Supporters of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies welcomed its new fellow in Israel studies at a London reception on Tuesday
Dr Hizky Shoham, 37, who has been teaching at Tel Aviv University, will take up the post in January combined with a research lectureship at Oxford University.
His fellowship has been set up in memory of Rabbi Sidney Brichto, a former governor of the centre and a passionate advocate for Israel, who died in 2009. A fundraising drive led by Rabbi Brichto’s widow Cathryn raised £500,000 to fund the post for an initial five years.
But centre president Dr David Ariel expected “to continue with additional fundraising to make sure the post is made permanent at the centre and the university”.
He added: “There is a battle going on in university campuses today, not only in this country but throughout the world. There is a misrepresentation not only of Israel but of the Jewish people which has to be corrected.”
On his first visit to London, Dr Shoham — who joked that he was wearing a tie for the first time — is a yeshivah-educated, former high-school teacher who switched to academia. He has a doctorate from Bar Ilan University, did postdoctoral research at Yale and has taught at the Shalom Hartmann Institute in Jerusalem.
He specialises in the cultural history of Israel and Zionism, exploring Jewish nationalism “through the prism of everyday life”.
Undeterred by warnings from British relatives that universities can sometimes be hostile places, his mission was “to try and form a dialogue. I know it will not always work. But if there are people who are interested in knowledge, I will be there for them.”