The committee of the British and Irish Association for Jewish Studies is both surprised and disappointed at the University of Lucerne’s recent decision to advertise a post in Jewish studies for which applicants must be a member of the Roman Catholic Church.
Regardless of how the university’s Faculty of Theology interprets the interplay between Swiss equality legislation and canon law, there is a basic and obvious lack of credibility present in a situation whereby non-Catholic scholars – including the overwhelming majority of Jewish academics (i.e. those who are not simultaneously members of the Roman Catholic Church) – are barred from appointment to a Jewish studies post at a public university. The BIAJS committee strongly holds the view that, as a discipline, Jewish studies must be open to all scholars regardless of religious or ethnic background.
There is a particular irony in the job advertisement’s claim that the new post will feature a commitment to developing Jewish-Christian relations when the framing of its appointment process rests so clearly upon the historic and legal privileging of Christianity (in this specific instance Roman Catholicism). Given the challenges facing the ongoing preservation of existing Jewish studies posts at universities across Europe, it is vital to maintain credible processes of academic appointment and for the discipline to avoid association with discriminatory practices.