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The Seminary Israel Institute, a joint program of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the Jewish Agency's Department of Education and Culture, was established at JTS in 1952. Louis Finkelstein, then the president of JTS, and Hayim Greenberg, head of the Jewish Agency's Department of Education and Culture, appear to have been the originators of the idea (see Moshe Davis's introduction to Israel, Its Role in Civilization, ix).
The purpose of the Israel Institute was to "strengthen the spiritual and cultural bonds between the State of Israel and America; to offer Americans an interpretation of the spiritual and cultural values of the State of Israel; to foster an understanding of the potential role of the State of Israel as intermediary between the Orient and the Occident; and to help develop a recognition of the State of Israel as a spiritual center for Jewry everywhere." (See Seminary Registers for 1958–1959 and 1966–1969).
The Institute's program consisted of annual public courses and lectures given at JTS through which the new nation of Israel was interpreted for an American audience. In 1954 the Institute began a series of annual Weizmann lectures, delivered usually by an Israeli scholar or statesperson. The Institute also published books, held luncheons and dinners, delivered awards, and, during the 1960s, sponsored a fellowship program in which scholars who were not Jewish were sent to Israel for short tours. The fellowship program was an effort to increase understanding of and gain friendship for Israel.
The Israel Institute appears to have ended sometime during the late '60s or '70s.
Davis, Moshe, ed. Israel, Its Role in Civilization. New York, NY: Seminary Israel Institute of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1956.
Kaplan, Mordecai. A New Zionism. New York, NY: Herzl Press, 1955. (Originally delivered as a series of lectures at the Israel Institute in 1954).
Mandelbaum, Bernard, ed. Assignment in Israel. New York, NY: Seminary Israel Institute of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1960.
H. L. Ginsberg, February 23, 1955
Benjamin Mazar, November 1, 1955
Nahum Goldmann, January 15, 1958
Yaacov Herzog, April 8, 1959
Zalman Shazar, March 23, 1960
Moshe Sharett, November 17, 1960
Avraham Harman, December 12, 1962
Baruch Kurzweil, December 10, 1964
Simon L. Halkin, March 16, 1966
Chaim Rabin, March 22, 1967
Ezekiel Kutscher, March 6, 1968
William F. Albright, 1954
Reinhold Niebuhr, 1955
Mordecai Kaplan, 1956
Nelson Glueck, 1958
Louis Lipsky, 1962
Edward Duff, SJ, 1965
Robert C. Dodds, 1969
A. Roy Eckardt, 1966
Robert T. Handy, 1967
Martin E. Marty, 1969
Walter J. Ong, SJ, 1969
Samuel D. Proctor, 1967
Philip J. Scharper, 1966
Alexander Schmemann, 1966
Krister Stendahl, 1967
Records of the Seminary Israel Institute, 1947–1969, consist of correspondence and memoranda; typescripts, outlines, and transcripts of Institute lectures; minutes; programs and invitations for Institute lectures, dinners, award ceremonies, and other events; lecture attendance registers; lists of invitees; press releases, circular letters, and other publicity material.
This material, which is largely in English with a small amount in Hebrew, documents the inauguration of the Institute in 1952 and its yearly administration, 1952–1965. Included are typescripts, outlines, or verbatim transcripts of lectures (a few in Hebrew) delivered at the Institute. Lecturers represented include: Hillel Bavli, Martin Buber, Gerson Cohen, Chaim Z. Dimitrovsky, Carl J. Friedrich, H. L. Ginsberg, S. D. Goitein, Nahum Glatzer, Nahum Goldmann, Hayim Greenberg, A. S. Halkin, Ben Halpern, Rose Halprin, Howard Mumford Jones, Mordecai Kaplan, Milton Katims, H. L. Keenleyside, Philip Klutznick, Leo Kohn, Ezekiel Kutscher, Margaret Mead, Mordecai Narkiss, Allan Nevins, Dean Pike, Jacob Robinson, Maurice Samuel, Morton Smith, and Yigal Yadin.
Also included are files documenting the preparation of the Institute's book, Israel, Its Role in Civilization for publication in 1956. Correspondence, and annotated typescripts and proofs are included. Authors represented include Selig Adler, W. F.Albright, Salo Baron, Alexander Bein, David Ben Gurion, Martin Buber, Abba Eban, Louis Finkelstein, Carl Friedrich, H. L.Ginsberg, S. D.Goitein, Hayim Greenberg, A. S. Halkin, Rose Halprin, Robert Handy, Howard Mumford Jones, Milton Katims, Leo Kohn, Saul Lieberman, Mordecai Narkiss, Allan Nevins, Jacob Robinson, and Morton Smith.
Files concerning awards of the Institute's Israel fellowships, 1965–1969, contain correspondence with award recipients, their itineraries, and, in some instances, articles or other written impressions of their trips to Israel.
Of note is a letter on White House stationery by President Harry Truman to Louis Finkelstein, February 14, 1952, with greetings at the opening of the Institute.
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