The Centre for Jewish Studies at SOAS was established in the 1990s and is currently situated in the Department of Near and Middle East Studies in the Faculty of Language and Culture. It is committed to the promotion of Jewish and Israeli Studies through scholarship, teaching, book launches, workshops, public events, conferences and symposia, debate and discussion. Past participants in its deliberations have included Nicholas de Lange, Fred Halliday, Hussein Agha, Anthony Julius, Norman Geras, Shlomo Arieli, Michael Walzer, Martin Goodman and David Cesarani.
It seeks to research and to communicate the richness of the Jewish experience and thereby raise the profile of Jewish and Israeli Studies at SOAS. It therefore provides an intellectual home for the MA in Israeli Studies, doctoral endeavours and academic research in general.
The Centre’s lecture subjects cover a multiplicity of sub-disciplines. Thus Professor Rachel Elior of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem addressed a large audience on ‘Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? Mystical Context in Light of Historical Circumstances.’ In early 2007 while Dr Colin Shindler launched his latest book ‘What Do Zionists Believe?’ Topics covered have stretched from ‘South African Yiddish Writing under Apartheid’ to ‘The Forced Conversion of the Jews in 17th century Iran’.
A central activity is the organisation of a series of early evening public lectures during the winter term. During 2007-2008, the common theme for the lectures, ‘Israel at 60’ commemorates the sixtieth establishment of the state.
It also seeks to cooperate with other academic institutions both in this country and particularly in Israel. In March 2007, the SOAS Centre, together with the UCL Centre for Israeli Studies, organised a symposium on the life and times of the Israeli writer, S. Yizhar (1916-2006). The speakers included Nicholas de Lange and the film of Yizhar’s short story ‘Hirbet Hizeh’ was shown.
The Centre also works with organisations whose activities are pertinent to the furthering of Jewish and Israeli studies. In 2007, a conference was arranged together with the Euston Manifesto group and ‘A Day of Negotiations’ between Israelis and Palestinians in conjunction with Peace Now-UK.
There are close ties with professional academic bodies such as the British Association for Jewish Studies and the Association of Israel Studies.