J. D. B. News Letter

(By Our London Correspondent)

Sir Matthew Nathan, President of the Friends of the Hebrew University, was in the chair at the second annual meeting of the Society held here yesterday. The Report of the Executive Committee showed a steady progress of the Society during the the past year. The membership has increased to 240.

The Society collected a considerable amount of technical literature for the several departments of the University and subscribed for a number of English scientific periodicals. It was, moreover, instrumeneal in securing through its Executive Committee complete sets of the Proceedings of English learned societies, such as the Ophthalmological Society, the Palestine Exploration Fund, and the publications of the School of British Archeology. Through the agency of the Society and the London Lodge of the B’nai B’rith, the valuable technical library of the late F. S. Spiers, a former member of the Executive, was presented to the University Library.

The Society, furthermore, co-operated in the collection of funds for a scholarship in memory of the late Achad Ha’am and it recently issued an appeal for the endowment of a scholarship in Arabic, tenable at the School of Oriental Studies, to be established in honor of Lord Plumer as a mark of appreciation of his efforts to establish goodwill between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. This appeal has not yet met with an adequate response, and the Society urged all sections of Anglo-Jewry to contribute towards the endowment.

The Society has organized for the coming winter season a course of lectures on the various aspects of the University problem dealing with the place of philosophy, science and Jewish studies at the Hebrew University, to be given by Dr. Leon Roth, Professor S. Brodetsky, and the Chief Rabbi respectfully, and to be wound up by a lecture of Professor Patrick Geddes on “The Conception of the Unity of Knowledge as exemplified in the Hebrew University.”

The report was on the motion of the President approved unanimously. The meeting further approved of the Financial Report submitted by the Treasurer. The President and Honorary Vice-Presidents were re-elected, and an Executive Committee of 10 was nominated with power to co-opt. Miss R. Derenburg was appointed Honorary Secretary.

Dr. Leon Roth, the newly appointed Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, read a paper on “The Place of Philosophical Studies at the Hebrew University.” He described the task of the Philosophical Department of the Hebrew University to be on the one hand the exposition and development in the Hebrew language of the general problems of philosophy and, on the other, the investigation of the history and character of the Jewish contribution to philosophical thought.

He indicated the specific difficulties which the Philosophical Department would have to encounter during its first phase of development, notably the difficulty of language. It would have to be one of the first tasks of the Hebrew University to restudy and restate the Hebrew philosophical terminology developed by the great Jewish philosophers of the medieval age and to bring that terminology up to date by the preparation of good Hebrew translations of the works of the general philosophers and of the Jewish philosophers and philosophical scholars of the Continental countries produced during the last century. He felt, however, that the restudy of the elder Jewish philosophers was desirable at the Hebrew University not merely for linguistic and terminological purposes. The problems of modern philosophy were the eternal problems of the human mind. The study of their solutions in a different phase of civilization would help in illuminating many of the burning problems of today. It would, moreover, be an important factor in the task of bringing out the specific Jewish contribution to the general trend of philosophical thought and to human civilization as a whole, he declared.



The magnificent gift of $250,000 recently made by Mrs. Nathan J. Miller in memory of her husband, for the establishment of a chair at Columbia University for the teaching of Jewish history, literature and institutions, following so quickly upon the generous gift made last year by Hon. Lucius N. Littauer to Harvard University for a similar purpose, calls to my mind a very fine, but little known passage from an address by Prof. Herbert B. Adams on the great general cultural value of such instruction, even in such non-sectarian institutions. That distinguished scholar, who founded our present-day university methods of teaching history in American Universities by his installation of German seminar methods at Johns Hopkins decades ago, penned the following interesting passage, in writing on “The Teaching of History.” (Annual Report of the American Historical Association for 1896, part I, pp. 249-251):

“I have found that one of the best ways of teaching collegiate students general history is by the well-worn and ancient parts of Jewish and Church history. Starting with Chaldean and old Babylonian civilization, one can show the kinship of Hebrew and Semitic ideas and institutions. Phoenecian and Egyptian civilizations may be reviewed, and the points of contact with Israel clearly noted. The contributions of Israel’s neighbors to Jewish civilization and to world history should be tabulated in thesis form by members of the class, and fortified by citations from private reading. This method of undergraduate training in the historical sociology of the Hebrews in volves to a certain extent the actual use of original sources of Hebrew literature, and at the same time an acquaintance with matters of general human interest about which American college graduates know far too little… All history begins with savagery, and ends like the story of the Jews and of the Christian church, in prophetic ideals–in visions of things to come.”

New York, MAX J. KOHLER.

Oct. 27, 1928.