NEW YORK (Dec. 1)
Judaic studies in non-denominational American colleges and universities have increased sevenfold in the 20 years since the end of World War II, possibly opening the way for “a major upsurge of Jewish scholarship” in the U.S., according to the American Jewish Year Book, published today.
In 1945, Judaic studies were found in only a few American colleges and universities — generally the major schools with Semitic-language programs left over from the 19th Century, and some schools in the New York City area — while the current report lists courses today at 92 colleges and universities, including most of the top-ranking schools in the country. Excluded from the report are denominational schools, Christian and Jewish seminaries, and Hebrew teachers’ colleges.
The report, believed to be the most comprehensive available, was written by Arnold J. Band, Associate Professor of Hebrew at the University of California, Los Angeles, who defines Judaic studies as “the discipline which deals with the historical experiences, in the intellectual, religious and social spheres, of the Jewish people in all centuries and countries.”
Where previous reports on Jewish studies in U.S. colleges and universities tended to concentrate on the status of Hebrew in the curriculum, Professor Band points out that Hebrew is no longer “the totality of Judaic studies” even though it remains an integral part of most courses in this area. Other subjects included within Judaic studies today are Bible, Jewish history, Hebrew literature, and Jewish philosophy, mysticism and ethics.
Professor Band’s study, based in large part on material supplied to him in response to a detailed questionnaire sent to the 92 U.S. colleges and universities, points out that “the increase in positions and programs (in Judaic studies) is out of proportion to the increase in college population since 1945-46.” Among the reasons for this growth offered by those answering his poll were these: “the inspiration of the State of Israel, the impact of the holocaust, the awakening of religious yearnings since World War II, the greater acceptance by Jews and Judaism by the Gentile community, and the response of Jews to this acceptance.”
On the matter of financing, Professor Band states that at least two-thirds of the funds needed to support Judaic studies today comes from general university budgets — including grants for language study from the Federal Government. No more than 10 endowed chairs exist, he says, sponsored by the Hillel Foundation, the Hebrew Cultural Foundation, the American Jewish Committee, and some local groups.
Prepared by the American Jewish Committee, the Year Book is published jointly by the Committee and the Jewish Publication Society of America. The Year Book is a 618-page compendium of events and trends in Jewish life, including articles on Jewish population data, civil and political issues, communal affairs, adult education and Jewish affairs throughout the world.