Many thanks to those who have signed our petition – we are hugely grateful for your support on this vital issue. Since we launched the petition, SOAS management have affirmed in writing that they retain a broad commitment to Jewish Studies, through the activities of the Centre for Jewish Studies, the Jewish Music Institute, and the teaching of a wide range of UG and PG modules, in Jewish Studies, Israeli Studies and Hebrew language. We urge you to continue your backing and encouragement of these initiatives at SOAS.
However, as you know, we are protesting the threatened abolition of the Jewish Studies professorship at SOAS, which is based in the School of History, Religions & Philosophies. BAJS emphasises that the entirety of the Jewish experience from antiquity onwards is fundamental to Jewish Studies, and the potential loss of an important professorship in Jewish Studies is detrimental for UK teaching and research in our field.
In addition, naturally, the remit of BAJS is the defence of Jewish Studies, but BAJS wishes to offer solidarity to all subject areas that may be experiencing the threat of redundancy at SOAS and elsewhere, including early career scholars, and we express our concern at the continued sector-wide shift to precarious teaching appointments. BAJS asserts that all universities have a responsibility to protect small yet valuable subject areas, and to sustain them through permanent appointments so as to ensure a balanced and forward-looking curriculum.
Thank you for your generous efforts to protect Jewish Studies.
SOAS, University of London, UK is threatening to abolish its single professorship in Jewish Studies.
The Committee of the British Association for Jewish Studies (BAJS) have written to senior management at SOAS in protest, highlighting that Jewish Studies is absolutely critical for programmes on the Near and Middle East, and emphasising that modern Israel can only be understood in light of the long, diverse and rich history of Jewish Studies from antiquity to the present. The BAJS Committee also raised the importance of Jewish Studies for understanding global challenges, including antisemitism, and the implications of the loss of an important post in Jewish Studies for the future development of our field in the UK.
We ask for your support in this protest. We have set up a petition and we need our colleagues to sign it and encourage others across the wider academic community to do so. We hope to reach all those with an interest in protecting Jewish Studies, or indeed other small subject areas, so we would be hugely grateful if you could circulate this petition as widely as possible.
Time is tight due to decision-making deadlines at SOAS, and the petition will only be open until 5pm GMT on Tuesday 28 July. The full text is:
“It is with consternation that we the undersigned have learned that SOAS, University of London, threatens to abolish its single professorship in Jewish Studies. We are all aware of the financial difficulties faced by the Higher Education sector, which have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis. However, world-leading institutions such as SOAS have a responsibility to protect vulnerable subject areas, and SOAS must recognise that the breadth of Jewish history, religion and culture is critical for a full understanding of perspectives on the Near and Middle East. We are extremely concerned about the impact of this decision on UK provision of Jewish Studies, and also on the reputation of SOAS as a widely recognised provider of this discipline. We call upon SOAS, University of London, to reconsider this decision and secure Jewish Studies as a vital part of its internationally renowned provision in the Near and Middle East.”
You can sign it here (we need named signatories):
The BAJS Committee is most grateful for your support in this action to protect teaching and research in Jewish Studies in the UK.
With best wishes,
President, British Association for Jewish Studies