has been offering the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Master’s Program on the History, Theory, and Practice of Jewish-Christian Relations. Technische Universität has a notable center for research on anti-Semitism, which for the past decades has focused on German-Jewish history of the 19th and 20th centuries as well as the history of the Holocaust in both research and teaching. These are only a few of the activities covered by the four universities in the field of Jewish studies.
The proposed creation of the new center is innovative in more ways than one. Undoubtedly, the establishment of an academic and cultural center for Jewish studies in Berlin and Brandenburg is of high current interest. It would implement the recommendations made in the spring of 2010 by the German Council of Science and Humanities to better establish Jewish studies at German universities. The planned center is also a good opportunity for the four major universities in Berlin and Brandenburg to cooperate fruitfully in a joint project.