AMDG Express had two Jewish stories last week (John McDade on Israel our brother, and Hugh O’Flaherty, Righteous among the Gentiles). This week Thomas Casey SJ becomes our man in Jerusalem. Tom, normally teaching at the Gregorian in Rome, is Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (pictured here) until the beginning of February 2009. Tom is teaching the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard and of the Jewish thinker Emmanuel Levinas (the latter’s philosophy was the subject of Tom’s PhD). The Hebrew University is the main secular university in Israel, with over 24,000 students, and first opened in 1925, twenty-three years before the State of Israel itself was founded.
In 1921 Albert Einstein traveled to New York with the biochemist and president of the World Zionist Organization Chaim Weizmann to raise funds for the creation of the university. During their 13-day voyage by ship, Einstein tried as best he could to explain the theory of relativity to Weizmann. Later, when Weizmann was asked about these conversations, he said: “During the crossing, Einstein explained his theory to me every day, and by the time we arrived I was fully convinced that he really understands it.”
As well as Weizmann and Einstein, the first Board of Governors of the Hebrew University included Martin (I-Thou) Buber and Sigmund Freud. When Tom heard that Freud had been on the first Board of Governors he felt like a pack of cards, but he’ll deal with that later!