UPDATE:

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.

*

Dear colleagues,

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,

Helen Spurling

President, British Association for Jewish Studies

12 thoughts on “Protect Jewish Studies at SOAS, University of London

  1. When the world is in turmoil we have seen the impact in the past on Jews. This would be a terrible time to lesson knowledge rather than to increase it

  2. SOAS would not be justified in calling itself a School of Oriental and African Studies wihout Jewish Studies department.

    Dr. Norman Berdichevsky
    Formerly Asst. Professor of Jewish Studies , University of Central Florida

  3. I tried to sign up but received the following reply:
    hat happened?

    The owner of this website (www.change.org) has banned the autonomous system number (ASN) your IP address is in (30633) from accessing this website.
    ——–
    Please sign me on the petition:
    Professor Ilan Troen, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Brandeis University, troen@brandeis.edu

  4. I am concerned should the study of Zionism and its history no longer be available at SOAS.
    I have been researching the history of the elimination of malaria, being still one of the biggest killer diseases in the world. Part of my research has been published by Oxford University Press and the American Entomologist at https://academic.oup.com/ae/article/63/4/E1/4713025 under the title Local Malaria Elimination: A Historical Perspective from Palestine 100 Years Ago Informs the Current Way Forward in Sub-Saharan Africa.
    100 years ago, the British Army commented that Palestine was one of the most malarious countries in the world. 100 years ago, malaria elimination was not considered as achievable. Yet the Zionist settlers introduced a fresh attitude to the problem, enabling Palestine to be the place for the first start anywhere in the world of a successful national malaria elimination campaign. (Malaria was eliminated there in 1967.)
    It was the defeat by the Zionists of fatalism which then gripped the world (and still does in many areas), and which fatalism is a principal ingredient preventing elimination of malaria today.
    The study of the history of Zionism is absolutely essential to demonstrate what attitude is required to overcome the disease of malaria.

  5. I suggest no reputable Institution of Higher Learning can reasonably include the Middle East in its field of studies without dealing in depth with Israel and the Jewish world, and the relationship between one and the other as well as with the world around them. It is surely essential that long-term academic imperatives prevail over short-term considerations in protecting SOAS’ professorship in Jewish Studies.

  6. I support the importance of the continuation of Jewish Studies at SOAS to enable a balanced Middle East programme.

  7. It would be a great shame to eliminate an academic position and course of studies that has been part of SOAS or its affiliated university departments for nearly 100 years. Hopefully, ways will be found to continue funding this. Best wishes for a successful result.

  8. I am a diaspora Jew who treasures the history and culture of diaspora Jewry and deeply resents Israel’s failure equally to respect the roughly two thirds of Jews who live in the diaspora and intend to stay here, I am also a believer in a just, equal and fully democratic society in Israel/Palestine and welcome the work of Peter Beinart in reframing the debate about the land and peoples between the river and the sea. As SOAS includes in its area of study, the Middle East, which includes Israel/Palestine, an area which is home to six to seven million Jews, it is right for it to include a department of Jewish studies. Today it is ever more important that this department not be downgraded. This is not a question of whether I agree or disagree with any of the teaching in the department, but a matter of principle about academic breadth and integrity.

  9. It would be extremely remorseful to remove Jewish studies from SOAS. I trust that this will not be allowed to happen

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