Professor Milton Shain appointed to the Isidore and Theresa Cohen Chair in Jewish Civilisation. Pictures by Katherine Traut.
In 1971, the late Isidore Cohen made a bequest to the University of Cape Town to establish a Chair of Hebrew Studies.
Consequently, the Isidore and Theresa Cohen Chair in Hebrew Language and Literature was established in the Department of Hebrew Studies, which at that time understood its teaching mandate to include both Hebrew language and literature and Jewish culture and religion. With the establishment of the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research in 1980, and the subsequent integration of Hebrew language and literature into the School of Languages and Literatures in 2007, UCT took the necessary steps to rename the Chair. Professor Milton Shain has been appointed as the first incumbent of the now named Isidore and Theresa Cohen Chair in Jewish Civilisation, located within the Department of Historical Studies. He commenced his new responsibilities from 1 May.
Commenting on the new Chair, Prof. Shain said “Its emphasis on history and culture falls very much in line with UCT’s growth area in the field of Jewish Studies. Of course it does not minimise the importance of Hebrew language and literature, but it does enrich UCT’s programmes in the field of Jewish Studies.” Wearing his other hat as Director of the Kaplan Centre, Shain believes the new Chair will “add weight to the Centre’s research efforts that engage with the Jewish experience as a whole with a focus on South Africa. That’s what we do best,” he said. Professor Paula Ensor, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, said Professor Shain is an excellent incumbent for the Chair, as he is an outstanding academic with a well-established international research track record. “Professor Shain’s wide-ranging scholarship has added much to our understanding of the South African Jewish experience as well as the history of antisemitism. He is very well-positioned to provide leadership in the area of Jewish Studies at UCT; incorporating the fields of Historical Studies, Religious Studies and Hebrew Language and Literature.”