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Award for Contributions toward Better Understanding of Peoples and Cultures

Dr. Leopold Lucas Award for Prominent Jewish Studies Professor Peter Schäfer

№ 186/2014 from May 26, 2014

The former director of the Institute of Jewish Studies at Freie Universität Berlin, Prof. Dr. Dres. h.c. Peter Shepherd, is the recipient of a Dr. Leopold Lucas Award. As stated by the awarding body, Shepherd's academic work constitutes an outstanding contribution to the study of the history, literature, and theology of ancient and early medieval Judaism. A scholar who works in the United States, Israel, and Germany, Schäfer makes personal contributions to better understanding among different peoples and cultures. He directed the Institute of Jewish Studies at Freie Universität Berlin from 1983 to 2003. This year, the Institute of Jewish Studies is celebrating its 50th anniversary. To mark this anniversary, members of the institute are hosting a festive ceremony on June 17, 2014, with the Isreali writer David Grossman as a special guest. Grossman and Professor Dr. Giulio Busi, the current director of the institute, will talk about the contemporary literature of Israel. The event is open to the public, and there is no charge.

In 1963, in line with its academic understanding of truth, justice, and freedom, Freie Universität Berlin founded the first Institute of Jewish Studies in Germany. During the following decades the institute evolved into a center for Jewish studies that draws attention both nationally and internationally. Numerous prominent scholars conducted research and taught there, including: Jakob Taubes (1963–1978 as director; died 1987), Marianne Awerbuch (1978–1982 as director; died 2004), Michael Brocke (1988–1996; winner of the Moses Mendelssohn Medal), and Joseph Dan (1993–2003; 1997 winner of the Israel Prize).

Peter Schäfer was born in 1943 in Mülheim. He studied Catholic theology, philosophy, and Jewish studies in Bonn and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Freiburg, he was a lecturer and research associate at the Institutum Judaicum in Tübingen. Schäfer completed the habilitation process in Jewish studies at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, before he was hired as an adjunct professor of Jewish studies at the Martin Buber Institute in Cologne. In 1982 he became a full professor there. During the following 15 years he was the director of the Institute of Jewish Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. In 1998 he was a Member and Visiting Mellon Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (USA), where he was shortly thereafter appointed the first chair holder of the Ronald O. Perelman Professorship of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religion. While there, he also managed the local degree program in Judaism. Shepherd has also been a visiting professor at Oxford, Jerusalem, and Yale. In Utrecht he was awarded an honorary doctorate in theology, and in Tel Aviv an honorary doctorate in philosophy. Since 1997 he has been a foreign member of the American Philosophical Society, since 2002/03 a fellow at the Historischer Kolleg in Munich, and since 2007/2008 a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg) in Berlin. Shepherd is also an ordinary member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

During his tenure at the Institute of Jewish Studies at Freie Universität Berlin and from 1998 to the summer of 2013 as the Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Religion at Princeton University, Peter Schäfer brought important new impulses to international research in Jewish studies through his outstanding editing projects in Jewish mysticism and magic and the Jerusalem Talmud, as well numerous monographs, whereby he dealt with various aspects of Jewish literature and history, focusing especially on questions about the relationship between Judaism and Christianity in antiquity and the early Middle Ages. His pioneering work on Jewish mysticism and ancient Judaism culminated in a Leibniz Prize in 1994. This was followed in 2007 by a Distinguished Achievement Award from the New York City-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. So far, Schäfer is the only scholar to have received both awards.

The Dr. Leopold Lucas Award is presented annually by the Faculty of Protestant Theology of the University of Tubingen. It is endowed with 50,000 euros. The award is given to scholars who have made outstanding contributions in the fields of theology, historical humanities, or philosophy and who made particular contributions leading to better understanding between individuals and nations as well as tolerance in thinking. The award was initiated in 1972 by General Franz D. Lucas on the occasion of the 100th birthday of his father Dr. Leopold Lucas, who was a Jewish scholar and rabbi. Dr. Leopold Lucas was born in 1872 in Marburg and was murdered in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943.

Time and Place of the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Institute of Jewish Studies at Freie Universität Berlin

  • Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Alle 45, Lecture Hall 1A, 14195 Berlin; subway station: Dahlem-Dorf or Thielplatz (U3); Bus 110, M11, X11

Further Information

Prof. Dr. Giulio Busi, Institute of Jewish Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-52002, Email:

Link to the Announcement