Annual Report 2003-2004
1. Reappointment of Fellows: Reappointments for 3 years were agreed for Lucille Cohen, Lionel Kochan, Irene Lancaster, Les Lancaster, Ephraim Nissan and Reuven Silverman.
2. Teaching Support: Dr Unterman had undertaken an additional course, which the Centre supported. Support for other teaching, full-time (Dr. Langton) and part-time (Dr Unterman and Dr. Kadish), was provided from Faculty Teaching Replacement money, in relation to Professor Alexander's current secondment as Associate Dean (Research).
3. Student Support:
a Lionel Black bursaries (MA): Two Lionel Black bursaries were awarded for 04/05, one to a Spanish student, the other to a local student. Only 4 students have enrolled on the MA this year, a source of some concern.
b PhD support: Support was provided for first year PhD fees for a Polish student in 04/05; the Agunah Research Unit made its first PhD studentship appointment wef Jan 04.
4. Major Research Projects: see their respective web pages
a Agunah Research Unit: The Unit commenced operation in January 2004, on the basis of funding from the Steinberg Family Trust, the Harbour Trust, and the David Uri Memorial Trust. Further funding has been obtained from the Hanadiv Foundation, bringing the total to date to approx £68k. A recent application to the Leverhulme Foundation has been successful at the outline stage, and the full application is now being prepared. The funding thus far supports one PhD studentship for 3 years and one part-time Research Fellowship (Rabbi Dr Abel) for 18 months. The further support is designed to extend the present Research Fellowship and appoint a further full-time member of staff for 3 years.
The research agenda of the Unit is available from its web site (www.mucjs.org/agunahunit.htm) in the form of a 78-page paper by the Director, Prof. Jackson. The team meets weekly to discuss the progress of the research, which consists at present in a literature review and investigation of the use (or non-use) by later authorities of talmudic traditions which indicate possible solutions to the problem. We pay particular attention to the problems of authority commonly used in rejecting proposed solutions. The Unit has contacts with contemporary halakhic authorities, and networks actively with others interested in the field. The 2004 Sherman Lecturer, Rabbi Dr Daniel Sperber, gave a special seminar to the Unit, which proved very productive.
b AJR Project on the Experiences of Refugees in the Manchester region, 1933-1945: This is a three year project, two of them funded by the AJR in London, which will lead to the production of a book jointly written by Bill Williams and Dr. Daniel Langton. The kindertransports brought 1,000 children to Manchester. So far around 75 interviews have been conducted. The research seeks to break new ground and questions existing assumptions. Was the British government as helpful to intending refugees as it might have been? What about 'the British people'? How strong was anti-Semitism and xenophobia in shaping responses to refugees? Was acculturation as easy for the refugees as has been suggested? The project seeks to look critically at the voluntary agencies set up to support refugees. Was the Jewish community as responsive in practical terms as it might have been? Is it true that large numbers of people of Jewish origin owe their salvation to the Quakers? Why didn't the political left, strong in Manchester and Salford, do more for refugees? Why is it that they went out of their ways to support the Basque children, refugees from the theatre of the Spanish Civil War, but apparently took no collective action on behalf of the kindertransports?
This is perhaps the first attempt at a regional study of the refugee experience, making it possible to consider the interaction between refugee settlement and a particular social, political and economic context. The patterns of refugee settlement will be one product of a data base being built up of refugees in the region and which will finally give us definitive statistical evidence of numbers, places of origin and places of settlement of refugees to the region. The project is also trying to rescue documents and photographs in private hands, and negotiations have begun with John Rylands for the creation of a refugee collection here at the University.
c Genizah Cataloguing Project: The main funding for this project comes from the Friedberg and Safra Foundations. The primary objective is the creation of a searchable online catalogue for the Gaster Genizah collection held within the Special Collections Division of the JRULM. Electronic records will be supplied to the Friedberg Foundation as part of the JRULM's contribution to the international project to produce a union catalogue for all Genizah collections world-wide.
The 10,000+ fragments include Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, Halakha, Bible commentary, Documents, Letters, Calendars, and Medical works. Over 700 Biblical fragments have so far been identified and described, and full descriptions have also been made of fragments on a variety of other topics. Some help with cataloguing is provided by the JNUL in Jerusalem. There is also a pilot digitisation project: 200 images, of about 100 Genizah fragments, are currently being prepared for the web, together with their descriptions, using the Luna imaging system.
d Jewish Built Heritage: A grant totalling £315,876 has been made by the Arts and Humanities Research Board for the "Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage in the UK & Ireland", directed by Dr Sharman Kadish and initiated in 1997 under the auspices of the Jewish Memorial Council. The Hanadiv Charitable Foundation has funded a related project, the establishment of "Jewish Heritage UK" of which Dr Kadish has been appointed Director. Whilst the Survey is concerned with recording and researching the vanishing architectural heritage of British Jewry, Jewish Heritage UK offers practical conservation advice, covering synagogues and cemeteries and also movable property such as archives, artefacts and ritual silver. Dr Kadish plans a major book on the history of synagogue architecture in Britain with original drawings and full-colour photographs by English Heritage especially commissioned for the project.
5. Sherman Lectures: A successful series was delivered in 2004 by Professor Daniel Sperber of Bar-Ilan University, on "The Modern Study of the Halakhah" (surprisingly unsupported by the local rabbinate). The 2005 series will be delivered on 6th-10th March 2005 by Professor Barry Kosmin on "Rethinking the Jewish World for the 21st century"(details on web site) and the 2006 lecturer will be Dr. Ada Rapaport-Albert.
6. Research Seminars and Guest Lectures: Seminars were given by Donald McCallum, University of Manchester, on "A Wittgensteinian approach to Maimonides' Guide"; Dr Uri Ehrlich, BGU, on "Early Versions of the Amidah Prayer", and Dr Meir Bar-Asher, HU, "Jews and Judaism in Early Shi'ite Religious Literature". A fourth seminar, by Prof Irven Resnick, U Tenn., on "Medieval Stereotypes of the Jew: Evidence from Natural Philosophy and Medicine" had to be cancelled because of the speaker's indisposition. A special rabbinics seminar by Prof. Arnold Enker, of Bar-Ilan University, on "Criminal Law Aspects of the Noahide Laws", attracted a substantial audience despite being held in July. The 2003 AGM was followed by a guest lecture by Professor Joseph Kostiner of Tel Aviv University on "The Arab States and Israel: A present evaluation".
7. Extra-mural activities:
a Rabbinics Seminars: A highly successful series of rabbinics seminars studying the Chief Rabbi's internet essay, "A Clash of Civilisations", each led by a Fellow of the Centre, was held in October-November 2003. Plans are currently being discussed for a follow-up series in Semester 2 this year, adopting a different text on the Jewish approach to interfaith relations.
b AIAS: Occasional lectures continue to be organised in conjunction with the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, generously supported by Mr. Joe Dwek.
c Hale series: On the initiative of Lucille Cohen, a series of lectures is being held in Hale in October-November 2004, in conjunction with Christians in Hale on "Christianity and Judaism: Roots, Resonances and Historic Interactions".
d CCE courses: Dr. Sharman Kadish's course on Jewish Art and Architecture Through the Ages in the current semester was cancelled because of the low level of advance registrations. Discussions are in progress with CCE to try to change the administrative arrangements such as to address this issue in the future. Frank Adam is due to deliver a series on A History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict in semester 2 - 10 Wednesdays at 7.00 -9.00 p.m. commencing 12th January 2005, Humanities Building. Fee: £35.00 (SC202W04, listed under History and Archaeology).
8. Web site:
a A pilot web site, the "Nathan Laski Internet Resource Centre", prepared with funding from the Nathan Laski Charitable Trust, has been launched. The site provides descriptions of web sites which may assist teachers of Jewish Studies in schools, and takes account of national curriculum requirements. An Introduction has been written by Charlotte Gringras, who assisted with the evaluation of the sites described, and has been appointed Honorary Consultant for the continuation of the project.
b The Centre's web site attracts some 20,000 hits per month. It is due for a major revision, in the light of new statutory requirements relating to disabled access, the merger of UMIST and the Victoria University of Manchester, and the need for simplified navigation given the growth of the site in recent years.
9. Finances: The position remains much as last year. New sources of income remain urgently required. The success of the Centre recently has been in relation to specific research projects, but support for the continuing teaching infrastructure, in the form of teaching fellowships and student bursaries, is urgently required. The Centre lacks secretarial assistance, the burden being carried largely by Dr Langton and Professor Jackson with occasional student help. Because of the time devoted to research grant applications, there has been little advance in general fundraising. The planned initiation of a new Friends organisation has been delayed, but Mr. Howard Jacobson has now agreed to participate in a launch event, being planned for next autumn.
10. Israel Studies Lectureship: Negotiations have recently concluded for the establishment of an (initially) 3-year full-time Lectureship in Israeli Studies, generously supported by a London private donor. An advert will appear shortly, and it is hoped to make an appointment wef January 2005.
11. Library Matters:
a Cataloguing of the Centre library (described in last year's report) has now almost been completed, and an announcement regarding access arrangements will be made shortly.
b Israel Studies Library: An agreement has been made to purchase the Israel Studies library of Dr Noah Lucas of Oxford (c.600 items), in conjunction with the creation of the new Israel Studies Lectureship.
12. "Project Unity": The merger of the Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST into the new University of Manchester took effect on 1st October 2004. This involves the creation of new Faculties and Schools within them. The concern expressed last year that this may well result in the current Departments of Religion and Theology (including Messrs. Alexander, Brooke, Curtis, Jackson, Kadish, Langton, Unterman and Williams) and Middle Eastern Studies (including Messrs. Healey, Garside and Samely) finding themselves in separate Schools has proved accurate. The Planning Committee resolved in July 2003: "The Planning Committee of the Centre for Jewish Studies, conscious of its role in student recruitment, course development, income generation and outreach, as well as its success in cross-departmental research promotion, opposes any departmental reconfiguration which would make collaboration between members in R&T and MES more difficult, and favours a solution which would recognise and facilitate the further development of Jewish Studies within the University." Discussions have commenced on the best manner of implementation of this policy in the new administrative environment. It has been decided that the Centre will be classified as an Inter-School Research Centre, but much of its activity, and its Constitution, will be subject to a review to be conducted in Semester 2. The Directors are confident that the achievements of the Centre are becoming more widely recognised in university circles as a result of these processes, and are hopeful that the review will result in new opportunities and not merely a changed, and perhaps more onerous, administrative framework. In particular, it is hoped that the new structures will encourage greater participation from beyond the former Departments of MES and R&T.