Report: Future of Judaism studies at risk
Committee presents report to Council of Higher Education pointing to drastic decline in allocation of budgets, faculty to Jewish thought research in Israeli universities. 'It's scary that Israel, which is considered base for Jews around world, is slowly losing influence in the field,' says council member
A new report presented to the Council of Higher Education warns of a grim future in the field of Jewish philosophy studies, following a drastic decline in research funds and the number of faculty members in the field.
While the global interest in Jewish thought has been surging, Israeli universities opt to invest funds in more "financial" departments.
The report, authored by a committee headed by Prof. Daniel Dahlstrom of Boston University, was presented to the Israeli Council of Higher Education, which accepted its recommendations.
The committee members noted that while Jewish philosophy has been taught in Israeli universities for decades, and many Israeli researchers gained international reputation in the field – a drastic decline in budgets and faculty members has been reported in the last decade, leading to a severe impact on the quality of research and instruction.
'Grim picture'The authors of the report also claimed that universities are basing their decisions on financial calculations, neglecting fields such as Jewish philosophy in favor of management and exact sciences departments.
"As a Jewish and democratic state, Israel cannot maintain its cultural, intellectual and moral prosperity if it neglects the origins of Judaism and Jewish tradition, and therefore the Council of Higher Education and the universities must nurture fields that enrich the spiritual culture of the Jewish people," the report read.
Committee member and Israel Prize laureate Prof. Moshe Idel from the department of Jewish thought at the Hebrew University said the report paint a gloomy picture of the future of Jewish thought research and studies in Israel, as long as the trend of cut backs in higher education institutions continues.
"The impression has always been that Israel is the international center for the development and advancement of Jewish philosophy, but in reality the picture is very grim; universities are raising money for Judaism research but use the funds for other purposes," Idel noted, adding that "the number of incumbencies has been drastically reduced and entire departments and seminars have completely disappeared from the curriculum.
"Maimonides and the Kabbalah have an immense universal influence and it is very surprising that exactly at the same time the entire cultural world draws an interest in Jewish thought, in Israel the whole subject is submerging. Every culture that forsakes its past will end up being impervious to its future generations, and risks severing the cultural bond," he added.
A Council of Higher Education member addressed the report findings at a recent discussion, saying "It's scary that Israel, which is supposed to be the base for Jewish people around the world, is slowly losing its influence in the field.
"The report serves as another link in the chain of continuous infringements on the field of humanities, and I hope that university heads will use the conclusions and implement them in order to restore the departments of Judaism to their proper place," he said.
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