BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — South America is getting its first Jewish university next year.
The Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires — which is affiliated with the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, the Conservative movement’s flagship — obtained legal approval last month to establish the Isaac Abarbanel Jewish University Institute. The school will confer diploma, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in subjects ranging from Jewish and religious studies to ethics to ancient manuscripts.
“This makes Argentina better by allowing it to enrich its diversity and, at the same time, expand the scope of its academic proposal to other regions of the world,” said Jaime Perczyk, Argentina’s education minister, in a statement on Nov. 16. Rabbi Ariel Stofenmacher, the rector of the rabbinical seminary, said the university will be “a lighthouse beacon for Latin America.”
One other Jewish university exists in the rest of Latin America: the Hebrew University of Mexico, which is located in Mexico City and run by an Argentine rabbi, Daniel Fainstein. The Latin American Rabbinical Seminary has had a continuing education institute under the Abarbanel name since 1978, but it has not conferred degrees titles.
The new university will include a center for the study of Hebrew manuscripts, including some from between the 9th and 15th centuries that are located at the Vatican Library. The digitized collection includes Torah scrolls, rabbinic literature, Jewish philosophy, liturgical books, poetry and kabbalistic texts.
The seminary is named after American rabbi Marshall Meyer, a New York native who worked to revitalize the Conservative movement in Buenos Aires from 1958 to 1984. In 1962, he created the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, which ordains rabbis in Argentina and throughout Latin America. It has ordained approximately 110 Conservative rabbis since 1972.
Meyer, who was mentored by the activist rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, returned to the United States in 1984 and became the spiritual leader at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York. He also served for a year as vice president of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. He died in December 1993.
Isaac Abarbanel was a prominent 15th-century Jewish sage who worked in Portugal and, after the Spanish Inquisition, in Italy.