When the Hebrew University was projected [Hayim Bialik] became one of its most enthusiastic protagonists, for here he believed the old and the new, the Jewish and the supranational, would meet to blend in a contemporary but traditional Hebrew culture. The excerpt below represents a speech he gave in the presence of Lord Balfour and a galaxy of other dignitaries at ceremonies marking the opening of the University in 1925.
“There is an ancient tradition that in the time of the Redemption the synagogues and houses of study of the Diaspora will be transported, along with their foundations, to Palestine. Naturally this legend cannot come true literally; the house of knowledge and learning that has been erected on Mount Scopus will differ greatly, not only in the materials of which it is made but in its nature and purpose, from the old bed-midrash. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, amid the ruins of those hallowed structures there are many sound and beautiful stones that can and ought to be foundation stones of our new edifice. Let not the builders reject these stones. At this hallowed moment I feel impelled to pray: May those stones not be forgotten! May we succeed in raising the science and learning that will issue from this house to the moral level to which our people raised its Torah!”
Leora Batnitzky is Perelman Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Religion at Princeton University as well as the Director of Princeton’s Tikvah Project on Jewish Thought. She is the author of Idolatry and Representation: The Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig Reconsidered (Princeton, 2000), Leo Strauss and Emmanuel Levinas: Philosophy and the Politics of Revelation (Cambridge, 2006), and How Judaism Became a Religion: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought (Princeton). Her current project focuses on the conceptual and historical relations between modern religious thought (Jewish and Christian) and modern legal theory (analytic and Continental). She received a B.A. in philosophy from Barnard College, Columbia University and a B.A. in biblical studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Her M.A. and Ph.D. are in religion from Princeton University.