A new research institute will be established at Goethe University: The Buber-Rosenzweig Institute will be dedicated to the study of modern and contemporary Judaism. It brings together numerous and largely third-party funded projects and contributes further to the consolidation of this research area at Goethe University. It all began with an endowed guest professorship for Jewish philosophy of religion dedicated to Martin Buber.
The new Buber-Rosenzweig Institute is intended to provide the necessary framework for increasing visibility and focusing research energies. This requires neither state funds nor funds from the department or university: Thanks to the successful acquisition of third-party funding, especially in recent times, the foundation is on a solid financial footing. “The Executive Board has unanimously approved the founding of the Institute. We are delighted about Christian Wiese’s initiative. The new institute has great potential to further expand cooperation with other institutions, especially internationally, and to initiate other important projects in the future,” says Prof. Enrico Schleiff, President of Goethe University.
The origins of the institute’s foundation were modest but fruitful: in 1989, the Protestant Church in Hessen and Nassau established the Martin Buber Professorship as a visiting professorship at the Department of Protestant Theology. It was intended to provide students from all disciplines, especially theology and philosophy, but also interested members of the public with an insight into the past and present of Judaism and Jewish religious philosophy. In 2005, the state of Hessen permanently took over the funding, and in 2010 the endowed guest professorship was converted into a permanent professorship. Since then, Prof. Christian Wiese has taught across disciplines in theological and religious studies subjects, but also in history and philosophy. Wiese has systematically developed the professorship into an internationally visible, third-party funded and cooperating research centre. Christian Wiese is the spokesperson for the LOEWE research hub “Religious Positioning” and one of the main applicants for the interdisciplinary Graduate School “Theology as Science”. He is also the international president of the Hermann Cohen Society and vice-president of the International Franz Rosenzweig Society. His most recent success was the acquisition of funding over 24 years for the academy project “Digitization of the Buber Correspondence “.
“With its numerous externally funded projects, focus on promoting young researchers and international networking, the Martin Buber Professorship is already firmly established among research institutions on modern Jewish history and culture. The status as a research institute will open up the opportunity for us to be even more visible, to focus our activities, and to attract young international scholars,” says Prof. Wiese. The very fact that the institute has limited itself to a specific period of Jewish intellectual and cultural history offers great potential: under the umbrella of an institute with such a clearly defined profile will allow further projects to arise in the future. The project “Synagogue Memorial Book of Hessen” with seven to eight staff positions is currently being developed, and further research initiatives are planned. As an institute, it will also be easier to compete with other institutions. Cooperation with the Seminar for Jewish Studies and the Fritz Bauer Institute for the History and Impact of the Holocaust within Goethe University also offers great opportunities.
The institute’s name refers to the two Jewish philosophers Martin Buber (1878-1965) and Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929), who are of great importance for the history of Goethe University. Martin Buber, who was born 143 years ago, received a teaching assignment for Jewish religion and ethics in 1924, which was initially assigned to Franz Rosenzweig; later Buber became an honorary professor. Together, Buber and Rosenzweig established the Freie Jüdische Lehrhaus in Frankfurt, a Jewish educational institution for adults. Together, the two philosophers of religion undertook a translation of the Hebrew Bible into German, which Martin Buber continued after Rosenzweig’s premature death in 1929 and completed in Jerusalem in 1961. In particular after 1933, the year of Hitler’s seizure of power and Buber’s withdrawal from the university, the Lehrhaus became part of the Jewish resistance against National Socialist persecution.