American to lead Oxford Centre

An academic who has written books on Kabbalah and Jewish belief is to be the first American head of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

David Ariel, 58, the acting president of Baltimore Hebrew University, will succeed Peter Oppenheimer in October. He retires after eight years as president of the centre.

“The Oxford Centre has had a superb international reputation over the years,” said Dr Ariel, who will be attending its annual dinner in London next week. “Its founder, David Patterson, created a world-class institution that attracts scholars from all over the world.”

He added: “This is a very exciting time for British Jewry. In my perception, the renaissance of Jewish life in Europe is very positive and there are some wonderful academic and cultural developments.” His four books include What Do Jews Believe; The Jewish Faith Re-examined and Kabbalah: the Mystic Quest in Judaism.

For 25 years, he was president of the Laura and Alvin Seigal College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland, Ohio, an independent institute specialising in the training of Jewish educators, with distance-learning programmes in six other American cities, before taking up a role in a similar institution in Baltimore last October.

A key objective will be to increase funding for Oxford’s fellowships, as well as endowing new posts in areas such as Sephardic studies, Kabbalah and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    Last updated: 11:29am, May 7 2008