50th Anniversary of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew & Jewish Studies

Thirty years ago in August, Elizabeth and I were married. Over our honeymoon, I was encouraged to send in an application to the Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew & Jewish Studies for their one-year “Graduate Diploma.” I was admitted and received a full scholarship, so we deferred the offer from the University of Toronto, spent a little over a month living in a basement apartment of close friends in Iowa, and then flew out of O’Hare to Oxford, with a lot of luggage and only $50 in our account. Our first year of married life was spent in a small flat made up of two rooms, a bathroom, a closet converted into a kitchen, in the Old Vicarage on a 16th century manor just outside of Oxford. This past week, the OCHJS celebrated their 50th anniversary.

My undergraduate advisor, now colleague and friend, Gary Rendsburg was at the reception and noticed Elizabeth and I in the image below. He was kind enough to send a link to their video.The link does not want to embed, but clicking on it should work. The video is narrated by Hugh Dennis, a British comedian I love. Prof. Patterson son was the producer and creator of “Mock the Week,” which Dennis used to appear on as a regular panelist. Final trivia: Dennis father was a bishop in the CofE. I am not sure who the priest is to Elizabeth’s left, but some of you may recognize Prof. Geza Vermes on the other side of the priest. We would in Oxford another three years as Elizabeth worked for an NGO and I completed my DPhil at Oxford (in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies [formerly Oriental Studies] I just learned of that change. and St. Cross College).

In the last 30 years so much has happened, of course, in our lives, but the Centre has changed quite a bit as well. They dropped the “Postgraduate” from their name and moved from Yarnton Manor, about 4 miles outside of Oxford, downtown to the Clarendon Institute. The Centre is now fully a part of the University and, after they reduce the amount of work required, the “Graduate Diploma” that I received is now a Master of Studies. (I was once told that they were going to retroactively grant those of us who received the Dipl. with an MSt. but to my knowledge that has not yet happened.) The Centre, David Patterson who founded it, and Philip Alexander who was the President at the time and later my doctoral advisor, had a wonderful impact on our lives. I am thankful for the many scholars from that time who have shaped and impacted my career, many who I now count as my friends.

Happy anniversary OCHJS! I am sure that Prof. Patterson is, indeed, “kvelling,” as his son suggests at the end of the video. Thank you for the legacy you have provided for so many.

Prof. Emanuel Tov giving the first(?) David Paterson Lecture in c. 1995.

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