By Erika P. Schon
Just over a year ago in June, faculty and staff were busy packing boxes at Baltimore Hebrew University, sifting through decades of history. Dusty boxes were unearthed from the basement, overflowing with archival materials waiting to be sorted, and old photographs and memorabilia that spoke of 90 years of venerable history in the annals of Jewish education. Next door to the president’s office, a rising mountain of discarded paper destined for the shredder threatened to hit the ceiling, a reminder of the old way of storing information prior to the invention of the hard drive. With its painted cinderblock classrooms, library dumb-waiter and jerry-rigged internet connections, BHU was definitely “old school”, but held a special place in my heart. The building had surely served us well, nurturing the scholarship of some of the finest minds in Jewish studies during the 20th century – Drs. Joseph Baumgarten, Samuel Ivri, Louis L. Kaplan, and Moshe Aberbach to name just a few – may their memories be for a blessing.
Yet, as Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) teaches us, there is indeed a time for every purpose under heaven. Surely, it was time for BHU to find a new home.
And so, the old building came down, but its immortal soul and magnificent mission rose up, and found a new academic setting, just a few miles away. Park Heights Avenue gained a much needed new parking lot, and Towson University gained a new tier of graduate programs in Jewish Studies, Jewish Education, and Jewish Communal Service.
Today, I write our first blog entry from the Baltimore Hebrew Institute, in an office on the fourth floor of the new Liberal Arts building. ( http://www.towson.edu/bhi ) Outside my window, the constant rumble of trucks and ongoing construction assures me that things are as they should be. Old has given way to new, and the external growth heralds a strong burst of internal activity. Towson University is on an upward trajectory, its strong academic growth matched by programmatic expansion. I am excited to work in this diverse and intellectually stimulating environment, and know that the former BHU faculty and students share my enthusiasm. To end with Kohelet again, now is the time to build.
Shana Tova to all!