Oxford sets up degree course for leadership

The Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies is planning to set up the first degree-level course in Britain for Jewish leadership.

Its proposed two-year programme would involve a one-year master's in Jewish studies at Oxford University, followed by leadership studies at the university's Said business school.

Centre president David Ariel said the Global Jewish Leadership Scholars Programme would provide "Rhodes scholars for the Jewish world" - a reference to the university's renowned international scholarship scheme.

If the plan goes ahead, five-to-10 students from around the world would come to the centre each year on full scholarships.

The scheme will cost £500,000 a year to fund

"There would also be an option for those already working in Jewish communities," Dr Ariel said. "They could take it on a part-time basis, doing modules in leadership from Said and in Jewish studies from us." He hopes to introduce the ambitious scheme, which would cost around £500,000 a year to fund, in 2014.

The first step will be to appoint a new fellow in social science research and Jewish demography, who would also act as director of the international scholars programme.

Jewish studies was not just retrospective in analysing the past, Dr Ariel said. It could also be "prospective, making a contribution to new ways of thinking about Jewish issues. There is not enough research-driven thinking about contemporary Jewish issues.

"I noticed when I came here [in 2008] that the Jewish community was not as deeply engaged with issues of Jewish continuity as we had been in the United States. Since much of my work there had been involved in an effort to strengthen Jewish identity by building up academic resources for the Jewish community, it seemed to be something that could be done here."

The centre's current MSt in Jewish studies has an international reach, with students from Slovakia, Malta and Sweden as well as the UK this year. It offers a broad grounding in Jewish history and culture with options ranging from archaeology to modern Israel.

    Last updated: 1:04pm, January 19 2012