Hebrew University: A Universally-Minded Institution in the Jewish Homeland

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When I began my position with Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University at the end of the summer, there was a major misconception held by some of my friends when I told them the name of the organization, specifically the ones who are unaware of the institution:

“Hebrew University?  Oh, neat, so is that something to do with Jewish studies? Zionism? Are you working at an Israeli advocacy group, Noah?”

And to be fair, to those who aren’t as familiar with Israel, hearing the words Hebrew University certainly denotes a more Jewish nature before anything else. After all, Oxford is not called English University and University of Delhi does not feature Hindi in its title. Hebrew University is a flagship for Jewish studies and language studies, but has evolved to become a beacon for medical research, agricultural innovations and technological advancements, among other things.

Although the school is located in the most significant Jewish area on the planet, it is also heavily rich in diversity.  Students at Hebrew University can identify with Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Druze, Bahá'í, Hinduism, Mormonism, Buddhism, Christian-Arab and more. To think the school is the Jewish University is not terribly off base because of the prominent Judaic affiliations, but to label it solely as the Jewish university is under-shadowing the range of backgrounds and cultures that study in the classrooms, roam the hallways and go on to flourish in their respective fields. Hebrew University is the epitome of religious tolerance, housing itself to students that represent numerous religious groups, ones that go beyond the three major monotheistic faiths. I would challenge someone to think of a similar example.

So, at first glance, the term ‘Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel’ seems to echo a very particular connotation, but in reality, the school is a pluralistic institution of higher learning.

Hebrew University? Oh, neat, the institution that aims to eliminate diseases and find cures for illnesses that we always thought were not curable? The one that has students from all walks of life? That university?

Yes, that one.

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