Cooperation with Israeli universities and dealing with Jewish history and contemporary culture in research and teaching at Freie Universität Berlin have both been important to Freie Universität since the 1950s. Shortly after the university was founded in 1948, the faculty and management undertook efforts to gain Jewish emigrants as visiting professors for the university. One of the first of these was the New York-based German studies scholar, Adolf Leschnitzer. The university administration hoped that just a few years after the end of World War II, it would be possible to "get over the horrible events of the past few years" and "pave the way toward reconciliation" through scholarly work and dealing with Jewish history in teaching. These reasons were included in a letter of invitation to Leschnitzer. During the first years after Freie Universität was founded, numerous other emigrants who had returned to Germany were hired at Freie Universität Berlin, including Ernst Fraenkel, a professor of political science, and Ernst Hirsch, a professor of law and intermittently rector and deputy rector of the university.
In 1963 the first Institute of Jewish Studies in Germany was founded at Freie Universität. The decision to establish this institute was made in connection with the appointment of Jacob Taubes, who later became the first director of the institute. He was succeeded in 1979 by the historian Marianne Awerbuch, who had returned from Israel to Berlin in 1966 to write her doctoral dissertation at the Friedrich Meinecke Institute of History. From the beginning, the collaboration in research and teaching covered all the subject areas, including medical training.
The idea of creating an institutional framework for academic contacts to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was already in place in 1957, as indicated by a letter, which is currently in the University Archives. An official partnership agreement between the two universities was concluded in 1986. In the meantime, they are cooperating within a strategic partnership, which includes numerous joint research projects in the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences as well as student exchange. At the end of 2014, the two universities signed an agreement providing for the exchange of staff of the university administrations and service facilities. The agreement aims to provide better and more sustainable structures for cooperation in research and teaching.
Various cooperation projects with the Hebrew University will be part of the program of events during the anniversary year. They will include a lecture series on the history of German literature from the Middle Ages to the present. The lecture series, which is currently running in Jerusalem, started during the 2014 spring term and will be concluded with a final event in April 2015. A teaching project launched in 2014 for education students won the Teaching Award of Freie Universität Berlin. It will be continued this year. Students studying history and ethics at both universities will attend seminars at the same time in Berlin and Jerusalem. They will exchange ideas and information through the Internet, working together to jointly develop teaching materials. The highlight of the class is joint field trips to memorials and memorial sites in Jerusalem (April 12 to 19, 2015) and Berlin (March 22 to 29, 2015).
The German-Israeli Research Training Group “Human Rights under Pressure – Ethics, Law, and Politics” is expected to be officially opened in June 2015. It is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Einstein Foundation Berlin. Each year 20 doctoral students from each university will be educated within the Training Group.