Brichto Israel post launched

By Simon Rocker, September 27, 2011

A new fellowship in Israel studies has been set up at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in memory of one of Israel's most passionate supporters, Rabbi Sidney Brichto.

A former executive head of the Liberal movement, Rabbi Brichto, who died in 2009, was a governor of the centre and associated with it since its creation in the early 1970s.

Friends and family have raised nearly £500,000 to endow the post for an initial five years - it would cost around £1.75 million to guarantee in perpetuity. Its holder will also be a fellow at an Oxford University college and teach on its degree programmes.

"He would be so proud to know that there will be a fellowship in his name at Oxford," said Rabbi Brichto's widow, Cathryn, at a reception to announce the post at the London home of the centre's chairman, Lord Fink.

He was a "proud and vocal spokesman for Liberal Judaism, Israel and all things Jewish," she said. "He was never afraid of putting his head above the parapet and saying the unfashionable thing."

Rabbi Brichto was a man whose "passion, commitment and fire in his gut lit up so many rooms and so many hearts," said the centre's president, Dr David Ariel. The fellowship, he said, would be "fully integrated into the university and it is going to make a difference".

Already, he said, "we have succeeded in including Israel studies in the Middle East curriculum". Students doing a BA in Middle Eastern studies from now on will have to do at least one module on Israel.

The new Brichto fellowship is part of a wider move to develop Israel studies in British universities. Oxford University's first professor in the subject, Derek Penslar, is due to arrive shortly, while a new lectureship has been created at Leeds.

Last updated: 2:14pm, September 27 2011