Bar-ilan Searching for President

Bar Ilan University is searching for a president to serve under its chancellor, Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein. Rabbi Lookstein has confirmed a report that a four-man presidential selection committee was set up this summer by the university’s executive council. The president, Rabbi Lookstein said, would live in Israel and be in charge “on the spot” of the school’s affairs. Rabbi Lookstein, who is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan, spends most of the year in New York. Dr. Moshe Max Jammer, professor of physics, served as president of Bar-Ilan for two years several years ago, Rabbi Lookstein said, but no one was appointed to succeed him as president.

Rabbi Lookstein said he has been “pushing” for the appointment of a new president “for a long time.” He said the presidential selection committee, which is chaired by Prof. Saul Lieberman, a Bar-Ilan trustee, is expected to have a candidate by next Feb. Rabbi Lookstein declined to disclose the names of those currently under consideration. The committee’s choice must be approved by the university’s board of trustees, Rabbi Lookstein said. Besides Prof. Lieberman, the committee members are Rabbi Lookstein, Dr. Zerach Warhaftig, Israel’s Minister of Religious Affairs and Dr. Menachem Zewi Kaddari, Bar-Ilan’s rector.

The existence of the search committee was learned when the JTA was informed that Prof. Lieberman, who is also the rector of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Conservative), is not a member of a committee recently set up to form an Orthodox academic yeshiva as part of Bar-Ilan, as reported in the JTA Daily Bulletin dated Aug. 27, 1971. When Rabbi Lookstein announced that Bar-Ilan plans to establish an Institute for Higher Jewish Learning to educate rabbis “who can speak and labor in 20th century Israel,” he incorrectly identified Prof. Lieberman–in addition to himself and Dr. Warhaftig–as a member of the committee assigned to explore and present concrete plans for the Institute.

Actually, Dr. Kaddari is the third member of that committee. Apparently, the chancellor inadvertently confused the nearly identical memberships of the presidential selection committee and the Institute committee. Meanwhile, some members of the Bar-Ilan University Senate have urged that the committee for the establishment of the Institute consider new suggestions, including the setting up of an independent rabbinical college which would not be part of the university, although it might be served by the university’s academic staff. Reports from Israel indicate that some members of the academic staff have not responded favorably to the proposal to set up the Institute because it would create conflicts with the present religious Jewish establishment in Israel.

When he announced the decision to form the Institute, Rabbi Lookstein acknowledged that the Orthodox Jewish community in Israel “is not yet sympathetic to the idea of an academic yeshiva because the concept of a school for rabbis,” as opposed to a place where men come to learn just Torah and Talmud without necessarily becoming ordained “has not been accepted” by Israel’s predominantly Eastern European religious Jewish community. But the university chancellor stated that “if the religious community is not sympathetic, then it will have to revise its thinking to accept it and realize the time for it has come.”

NEXT STORY