Shalem College is born

Sunday morning, the Israeli cabinet, in its weekly meeting, approved the recommendation of Israel’s Council for Higher Education, that Shalem College be accredited to enroll students for the Bachelor of Arts degree in the humanities. A new institution of higher education is born. I am president-designate of the new college, which will open its doors to its first class in October 2013, in Jerusalem.

I will have more to say about this in the coming weeks and months. For now, I would like to direct you, my Hebrew readers, to the new website of Shalem College, which has just gone live. There you’ll find plenty of information about Shalem College, which will bring the classic curriculum of the liberal arts to Israel for the first time. From philosophy to art, from Bible to physics, students at Shalem College will acquire a deep understanding of the human endeavor and the Jewish tradition in all their aspects. Students initially will have a choice of two degrees (majors), both combined with the same extensive Core Curriculum: the Interdisciplinary Program of Philosophy and Jewish Thought, and Middle East and Islamic Studies. These programs represent the end product of a deep and thoughtful interaction between our scholars and the academic committees and staff of the Council for Higher Education. We are beholden to the Council for its constructive and professional input, which improved virtually every aspect of our plan.

All the credit for this remarkable achievement goes to my colleagues—I myself have remained “on deck” for these past four years (this year, as a visiting professor in America), while they have done the painstaking work of gaining accreditation, raising funds, finding a campus (a beautiful building in Kiryat Moriah, pictured), recruiting faculty, and much more. The leader of this monumental effort has been Dr. Daniel Polisar, the most indefatigable man I have ever known. With wisdom and grit, and a steady sense of purpose, he has forged ahead through crises and tribulations to this day—his day.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with him has been an outstanding team of board members, scholars and administrators, each one an accomplished expert in a field of crucial importance to the future operation of Shalem College. We have also enjoyed the trust of generous donors, who maintained us unstintingly during the long gestation and who have provided the wherewithal for the first years of the College. I will have much more to say about the vital contribution made by all of these colleagues and friends, who deserve to be named, and who count as pioneers and founders. Until then, I applaud their brilliant performance, and I congratulate them on their triumph.

The work is finished, and the work has just begun.