Oxford names first Israel studies professor

Derek Penslar

Derek Penslar

Oxford University has appointed its first professor of Israel studies: Derek Penslar (right) professor of Jewish history at Toronto University.

The chair, only the second to be created in the subject in the UK, was made possible through a £3 million endowment from the Stanley and Zea Lewis Foundation.

Stanley Lewis, who died in 2009, was a long-standing supporter of Israel best known for building up the travel firm Peltours.

Professor Penslar, who will start next year, said: "I am honoured and delighted to be the inaugural holder of the Lewis professorship. Oxford is the ideal place for the study of modern Israel in all its aspects, and as the meeting point of Jewish, Middle Eastern and European civilisations."

Educated in California, Prof Penslar taught at Indiana University before teaching Jewish history in Toronto. Professor Roger Goodman, head of social sciences at Oxford, said: "Israel plays a key part in the debate about the Middle East and Professor Penslar is a foremost scholar of its history and politics.

"This chair and his appointment give Oxford a fantastic opportunity to expand its research into this important area of the world and to become a major global centre for the study of contemporary Israel."

Two years ago Professor Penslar was among signatories to a letter condemning a proposed boycott of Israeli academics in Canada as "anathema to campus life".

Last updated: 2:09pm, May 26 2011