THE CHAIR IS ANNOUNCED
On Sunday September 27. 1964 the first page of the Plain Dealer told of creation of a chair of Jewish Studies at
Western Reserve University in memory
of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver. The $500,000 endowment came equally
from the Louis D Beaumont Foundation,
the Edith Anisfield Wolf Fund of the Cleveland Foundation, and the
Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Federation.
In 1964 a half-million dollars was a generous endowment for a
chair in the humanities. As an example, in February 1964 a
professorship in business and economics, where salaries are often higher, at Harvard and its Business
established for that amount in honor of another Clevelander — George Gund II. (More
on this chair.)
On Friday October
2, 1964 the Jewish Independent reported on the new chair on pages 1 and 5. The last lines of
the story are specially significant:
|"A committee of faculty
members and community representatives will be appointed
immediately to seek a scholar of distinction to fill the
THE HISTORY OF THE CHAIR
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,
There may have been talk of
endowing a chair in honor of Rabbi Silver as part of his 70th
birthday celebration in January 1963. There would have been
discussion after his death on Thanksgiving Day that year.
Such letters may have been saved in the archives of Rabbi
Abba Hillel Silver and of our Jewish Federation which are available at
the Western Reserve Historical Society.
The university archives show that the donor was the Jewish Community
Federation of Cleveland, for all the letters are on Federation
letterhead, signed by its president Myron E. Glass, or responses to
him from university officials.
An important letter
from Federation stipulates that
holders of the chair should be aligned with Rabbi Silver's values.
It includes 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 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.
ABOUT ENDOWED CHAIRS
Many universities have published their
policies for filling vacancies in endowed chairs. They allow, or
that representatives of the donor be part of the process.
search, click here.
Though some faculty may not have
welcomed non-university influence in faculty selection, as the donors
specified, representatives of our Jewish community
have had a voice in the choice.
THE FIVE HOLDERS OF THE ABBA HILLEL
In the 55 years the
chair has been established it has been
held by five persons: three male Reform rabbi-PhDs
(Bernard Martin, Marc Lee Raphael, and Peter Haas) and
two female non-rabbi PhDs (Susannah Heschel and Alanna
Cooper). They are listed below, in order of their
(1928 -- 1982)
Czechoslovakia, came to US in 1934, age 6.
M.H.L. and ordination Hebrew Union College (1951)
Ph.D. University of Illinois (1960)
Served congregations in Chicago and St Paul MN
Served as Abba Hillel Silver Professor of Jewish Studies
Also served as Chair of Department of Religious Studies
Died in January 1982 at age 53
Years Occupied = 15.5
|Fall semester 1985
Fall semester 1986
Fall semester 1988
|Marc Lee Raphael
||B.A. University of
California, Los Angeles
M.A. Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati (ordained)
Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles
During the years he
worked on Silver's biography he served three one
semester appointments as Abba Hillel Silver Visiting Professor while on leave from his
position as professor of Jewish Studies at Ohio State University
Recently retired as
Professor of Judaic Studies, College of William
Years Occupied = 1.5
- June 1998
A.B. Trinity College
M.T.S. Harvard Divinity School
Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania
Had been Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Southern Methodist
Served as Abba Hillel Silver Associate Professor of Jewish Studies
Left CWRU to become Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at
- June 2016
|Peter J. Haas
of Michigan (1974)
Ordained Reform rabbi Hebrew Union College (1974)
Ph.D. in Jewish Studies Brown University (1980}
Had been professor of Jewish Literature and Thought at Vanderbilt
Served as Abba Hillel Silver Professor of Jewish Studies,
Also served as Chair of Department of Religious Studies,
Years Occupied = 15.5
her faculty page
|B.A. Barnard College of Columbia
M.A. cultural anthropology Columbia University (1993)
Ph.D. cultural anthropology Boston University (2000)
Had been Director of Jewish Studies, Siegal Lifelong Learning
Teaching and research positions at Harvard University,
Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Boston University, U of
Michigan and U of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Serves as Abba Hillel Silver Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies.
Appointment began in January 2020
Allowing a one year vacancy when selecting
a new occupant, in 55 years an endowed chair with five
holders should have been occupied for 50 years. This
chair has been occupied only 39.5 years. That means 10.5
years of service lost. May the future see greater