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Jewish Studies Scholars in Support of Prof. Peter Schäfer
As scholars in the field of Jewish Studies, we strongly protest the calumnies against our distinguished colleague, Prof. Peter Schäfer, that resulted in his forced resignation as director of the Jewish Museum of Berlin. This is shocking because the Museum serves as a major international center for education about Judaism and Jewish history. Having a scholar of his academic distinction as director is one of the Museum’s greatest achievements.

False accusations have been spread about Prof. Schäfer, and we are appalled that truth is no longer being upheld and that the reputation of a scholar devoted to Judaism would be smeared in public. This is outrageous, and we protest in the strongest terms.

Prof. Schäfer is the first and greatest scholar of Judaism to emerge in postwar Germany. After studying at Israeli universities, he created the field of Jewish Studies in Germany by establishing an institute at the Free University of Berlin and publishing numerous extremely important studies on Jewish history and literature in antiquity and the Middle Ages—books and editions that changed the field of Jewish Studies internationally. The students trained by Prof. Schaefer in Germany and, later in the United States, when he became professor at Princeton University, have had very important careers as teachers and scholars of Judaism around the world. Through his career, he has maintained strong and active ties with the Israeli scholarly community, where he is viewed as a great colleague and friend.

Prof. Schäfer is one of the most important scholars of his generation and is respected throughout the academic community. He is a scholar of the highest rank who also made an extremely important contribution to the revival of Jewish life in Germany in the postwar decades and to the fight against antisemitism. He has also worked tirelessly to promote a better understanding of Zionism and the importance of the State of Israel. Thanks to him, a new appreciation for Judaism and Jewish history has emerged among Germans, Jewish and Christian.

These are talents he brought as director of the Jewish Museum of Berlin, seeking to offer its many visitors an understanding and appreciation of the beauty of Judaism and the preciousness of Jewish life, including the State of Israel, where Prof. Schäfer is deeply admired and respected.

Gershom Scholem once remarked, “You don’t have to be an elephant to teach zoology.” Nor do you have to be a Jew to teach Jewish history. On the contrary, the great wish of members of the Wissenschaft des Judentums was to create a community of Christian colleagues with deep learning of Judaism. Prof. Schäfer has fulfilled that wish in great abundance and with extraordinary accomplishment; he is an ambassador of Judaism to the entire world. Let us thank him and honor him and stop these outrageous calumnies.

We demand a public apology to him from those who have spread lies about him.

[To view the list of signatures so far, see https://tinyurl.com/schafer-petition-signatures ]

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