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Milestones of the university

Visit by the new Minister of Science of the State of Baden-Württemberg Petra Olschowski in April.

Visit by the Israeli Ambassador H.E. Prosor in May.

Prof. Hanna Liss becomes a full member of the Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Presence of the HfJS in the Great Faculty Council of the Faculty of Philosophy at Heidelberg University.

In addition to Prof. Hanna Liss and Prof. Johannes Heil, Prof. Johannes Becke and Prof. Werner Arnold are now also members of the HfJS.

Young people have the opportunity to complete a voluntary social year at the HfJS.

The commemoration of the expulsion of the Jews from the Arab countries takes place at the HfJS for the first time.

Professor Dr. Werner Arnold to be the new Rector of the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies: The University's Board of Trustees and Senate have elected Professor Dr. Werner Arnold, Professor Emeritus of Semitic Studies at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Heidelberg University, to head the university.

He will succeed Professor Dr. Johannes Heil for a term of two years from October 1, 2020.

Master's degree course in Middle Eastern Studies to start in winter semester 2019/20: With the approval of the transdisciplinary Master's degree course in Middle Eastern Studies by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts, Heidelberg University and the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies will be offering a joint degree course that is unique in Germany from winter semester 2019/20.

To mark the 200th anniversary of Judaism as a discipline, the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies (HfJS), Heidelberg University and the Association of Jewish Studies in Germany are hosting an international symposium in Heidelberg from June 16 to 19, 2019.

Under the title "Gray Zones: 200 Years of Jewish Studies", more than 70 academics from all over Europe, the USA, Israel and South America will come together in Heidelberg to discuss the current state of research in the various fields of Jewish Studies.

The Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its founding in 1979 with a grand ceremony on June 17, 2019 at 6 p.m. in the packed auditorium of the New University. The guest of honor will be Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Before the ceremony, the Federal President will visit the HfJS and meet a scholarship holder of "The President's Grant", among others, during a discussion with the university rabbi Shaul Friberg and students.

The Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies is institutionally reaccredited by the German Council of Science and Humanities for a further five years.

In the summer semester of 2018, the "Visiting Professorship for Jewish Cultures" sponsored by the "Lilli and Michael Sommerfreund Foundation" will be established and filled for the first time with Dr. Diana Matut (Department of Jewish Studies at the University of Halle-Wittenberg). The chair, which is filled annually with a new guest lecturer, enriches the range of courses on offer at the HfJS, particularly in the area of Sephardic-Misrachic Jewish cultures.

December 2017: German Research Foundation gives the green light for "Corpus Masoreticum" - a twelve-year research project by the Chair of Bible and Jewish Bible Interpretation

Federal President Steinmeier donates prize money from the "Ignatz Bubis Prize for Understanding" to the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies and the Bente Kahan Foundation in Wrocław (October 2017). In future, the HfJS will use this prize money to fund "The President's Grant", which is primarily intended to support students from non-EU countries.

Professor Dr. Frederek Musall, holder of the Chair of Jewish Philosophy and Intellectual History at the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies, will be appointed Deputy Rector of the university under the auspices of the Central Council of Jews in Germany in May 2017.

Senate of the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies appoints Michael Sommerfreund as Honorary Senator in February.

Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, will speak on June 9 as part of the Heidelberg University Talks.

On May 18 and 19, 2016, the first international conference of the Elie Wiesel Research Center will take place at the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies.

Junior Professor Dr. Johannes Becke, holder of the Ben Gurion Endowed Chair for Israel and Middle East Studies, will give his inaugural lecture on 8 December 2015 in the auditorium of the Old University of Heidelberg. The topic: Land and redemption. A comparison of the Zionist project.

Federal President Joachim Gauck visits the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies on May 23, 2015, after attending the memorial service held to mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Buber's death in the auditorium of the Old University of Heidelberg as guest of honor.

Opening ceremony of the Abraham Berliner Center at the University of Jewish Studies in Heidelberg on April 21, 2015.

Admission of Ernst Robert Curtius M.A. in General and Comparative Literature for the winter semester (October).

The Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies (HfJS) participates in the EU education program ERASMUS plus (duration 2014-2020) in the field of "Higher Education" as holder of a European University Charter.

"Sacred Spaces" - Colloquium in honor of Professor Dr. Salomon Korn (March).

The cultural mediation project "Likrat - Youth & Dialogue" at the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies is honored as an outstanding "educational idea" in the nationwide competition "Ideas for the Educational Republic".

Adoption of the StEP 2017 structure and development plan (November).

Admission of the M.A. program Jewish Museology for the winter semester (October).

Paidea Alumni Conference at the HfJS: The first graduates of the M.A. Jewish Civilizations meet for an alumni reunion at the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies (May).

Introduction of the B.A. Practical Jewish Studies in the winter semester 2011/12 (October).

Start of the M.A. program in Jewish Civilizations with the Paideia Institute Stockholm in the summer semester (April).

The university is involved in the new DFG Collaborative Research Center 933 Material Text Cultures at the University of Heidelberg with two sub-projects.

Bundestag President Dr. Nobert Lammert speaks as part of the Heidelberg University Speeches.

Saul Friedländer as a guest at the HfJS (Eugen Täubler lecture).

Teaching by HfJS lecturers in the community training program "Weiterbildung - Professionalität- Innovation" of the ZWSt together with the FH Erfurt in Bad Sobernheim (November).

First alumni day for former HfJS students.

The Central Archive for the History of Jews in Germany moves into the HfJS building (March).

The Ben Gurion Endowed Professorship for Israel and Middle East Studies, a foundation of the state of Baden Württemberg, begins its work (winter semester 2009/10, Prof. Rakefet Zalashik).

In the winter semester 2009/10, the HfJS celebrates its thirtieth anniversary.

Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff, former rector of Ruprecht Karls University, is appointed the first honorary doctor of the University of Jewish Studies (September).

Hachnasat Sefer Torah in the Beth Midrash of the university (November).

The German Council of Science and Humanities (WR) grants the HfJS institutional accreditation for ten years.

Eröffnung des Neubaus

Award of the Hermann Maas Prize for Likrat.

Admission of the HfJS as a full member of the German Rectors' Conference (HRK).

Introduction of the Bachelor's degree course in the winter semester 2007/08.

Conclusion of the cooperation agreement with Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva (BGU).

Opening of the "Heidelberg University Speeches" series - suggestion and planning of the series by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the HfJS, Prof. Salomon Korn.

25th anniversary since 1979:

134 master's examinations, 9 completed doctorates since 1995.

Introduction of the state examination course "Jewish Religious Studies" for the teaching profession at grammar schools.

Establishment of the Ignatz Bubis Chair financed by the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation.

Conferral of the right to award doctorates.

Foundation of the Friends of the University.

State recognition by the state of Baden Württemberg.

Foundation of the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien on the basis of a decision by the Board of Directors of the Central Council of Jews in Germany (16 students).

Rectors of the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien

  • since 2020 Professor Dr. Werner Arnold
  • 2019-2020 Professor Dr. Johannes Heil, Acting Rector
  • 2013-2019 Professor Dr. Johannes Heil
  • 2008-2013 Professor Dr. Johannes Heil, First Vice-Rector
  • 2005-2008 Professor Dr. Alfred Bodenheimer
  • 2002-2005 Professor Dr. Manfred Oeming, Vice-Rector
  • 1997-2005 Professor Dr. Michael Graetz
  • 1989-1997 Professor Dr. Julius Carlebach
  • 1986-1988 Professor Dr. Gisbert Freiherr zu Putlitz & Prof. Dr. Gerhard Rau
  • 1984-1986 Professor Dr. Mosche Elat
  • 1984 Professor Dr. Benjamin Kedar, Acting Rector
  • 1982-1984 Professor Dr. Shmaryahu Talmon, 2nd Founding Rector
  • 1981-1982 Professor Dr. Abraham Wasserstein, Acting Director
  • 1979-1981 Professor Dr. Leon A. Feldmann, 1st Founding Rector

Heidelberg University Lectures

The lecture series of the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität regularly gives national and international leaders the opportunity to speak on issues of public interest. With this series, the university aims to set an academic and cultural example for the Jewish community in Germany and beyond.

Under the motto "Society in Transition", the lecture series of the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies discusses current future issues that affect everyone - such as social developments, current debates or structural challenges facing European societies.

Prof. Dr. Salomon Korn, Vice President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the HfJS, initiated the series in 2005.

Starting with an appearance by Marcel Reich-Ranicki in the Alte Aula of Heidelberg University, a large number of high-ranking speakers, including German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel, have since been invited to take part.

The university speech in 2023 took place on July 20, 2023 in the Alte Aula of Heidelberg University after a break of more than four years and was given by Carolin Emcke.

The title of the speech was Zeugenschaft und Krieg - Über die Ethik des Erzählens.

Lecture on November 12, 2008 by Alice Schwarzer:
"On the 'emancipation' of women and Jews - similarities and differences".

Lecture on October 29, 2008.

Before his speech in the auditorium of the Old University on October 29, 2008, Federal Minister of the Interior Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble took time for a personal conversation with students of the HfJS.

You can find the text of the speech here.

Lecture on July 2, 2008 by Günther H. Oettinger:

"Market economy and religious diversity - How minorities contribute to Europe's prosperity and freedom".

You can find the text of the speech here.

Lecture on June 18, 2008

A commentary by Alexander Dubrau

Karl Cardinal Lehmann is known beyond Germany's borders as the voice of German Catholicism and its moral authority. Lehmann has also been a committed interlocutor in interreligious and intercultural dialog without giving up his own positions. It should be remembered that he appeared as a mediating spokesman following irritating statements made by German bishops during a trip to Israel in spring 2007.

When the guest speaker now turns his attention to the topic of the "return of religion", he is picking up on a topical contemporary word and a comprehensive social phenomenon. The subtitle of his lecture, "On the ambivalence of a contemporary buzzword", already indicates that he intends to reflect on this critically. Lehmann begins by quoting statements from the booming literary market and comments on current opinions on this topic. The emotional reaction of many contemporary commentators, which always arises when the "return of religions" is discussed, is striking. Alongside benevolent observers of this supposed paradigm shift towards religion (such as "Why the return to religion is good"), skeptics of various stripes dominate. Lehmann's explanations reveal the desideratum of an objective and distanced analysis of the phenomenon. He attributes the current trend to a "postmodern arbitrariness", which also has a negative impact on interreligious dialog.

In his lecture, Lehmann outlines the change in the concept of "religion" and in this context also recalls the criticism of religion and the mockery of religion in the Hebrew Bible. Lehmann takes a position on the understanding of religion in a 5-point catalog: 1) the reference to God as reason and goal is the essence of religion, 2) the dignity of man is not to be questioned, 3) the freedom of man is always to be guaranteed, 4) man's search for meaning is motivated by religion, and - this is above all a Christian-Catholic position - 5) the non-violent missionary mission to all peoples is part of the religious understanding of life. Opening up to the outside world first requires internal localization. According to Lehmann, the understanding of salvation in Jesus Christ is irrevocable for the Church.

Cardinal Lehmann then turns to the Catholic Church's approach to non-Christian religions, which in his view is characterized by both a positive-affirmative and a negative aspect. A mediation of both elements should follow the principle: "The unity of religions can be achieved without abolishing their diversity". Lehmann's lecture concluded with an optimistic outlook on interreligious dialog. Cardinal Lehmann then provided an opportunity for discussion.

23. January 2008

Henryk M. Broder
"Anti-Semitism could become something if the Jews would take care of it" - Jewish self-hatred from Karl Marx to the present day.

14. November 2007

Otto Schily (Former Federal Minister of the Interior)
Religion's claim to absoluteness and tolerance

Lecture on July 11, 2007

During her visit to Heidelberg, German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel listened with great interest to the Vice President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Prof. Dr. Salomon Korn (right), and the Rector of the University of Jewish Studies, Prof. Dr. Alfred Bodenheimer (left next to the Baden-Württemberg Minister of Science, Prof. Dr. Peter Frankenberg), explain the plans for the new extension to the university. Nevertheless, Chancellor Merkel was not sparing with praise for her hosts in her subsequent speech: the University of Jewish Studies is unique in Europe. The Chancellor also had the opportunity to discuss the coexistence of Jews and non-Jews in the Federal Republic of Germany with students.

At the invitation of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies, Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel gave a lecture on the topic of tolerance - the basis of coexistence between religions and cultures on 11 July as part of the Heidelberg University Speeches in the auditorium of the Old University. In her speech, the Chancellor called for more religious and social tolerance in Europe. Only in this way could the integration of foreigners succeed, she continued. Merkel encouraged the religions to discover the world through each other's eyes. "That is almost the most exciting thing," she emphasized. This process leads to dialog and democratic decision-making.

In his welcoming address, the Rector of Heidelberg University recalled Angela Merkel's first visit to the University of Jewish Studies in 1991, when she was Federal Minister for Women and Youth. She had come on the occasion of the opening of a conference on the topic of "The History of Jewish Women in Germany". In her opening speech at the time, she already stated what is now the academic standard: the history of Judaism in Germany and its description is also part of German history. Bodenheimer emphasized that the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, which was visited by a head of government for the first time in its almost thirty-year history, "is now on its way to establishing itself as a European center of excellence for Jewish studies". The aim of the Jewish and non-Jewish lecturers and students is "to pursue Jewish studies together in a Christian environment in order to radiate into a pluralistic society". The Rector of Ruprecht Karls University, Prof. Dr. Dres. h.c. Peter Hommelhoff, took the opportunity to thank Dr. Merkel for her impressive G8 and especially EU presidency. The packed auditorium in the time-honored wood-panelled auditorium also applauded her.

Lecture on April 25, 2007

The rapid changes in the media landscape and their impact on our communication in a globalized world are the focus of Hubert Burda's lecture. The major publisher knows what he is talking about. His holding company publishes 252 magazines, journals and newspapers in 19 countries (68 of them in Germany) and has around 120 radio and Internet holdings. One of his most important successes in the German print media sector was the founding of the news magazine Focus in collaboration with Helmut Markwort in 1993. However, Burda, who holds a doctorate in art history, is not only distinguished by his publishing skills. He is one of Germany's most important patrons of art and literature and is committed to Jewish causes. He financially supported the CD-ROM production of Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation and the construction of the Jewish Community Center in Munich. In 2006, he was awarded the Leo Baeck Prize for his commitment.

Lecture on November 22, 2006.

A commentary by Prof. Dr. Johannes Heil

Daniel Cohn Bendit has already spoken in many halls. He didn't even say a word about the ambience of the auditorium of the Old University in Heidelberg. As a guest of the University of Jewish Studies as part of the Heidelberg University Talks, he got straight to the point. That's how he always did it. This straightforwardness, which does not shy away from unavoidable conflicts, has brought him to the fore. It is not for nothing that he has been one of the most conspicuous players in the otherwise inconspicuous European Parliament in Strasbourg for years.

This brings us, almost as quickly as Cohn-Bendit, to the heart of the matter. One or two years ago, Europe and the Middle East would probably have elicited only a defensive groan from those concerned. In the past, European initiatives on foreign policy, especially in the Middle East crisis region, have repeatedly revealed themselves to be European domestic policy, and no one outside the region really needed to be interested. However, according to Cohn-Bendit, this Europe is now called upon in view of the political stalemate in the Middle East and the all-round failure of American policy in Iraq. The crisis there, which has not yet been overcome, will first be followed by a major clean-up at home, in other words - Vietnam sends its regards - a return to domestic interests. However, the circumstances in the Middle East did not allow for a vacuum, and of course Europe had to fill this vacuum. "The threat is increasing rapidly." This was perhaps the clearest message of Cohn-Bendit's thought-provoking lecture. "I was never a Zionist, and I was never anti-Zionist." As a European and as a Jew in Europe, he is interested in progress towards détente in the Middle East. That is easy to believe. Cohn-Bendit is also realistic enough not to hope that Europeans will have the ideal insight into the conditions of conflict in the Middle East. He knows his people well enough and he knows that they are only at their best when they themselves are affected. Europe is under threat, he concludes, so there is a prospect of improvement, especially at the moment, because: "The fact that nothing works anymore is also an opportunity." However, there are too many old friendships and even older scores to settle, including historical obligations in Germany, for one country alone to play an active role. Only Europe offers an appropriate framework for action. What Cohn-Bendit has in mind is a de-escalation strategy under the umbrella of a European-moderated peace conference that sets about finding an integrated solution to the issues at hand: the Palestinian question cannot be solved without Syria, Lebanon cannot be solved without Israel, all of this cannot be solved without Iran, the security wall must be removed where it does not follow the 1967 borders, Israel's security must be guaranteed; this requires international guarantees and security measures. Until then, there has been no mention of water, which cannot be provided for the region without Turkey's participation

So Cohn-Bendit described the pieces of the puzzle very precisely, without pretending to have the picture in mind. That is why he has so little use for the kind of resolutely well-meaning "both-and" positions that have recently found a voice in academic petitions. Wanting to lecture, even if it is perhaps correct in the matter, does not get you anywhere "This kind of thing only leads to a stalemate where everyone is right." And the 200,000 participants in this year's Rabin memorial service would have long since understood for themselves what could be said from the outside. So how should things continue? Cohn-Bendit introduced his speech with the "Jewish joke": "If you have two choices, choose the third". The idiosyncratic realism of this sentence was also part of the opposition culture of sixty-eight. Instead of immediately giving up in the face of such conditions, it inspired its protagonists at the time. This life experience is probably also the reason why someone like Cohn-Bendit does not want to appear to be a pessimist, even after taking stock and in view of the many obstacles that have not even been mentioned. Let's hope he is right. Because, slightly modified, what is this other sentence, which is neither Jewish wisdom nor a joke: "We don't know how to go on, but we are doing it with all our might.

Lecture on July 03, 2006

A commentary by Prof. Dr. Johannes Heil

"... I am known as a realist" - this brief sentence was uttered at some point during Joschka Fischer's lecture as part of the Heidelberg University Speeches in the auditorium of the Old University. Everyone wants to be a realist, an advisor and a right-winger, as could be heard in the discussion. But being a realist is not easy, especially when you think about Israel and political concepts for creating a peaceful Middle East. Anyone who is a realist, Fischer said, will quickly realize that "the flaming speeches since 1947 have only increased the tragedy."

Freed from the burden of the convention of the office, Fischer's speech was aware of the "depressing topicality" of the Middle East issue in every sentence. "Germany is not uninvolved in the Middle East", is historically involved and is currently interested in an amicable solution to the complicated situation in its own interests. Despite all the bad news of the day, Fischer also recognized rays of hope: the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, decided and enforced by the Israeli right, was a historic turning point towards a realistic policy. An equally realistic policy on the Arab side could only be one that did not always cite Israel as the "big excuse for everything" for all failures and shortcomings, for example in the area of mass education. The current Iranian leadership's unvarnished policy of nuclear armament in particular shows how necessary internal and external reforms are: "Now is the time to act and open up perspectives."

In all of this, it became clear how close political positions and personal convictions can be: Fischer's unconditional plea for a fair balance of interests in the Middle East, secure borders and living conditions for peoples and states, Germany's special responsibility for Israel and an active role in the region, finally also the importance of Turkey as a (coming) model of successful European integration and internal reform of an Islamic society and also the indispensable leadership role of the USA - these were all topics and positions that Foreign Minister Fischer had already courageously advocated. The speaker made it clear that leaving office could not be a withdrawal from responsibility for him: instead of the plenary chamber, it would now be the lecture hall, for the time being.

Michael Naumann, born in Saxony-Anhalt in 1941, studied politics, history and philosophy. On May 10, 2006, he gave a speech at Heidelberg University on the subject of "Imago Dei and education - a German conceptual history".

From 1998 to 2000, the habilitated political scientist, journalist, publicist and publishing director held the office of Minister of State for Culture and Media, which was newly established under Gerhard Schröder. In January 2001, he moved to Hamburg as editor of the weekly newspaper "Die Zeit". Together with Tilman Spengler, he took over the publication of the magazine "Kursbuch" from "Die Zeit" in 2005.

The second Heidelberg University Lecture of the semester was given on February 15, 2006 by Rabbi Israel Singer, Chairman of the World Jewish Congress.

He was visibly moved by the location of the lecture, the Alte Aula of the University. To him, who was born in Brooklyn and whose parents had fled Vienna, the magnificent, historically charged location seemed exciting in its own way. The following remarks were also characterized by a personal note: Singer formulated fundamental positions on the relationship between religions and cultures that went beyond the topic of the evening.

The difficult, but also fruitful process of rapprochement with the Vatican offers a wealth of experience. With regard to the current cartoon controversy, Singer warned against simplistic schemes that seek to identify an inevitable "clash of cultures". He emphasized that democratic principles and cultural communication processes cannot do without the moment of respect for the other person and their convictions.

On December 7, 2005, the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies began the Heidelberg University Lecture Series with a lecture by Marcel Reich-Ranicki on the subject of literature without a homeland. The lecture took place in the auditorium of the Old University of Heidelberg.