The Temple Tifereth Israel, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver's congregation, moved
to Cleveland's University Circle area, near Western Reserve
University, in 1924. Silver had earned a Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew
Union College in 1927 and had been awarded an honorary doctorate by
WRU in 1928.
Rabbi Silver died on Thanksgiving Day, November 28,
The first page of the September 27.
1964 Plain Dealer told of creation of a Jewish Studies chair in his memory
at WRU, with a $500,000 endowment from the Louis D Beaumont Foundation,
the Edith Anisfield Wolf Fund of the Cleveland Foundation, and the
Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Federation.
A half-million dollars was a generous endowment for a
chair in the humanities.
The university archives hold a letter in which
the donors' representative stipulates that
holders of the chair should be aligned with Rabbi Silver's values.
The letter gave an example of an unnamed British historian of world-class
reputation whose views were the opposite of those held by Abba
Hillel Silver. That would not be acceptable for the chair in honor
of the memory of the great rabbi.
This was a
reference to Arnold Toynbee, whose "Study of History" had called Judaism a "fossil religion" and
whose views were regarded by Jews as anti-Jewish and anti-Israel.
Some have described the process by which holders of the chair
chosen as tense and at times not well managed.
But, as the donors desired, representatives of our Jewish community
have had a voice in the choice.