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The Future of the Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg Is Secured

Funding organizations have signed a cooperation agreement to safeguard the institution into the future

News from Nov 04, 2021

FUB Press Release № 221/2021 from Nov 04, 2021

The future of the Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg is now assured, after a cooperative agreement guaranteeing the project’s continued existence in the region for the next ten years was signed on Monday, November 1, 2021.

The supraregional association, founded in 2012, is funded by eight prominent actors who are dedicated to academic research on Jewish history and culture, with due reference to different religious and cultural aspects. These include Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), University of Potsdam, Abraham Geiger College, Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies, and the University of Music FRANZ LISZT Weimar. Under the terms of the new agreement, the center will move from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin to Freie Universität Berlin.

Professor Julia von Blumenthal, chair of the Selma Stern Center’s board of trustees and president of the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) commented on the momentous occasion, “I am delighted that, together with the other funding organizations, we have succeeded in safeguarding the work of the Selma Stern Center for the next ten years. This is of a great significance considering this special year, as we celebrate 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany. Our shared efforts are a manifestation of our duty to commemorate our history, and of our dedication to giving the richness and vibrancy of Jewish life, traditions, and culture greater visibility through research.”

Professor Verena Blechinger-Talcott, deputy chair of the Selma Stern Center’s board of trustees and vice president of Freie Universität Berlin, elaborated on why the center’s move to Freie Universität is of great historical importance: “From its beginnings in 1948, our university was shaped significantly by the contributions of returning emigrants. Their work laid the cornerstone for Berlin’s success as a city of science today. The fact that the seat of the Selma Stern Center is now moving to Freie Universität Berlin is not just an act of remembrance, but also an expression of hope for the further development of this tradition in education and research in the future.”

The current spokesperson of the Selma Stern Center, Professor Kerstin Schoor from the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) added, “Back in 2012, when the Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg was first founded, it represented a historical moment that is hard to overstate. For the first time in German history, an institution was created in which multiple universities, in conjunction with several other actors, made Jewish studies an integral component of research and teaching. The best place for this institution was, and continues to be, the region of Berlin-Brandenburg. That is why we are very happy that the center has now secured its future after a successful, ten-year initial phase.”

Michael Müller, the Governing Mayor of Berlin and Senator for Higher Education and Research, commended this milestone and highlighted its social significance: “This groundbreaking agreement between the universities and research institutions of Berlin and Brandenburg not only reflects the major historical importance of Jewish studies in our region, but also the need to promote this field into the future. This is where the research work undertaken by scholars at the Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies is of the utmost relevance to our society. It acts as a bulwark against threats like antisemitism, racism, and nationalism, and helps us to successfully counter them. The recently signed agreement has laid the basis for the Selma Stern Center’s further development and made it an indispensable feature of our research landscape.”

Brandenburg’s Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Manja Schüle, also welcomed the news: “This is a great sign! 1,700 years after the first Jews came to Germany and 350 years after they first permanently settled in the Berlin-Brandenburg area, we have managed to secure the future of the Selma Stern Center and its invaluable work through this partnership. This will undoubtedly strengthen Jewish studies, which are already strong in the region. The Department of Jewish Studies and Religious Studies at the University of Potsdam, Abraham Geiger College, Zacharias Frankel College, the School of Jewish Theology and Moses Mendelssohn Center in Potsdam, as well as the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) – all within the State of Brandenburg – have developed into prominent sites of secular Jewish studies and scholarship over the last 30 years that have since gained a glowing reputation internationally. The message is clear: Jewish theology and Jewish cultural life belong here.”

Supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Selma Stern Center has developed into an internationally renowned association and research network over the past decade. The center, which has links to many international partners, has made Jewish studies visible in ways that highlight the region’s unique interdisciplinary approach. There is something special about how academic institutions specializing in Jewish studies in Berlin, Brandenburg, and Thuringia bring together diverse perspectives in their research. A partnership agreement was concluded with the Hebrew University Jerusalem in December 2020 to intensify cooperative efforts with the entire scientific region of Berlin-Brandenburg.

Professor Uzi Rebhun, academic head of the International Office for the Faculty of Humanities at the Hebrew University, said, “The Hebrew University of Jerusalem welcomes the long-term security that this agreement provides for the Selma Stern Center. This is a significant step toward the successful implementation of our partnership in research, teaching, and the sharing knowledge in various fields of Jewish studies. Jerusalem and the scientific region of Berlin-Brandenburg, each in its own way, have played a central role in Jewish history; we are now adding another brick to this edifice.”

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Selma Stern Center signed a cooperation agreement on December 10, 2020.

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