Jewish studies gets new director

Brite Divinity School officials found a new director of the Jewish Studies Program last week.

Nancy Ramsay, Brite Divinity School dean, said Ariel Feldman, a current Newton Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Manchester in England, accepted the position early last week and would join the staff as the Rosalyn and Manny Rosenthal Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and director of the Jewish Studies Program in fall 2011. Both posts are currently vacant.

Ramsay said Feldman could not relocate to the U.S. to begin teaching until he has completed the prestigious Newton fellowship. The classes traditionally taught by the director will not be taught again until Feldman arrives in 2011.

According to the Newton International fellowships website, the Newton fellowship is a post-doctoral research fellowship for international scholars. The program is administered by The British Academy, The Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society.

When he comes to campus, Feldman, a graduate of the University of Haifa in Israel, will be required to teach three graduate-level courses and one undergraduate-level course in the religion department, Ramsay said.

Ramsay said Feldman will teach the same undergraduate class as his predecessor, David Nelson, who resigned from the post in May 2009 to pursue other interests.

Because of the specialized nature of the program Feldman will be entering, Ramsay said, the position has been vacant with special lectures augmenting attention to the area in the meantime.

Feldman has specialized in the Qumran Scrolls, better known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Ramsay said. According to the Library of Congress website, the Dead Sea Scrolls were the oldest Hebrew scripture manuscript still in existence when they were discovered in 1947.

Ramsay said faculty and staff at the school look forward to Feldman’s arrival.

“People are delighted,” Ramsay said. “We’re very pleased. He’s very talented in the areas that we need for the position, and he obviously is very well regarded.”

Feldman wrote in an e-mail that he accepted the position because it provided an opportunity to teach others about his area of specialization in addition to being able to work with other first-class scholars.

“The position at Brite suits perfectly my academic interests and aspirations, as they looked for a person specializing in Second Temple Jewish literature in general and Dead Sea Scrolls in particular,” he wrote.

Feldman, a native of Russia currently living in Britain to complete his fellowship, wrote that the school also had a good reputation abroad. He wrote that his colleagues described Brite scholars as both original and highly productive.

“My present colleagues have [warmly] recommended Brite to me as one of the best [institutions] of its kind,” he wrote.

Feldman wrote that one concern he had was that he would not be able to obtain the necessary documents for both him and his wife to work in the United States. He also cited challenges like learning a new language and culture and settling in a new place upon moving.

“We have been through this process twice: moving from Russia to Israel and now from Israel to U.K.,” Feldman wrote. “It takes time and efforts to make a new start.”